Sabbath Day: The Bronx, Little Italy, and Greater India
my local river, the Bronx, filly reaching the sea
I have made it a practice over the last four years to write a post each week about how I spent my sabbath. Sabbath practice is an important part of physical, spiritual and vocational health. I keep the sabbath on Thursdays. During the last five months I have also used my sabbath day to organize a week of reading multinational literature, “visiting” a new country each week through great fiction.
Despite the early morning rain, I finally got out of the house this week for my first long walk of the summer. I took a Metro-North train down to the Woodlawn station at the Bronx-Westchester border. From there I crossed the Bronx River Parkway to enter Shoelace Park, one of the newer green spaces in the Bronx. My goal for the day was to follow the Bronx River through the length of the Bronx in order to see where the water that begins near my home in Westchester finally reaches the Long Island Sound at Flushing Bay. Along the way I travelled through Bronx Woods, Bronx Park East, and Soundview Park. Though there is a proposed Greenway through the Bronx, I walked mostly on pavement, and for long stretches through industrial neighborhoods. I know the river is tremendously restored from just ten years ago – but it has a LONG way to go. While the most scenic parts of the river are within the Botanical Gardens and the Bronx Zoo, large stretches are hidden out of site, and so (often) out of mind.
Having walked almost eleven miles to reach this point, I figured why not walk back to Arthur Ave, the Bronx’s “Little Italy,” for a late lunch. There I met Artie at Giovanni’s Brick Oven Pizza and had a good conversation over some great New York slices. From there I walked to Fordham to catch the Metro-North home. All in all, I walked nearly 18 miles.
I received so many recommendations for great Indian novels to read this week that I had to pick and choose. Rabindranath Tagore and R.K. Narayan have written some of my favorite novels of all time, so I passed them over. I had never read Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, which won the Booker Prize in 1997, so I did that. It took me a long time because I wanted to linger over the beautifully crafted but exquisitely painfully sentences. (I finished the novel between sets on the second night of the final three Grateful Dead concerts, which themselves overwhelmed everything in my week).
I also had on my shelf a copy of Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies, which I picked up at a church book sale many years ago but never read. It won a Pulitzer Prize in 2000, so I read it too. Lahiri does not live in India, but her stories move seamlessly between India and emigrant communities. (This explains the “Greater India” of my post title).
Lahiri’s book reminded me of another collection I had read in seminary by Bharati Mukerjee called The Middleman and Other Stories. These short stories described the experiences in America of immigrants from all over the world: the Philippines, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Uganda, Asia, Latin America and, of course, India.
I also re-read my copy of In Praise of Krishna: Songs from the Bengali, which I also read in seminary. This is an anthology of sensual and devotional poems of the Vaishnava or bhakti tradition.
Happy Sabbath. Happy reading. Happy summer, folks.