I successfully cancelled three flights earlier this week and should be getting my money back.
Columbia’s spring break begins this Monday. I planned to visit my family in Florida during the break. I was supposed to fly in yesterday, but I decided last weekend I wouldn’t do that. I can’t risk bringing harm to anybody, let alone them.
Instead of going to LaGuardia, I went to Jackson Heights to get the groceries I need. The energy felt different. The weather this weekend has been incredibly beautiful—but the vibe is different. Almost like New Yorkers are collectively holding their breath, waiting for something to happen.
What I found most remarkable about my grocery shopping experience was to see what Bangladeshis were buying. It all seemed incredibly smart to me.
Potatoes. Rice. Dal. Meat. Fish. Tomatoes. Onions. Garlic.
They will be cooking in bulk, cooking at home, curries that preserve well, some of which will be frozen. A lot of women had their ornas over their mouths like niqab. Maybe it’s time to bring out my niqabs again.
Earlier this week, my mom told me over the phone to buy rice and potatoes. Not toilet paper. Rice and potatoes. That’s famine food. It keeps you full.
If you didn’t know, there was widespread famine in 1974 in Bangladesh a few years after the war and independence.
When she heard I was in Jackson Heights and could hear the Bangla over the phone, she told me to buy moong dal. Not masur dal. Not chana dal. Not urud dal. Moong dal.
I went to four stores before I found a supply. It was almost sold out. It seems other Bangladeshis had the same idea. It all seemed really smart to me.
Moong dal can be cooked with other vegetables and fish. It can also be cooked with kichuri. You can bulk up a dish by adding moong dal to make it filling.
Also earlier this week, when I tried to explain social distancing and the Hadith of the Prophet on what to do during a plague, my mom said – Oh yeah. I know that.
When she was maybe 5 or 6, there was a cholera outbreak in her village. She said people knew when there was cholera in a home or building, those inside should not leave. Those outside should not enter. You did not move until those who were dying died. That’s how you knew the cholera was gone and those who survived were no longer contagious. She remembers remaining inside for three to four months. She remembers her mother cooking Kodhu almost every day. She remembers villagers reciting Surah Yasin and Darood sharif so loudly from within their homes, you could hear it from yours.
When her cousin’s stepmom, brother, and sister all died the same day, people slowly emerged from their homes again.
I’m amazed by a community that knows how to be in times of crisis.
I wish all of you and yours well.