Thursday, October 01, 2009

Two Fascinating Portraits - The Dosa Man and the Fall Guy

First, this heartwarming, uplifting portrait of Thiru, the "Dosa Man," (Dosa is a South Indian crepe made of rice and lentil batter) in The Huffington Post.
Thiru arrived in New York City in 1995 via the green card lottery -- the U.S. offers 50,000 visas annually to individuals from underrepresented countries. "I applied on a whim," he says, in Tamil. "The future wasn't great in Sri Lanka for me."

He had many jobs in Sri Lanka, including being a diving instructor and working at a travel agency in Colombo. In New York City, Thiru worked a series of jobs, in construction, at a gas station, an iron factory, and then finally, a restaurant. After a lengthy wait for a city vendor license, he set up his dosa cart in 2001.


Every morning, Thiru starts work at 5 a.m., preparing food for the day at a kitchen in Queens. He hitches his cart to his roomy 1986 black Chevy, drives across the Queensboro Bridge to Manhattan and sets up by 11 a.m. at Washington Square. "I completely rebuilt it myself," he says, pointing to his truck (Thiru used to race and rebuild motorcycles). The sign, "NY Vegan Dosas - Price Range Inexpensive", is painted on the Chevy's rear, along with subway directions to his location.
The entire article is here: The Magic of Immigrant Charm.

Then there is the story of Andrew Young, the former aide to John Edwards. When it was revealed that Young was not really the father of Edwards' mistress' child, that he was allegedly taking the fall for his boss (Edwards has not admitted he is the father), you could not help but wonder just what in this world would persuade someone - a man with a wife and children - to own up to fathering a baby when he had not. What manner of loyalty was this? What level of commitment to a cause was this?

Politico's profile of Andrew Young provides some insights:

Young has fleetingly emerged from the wreckage of Edwards’s political career as a character from central casting. First he was the fall guy, and now he’s the sellout, peddling his story in a tell-all book. But the real story of Young is about the passions of politics and the classic political triangle of the candidate, his wife and the sometimes sycophantic aide. The consuming devotion that politicians command from a small handful of loyalists is familiar — and not just in presidential campaigns.


Young threw himself into Edwards’s Senate race with a passion, becoming Edwards’s driver and gofer. After Edwards defeated Republican incumbent Lauch Faircloth, however, he was bitterly disappointed to be denied a job in Washington, friends said. Instead he accepted a job on Edwards’s North Carolina staff, securing his role with the family by always being the one to meet Edwards at the airport and taking care of the family home when everyone was away. And when an animal or trespasser triggered the home alarm system, another former aide said, it rang on Young’s cell phone.

The entire article is here: Sex, Scorn and Videotape.

Two stories - one, the story of a man who hitches his bandwagon to his own star and rises by the dint of his own hard work; the other, the story of a man who hitches his bandwagon to someone else's star hoping to catch a ride on the way up, but ends up crashing right along.


Ugich Konitari said...

What you say in your last para is so true. A life of struggle doing an honest days job to provide the minimal comforts for you and family kind of sharpens your senses, keeping yor eyes and ears in the zone, so to speak.

When you have easily acquired the basics, you only strive for unnecessary extras, your senses are dulled, including that of right and wrong, particularly in politics.

Sylvia K said...

I guess I will never understand what drives people to politics in the first place -- other than ego! Now, that being said, it's a good thing that some people are driven, otherwise where would we come up with leaders?? Still, no matter who it is, there has to be an enormous amount of ego involved and for many it seems that is their downfall, the losing touch with what/who is important and as Ugich wrote, the senses are dulled, including that of right and wrong. And nowhere does that seem to happen any more than in politics.

Great post, as always, Sujatha!

Have a great weekend!


Kavi said...

Interesting to read about the Indian crepe ! In fact, i find loads of people from the South doing brisk business here in Mumbai selling Dosas !

And each time that mouth watering oil and batter settle somewhere in the cant help but thank immigration and that quest for seeking out new places.

And it makes so much rational thought that you hitch yourself to your own self !

I doubt though, if the types of Young will ever think that they are running on some one elses steam. For this is a way of living. And each individual lives by choice...his own.

amreekandesi said...

Fascinating comparison.

On the topic of Thiru, i have seen his little cart by Washington Square park. He won the street vendor award back in 2007 i believe, and was recognized as the best street food vendor in all of New york, which is no mean achievement.

Sands said...

Lovely post. A beautiful contrast. Thanks Suj!

Cantaloupes.Amma (CA) said...

You know Sujatha .. Dosa Man's story somehow brought back memories of this guy in Mysore who sold Vadas in Saraswathipuram .. his cart was small and always crowded ... those vadas were the best in town.

Nagesh.MVS said...
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