The first Indian I ever knew was a little boy who lived in my
neighborhood. I don’t know how I met him; don’t recall his name; and
wouldn’t know what he looked like now almost twenty-five years later;
but we have one picture of him in an old album. He and I are “helping”
one of my Uncles move and we are about 5 years old. My father tells me
that he used to come over and eat fufu and abenkwan with us. He and I
were inseparable. Yet, I don’t remember playing with him. I don’t
remember talking with him. The only thing I remember is the day I went
up to his apartment.
I had not seen him for quite some time and knowing where he lived, but
never having actually been allowed in, I went up the stairs to the
second level apartments; knocked on his door and waited expectantly to
see him. I knocked a few times, peeked in the window because I could
hear the television and waited. Finally, the door cracked open and
there he stood, staring unhappily at me.
“I can’t play with you anymore”
“I’m not allowed. I’m just not allowed, my daddy won’t let me.”
“I’m not allowed to play with you because you’re black.”
Puzzled I stared at him until his mother rushed up in a blue sari,
informed me that he was no longer allowed to speak to me, implored me
never to come back and apologizing hastily; shut the door in my face.
I stood there for a little bit. It seemed strange to not be able to
hang out with my best friend. Stranger still that his mother seemed so
afraid to even speak to me. I thought that his father must be a bad
Years later, I can still recall the shame of it all. The knowledge
that my best friend–a lonely only like myself–was no longer allowed
to be my best friend. That there was something about me that had
caused anger, fear and separation in that household. The memory is
shrouded in fog but the scent of curry still lingers in my mind. I
think now, why was he prohibited after we spent so much time together?
What happened from the time we met until that last day? What changed?
I have often thought of him. Wondered where he was; what he was
doing. Perhaps he too, has entered the hallowed halls of higher
education or maybe his passion is in artistic creations. Did his
family leave Columbus for greener pastures? Did he return to India?
Did he get married and have children? Did he ever get a brother or a
sister? Does he remember fufu and abenkwan? Does he remember me?
Does he remember us?
I know that it’s been almost a quarter century, but it’s difficult to
describe the sadness that surrounds my recollection of him. Maybe we
would have grown up together? What experiences would we have
encountered, roaming Buckeye Village, imagining? How would we have
changed each other’s lives? Would he be bothered that this experience
forever burned into my memory a profound sense of rejection and dislike
of all things Indian? Would his father regret hurting one little
African girl’s feelings if he knew how that decision resulted in my
deep distrust and suspicion of Desis? Would he care?
Would he think it silly that I’ve even prayed that God would one day
bring us back together–that one day we would see each other again?
Rekindle a long lost and dearly missed friendship? Thankfully, I have
long since gotten over my animosity towards India and Indian culture.
In fact, I find myself so strongly attracted to that particular country
that I have to wonder if in some way, I am trying to reunite with him?
That all my fascination stems directly from that first true friendship?
In the end, I think the worst part about all this is the real
possibility that he has forgotten me–though I can never forget him.