Vasishta: It's not easy to live as an object of suspicion
As I walked on a quiet street in the Financial District one night, a police car pulled up beside me, giving a quick blast of its siren.
"Excuse me, sir," the white male officer said, leaning out of his window. "May I ask where you're going?" Shaken, I told him.
"Can I see some ID?" he asked. I obliged. "May I take a look in your backpack?"
Nervously, I unzipped it and handed it over.
"Do you often go this way?" he asked. I said I'd been there once before. My English accent, I could tell, threw him, and with nothing suspicious in my bag, I was soon on my way.
Unfortunately, it wasn't an isolated incident. Soon after that, police at the West Fourth Street subway station searched my backpack on two separate occasions.
As an educated Anglo-Indian who moved to New York as a music journalist, I didn't think I fit the profile of a stop-and-frisk suspect -- until I myself started to get stopped. I haven't been frisked or detained yet, but every time a policeman has asked me to step to one side and open my backpack, particularly in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, I have felt intimidated and self-conscious. I've wondered if I should have shaved that morning or dressed a little sharper.
I've also realized the city I loved and where I have chosen to raise my family no longer loves me back.
In the coming weeks, the city will be preparing for the Nov. 3 New York City Marathon, and I expect the paranoia to reach a fever pitch. I'll be doing my best to stay away from the subway.
But this city also provides its respites. Recently, in a quest for cheap, healthy food, I wandered into a restaurant on Atlantic Avenue, off Flatbush in downtown Brooklyn. It wasn't until I was inside that I realized it was a Muslim-run establishment. North African and Pakistani men, some with bright-orange henna-dyed beards, ate plates of halal food amid the faint smells of turmeric and coriander powder. I wouldn't be surprised if I was one of only a few Hindus to ever set foot across the doorway.
"Yes, my brother, what can I get you?" asked the server with a friendly smile as he looked at me over the the trays of lamb, steaming fish, rice and vegetables. I took my plate, sat down and ate, happy to be seen as a "brother" and left alone.
Jeff Vasishta lives in Crown Heights.