It was the most indulgent of rides. We scheduled a three-stop-transport…from upper Brooklyn down to his neighborhood…and then to the airport.
Sure we could have taken the train.
But not today.
When A was in the car we discussed graduate school, summer plans, ideas for October.
When he got out, after the kiss and hug and goodbye and the “don’t slam the door” I said to the driver…good afternoon, how is your day going?
“It is chilly, Spring, lovely,” he said. Then he offered, “ah, your big holiday has just ended.”
“I know this”, he said, “because all the cab drivers know that our business goes down on Jewish holidays…so we know when they are.”
‘Interesting’, I thought…not knowing what was coming next.
“Listen —” he said to me. “The Israelites had twelve tribes, right?”
“Yes”, I said.
“And ten were lost”, he said.
“Yes”, I said.
“I am Muslim,” he said. “My whole life. I am Pakistani.
I am 50 years old.”
“But I came to New York ten years ago. And I think I am from one of the lost tribes.”
“How do you figure?” I asked him.
“In my history,” he said. “In my people, in my family…there is this idea that one of the lost tribes was in Pakistan — another in Afganistan. The way I grew up, as a Muslim, I knew that there was a family secret. That there was something to do with our religion and the lost tribes.”
“It wasn’t until I came to Brooklyn that I realized that my family cemetery — on the old stone in Pakistan…that I realized those old gravestones have Stars of David and Hebrew on them.”
“I don’t speak Hebrew,” he said. “Only Pashtu.”
“But they were symbols I never understood.”
“Until I came here.
Until I saw in Brooklyn the same letters in some neighborhoods —
That I understood that my family — only a few generations back — were Jewish — and that they considered themselves one of the ten lost tribes.”
And that, although he was Muslim, he considered that the Brooklyn religious neighborhoods were filled with his close cousins.
With his family.
I told Sajid that I wished he had told this wonderful story when my son was still in the car.
By this point I had tears in my eyes and we were at the airport.
I thanked him, shook his hand, wished him well and thanked him for his beautiful story.