The driver of my car from the Mumbai airport to my residence was a very amenable and polite person. He preferred to speak in English. So for most of our conversation, I spoke in my terrible Hindi and he spoke in his slighly better English.
He reminded me that I had arrived on the eve of Janmashthami (the birth of Lord Krishna). He suggested places I could go for worship and to check out the famous Dahi Handis of Mumbai.
As we talked further, I discovered he was a Muslim. We then got talking about his ongoing festival – Ramzan – and how he was following it.
Here we were – a Muslim telling me about a Hindu festival in Mumbai, and me, a Hindu, discussing a Muslim festival with him with the same interest.
Having just arrived from New York, where there is a daily debate about religious freedom and building a mosque near Ground Zero, the irony of the situation did not escape me.
One learns something even as one is leaving New York.
My car driver, a Yugoslavian married to an Italian, took me on a whole new route to JFK, all the while cursing out the American lack of intelligence, the dependence on money, the Iraq war, and the erosion of values in American society.
While I did not learn much from the commentary on American society, I did learn that Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn is the shortest route to JFK. There are some traffic lights, but one is guaranteed to reach JFK within a certain time. That’s a whole lot surer than being stuck on the LIE, the BQE, the Grand Central Parkway or the Van Wyck.
It took me 50 minutes from Pavonia / Newport, Jersey City to get to JFK. This includes heavy traffic on Canal Street and in Brooklyn.
I also discovered that luggage carts at the airport now cost $5. That’s to take luggage about 100 feet from the entrance of the terminal to the check in counter. What a rip-off!!