Big Apple, Bigger Heart
Fifteen years after the 9/11 terror attacks, NYC is a favourite for locals and visitors alike. In fact, the world’s melting pot is more vibrant than ever
sters pouring in from Bushwick for cheaper coffee (this, by the way, is the sort of Whitmanian sentence that New York automatically inspires). But Ross wanted us to look – or listen – deeper.
First we visited an old Sicilian club, where 90-year-old ex-factory-workers proudly discoursed on the Partanna dialect of Sicilian – which they preserve through their meetings – and profusely offered us espresso. A dapper Argentine-Italian man who speaks the regular Italian dialect served as our interpreter; later, when he learned I was from India, he addressed me as aap and chatted with me in shudh Allahabadi Hindi. I was shocked.
By this point we had shifted location to a community centre and tavern known as the Gottscheer Hall, after the Gottscheer people who use it as a gathering place. The Gottscheer are a tiny community of Germanic people from what is now Slovenia. They speak a
13th century dialect of German. Many of them fled for New York at the end of the First and Second World Wars; at one point, more than 10,000 lived in Ridgewood, making it one of those neighbourhoods that, by historic accident, contained an entire civilisation. Two older Gottscheer men with stately postures and a lady with short blonde hair talked happily about the dances that were held at the Hall for young Gottscheer boys and girls to mingle; then they invited us to the inner sanctum to give us bratwurst, sauerkraut and beer. I was famished and polished it all off.