Given my affinity for South Asia, monkeys and South Asian monkeys, it is an honor to gain guest access to the ND bunker. I must say Â– seeing lutefisk placed on the same shelf as mango chutney warms this former Upper MidwesternerÂ’s heart.
Employment ushered me to the other end of the Mississippi. With a choice between Houston and New Orleans, I opted for the city with the most interesting cultural dynamics in the United States. A mÃ©lange of European and Afro-Caribbean, New Orleans is 70% non-white, poor in wealth, rich in customs and conventions, and a lot more than the drunken-tourist section of Bourbon Street.
As you know, it has been 359 days since Category-3 Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Buras, LA and laid waste to Slidell, LA and lovely beach towns along the coast of western Mississippi. Whole beachfront streets and homes in Waveland and Bay St. Louis were torn off their foundations by the whipping winds of an unusually angry hurricane.
Thankfully, New Orleans was spared that fate. However, our long-suffering and neglected canal levees could not handle the 25-foot and higher storm surges and the unthinkable happened Â– the levees broke flooding 80% of this city. Friends who stayed behind were forced to act as rescue workers and witness things no American in the 21st century should. Trapped in their homes for more than five days without food, water, medication and rescue, approximately 1400 New Orleanians, mostly the elderly and little children, perished. Demolition workers find carcasses to this day.
What does this have to do with desi or Sepia Mutiny?
The plight of New Orleans all the way from hurricane evacuation to todayÂ’s recovery reeks of abandonment of a people, to the point where many of our citizens declare Sinn Fein. Â“New Orleans should not rebuildÂ”, Â“TheyÂ’re just a bunch of poor criminalsÂ” and Â“The city got what was coming to itÂ” are phrases that ought never be thrown about in modern-day America. Along with the Brinkley book Siddhartha mentioned, read Disaster: Hurricane Katrina and the Failure of Homeland Security. At the rate of the decline of natural disaster prevention planning and the increase in anti-terror boondoggles (and attendant racial profiling), this could happen to you and me as a people, too.
Please donÂ’t forget us and we will return the favor. Peruse our >100 blogs, keep yourself informed of an American problem and visit our lovely city. From the restaurants and performance venues of Carrollton and the oaks of Audubon Park upriver to the funky-bohemian eateries and music joints of the Treme and Bywater downriver, from majestic Lake Pontchartrain in the north to the steamships, food and smells of the Mississippi in the south, New Orleans is the Mumbai, Chennai, Karachi, Dhaka, Colombo, Suva, Kingston or Port-Of-Spain of this nation. Spicy cuisine, magnolias and night-blooming jasmine, festering garbage, burning diesel and preserved colonial architecture Â– itÂ’s all here for the living and rebuilding.
Come on down and weÂ’ll make us a good time, cher!
Jambalaya, feta cheese and a laddoo ‘Cause tonight I’m gonna see my ma cher amio Pick guitar, fill lassi jar and be gay oh Son of a gun, we’ll have big fun on the bayou. — MaitriÂ’s good-global-eats reconstruction of Jambalaya
P.S. New Orleans is not the only thing on my mind. Look forward to many foodie thoughts and sci-tech geekery.