Last night, Chris and I went to get our Indian fix at Dosa Delight in Jackson Heights in Queens. As our usual routine, we’ll have dosas and mango lassies among other things there, and then we’ll stop by Patel Brothers to stock up on Indian spices, curry leaves, mixture, and plantain (banana) chips. I made a quick list of spices I wanted for our pantry, and one of them was asafoetida. It’s a very fragrant (or smelly if on your clothes or body) gum spice that gives a really distinct Indian flavor. I couldn’t find it immediately, so I asked one of the Indian workers there for help finding it. He walked me to the right aisle and showed me my options, and then started showing me other things I could use with it. Then, he asked me if I needed help finding anything else. He was so friendly and happy the entire time even though I had taken him away from stocking another shelf.
I thought about this in contrast with the tiny bit of help I’ve ever asked for at a Chinese supermarket (in Chinese, mind you), and I’ve always been treated gruffly and as though I was a burden. Chinese people in supermarkets are rarely happy to help you even if you are one of them. The difference is pretty stark… and pathetic. You’d wonder what makes Chinese people so miserable and Indian people so happy. Maybe Indian people’s smelly spices make them happier people. 🙂