The Long Island Rail Road ride from Atlantic Avenue- Barclays Center in Brooklyn to Hicksville is less painful than you’d have thought. There’s one transfer in Jamaica, right across the platform, and then it’s over
shortly after, the line between Queens and
Long Island invisible to the naked eye.
Outside it’s grey, and before hopping into
a taxi, I wander a bit getting my bearings,
buy a bag of Cheetos from a woman in a
sal-war kameez sitting in a small shop under
the train tracks.
The cab driver takes me from wide main
roads to slow, sleepy streets where the houses have manicured lawns, flower bushes that
could only be the work of professional landscapers, and SUVs in driveways shaded by
lush trees. Most of the homes are simple
white or beige, two-story or split-level colonials. They blend into your regular old
On a corner, where we turn and I learn a
moment later is my destination, is a looming
burnt sienna brick structure with an imposing arched doorway of cherry wood and
glass. The middle of three divided sections
of the house, each with its own pointed peak
of rooftop, is framed with four white Greek
columns. Three low steps lead up to a stone
platform before the double doors, and this is
where we sit, staring out into the street, to
“So how long have you been back?” I ask.
“It’s been almost a month now,” rapper
Himanshu Suri, aka Heems, says, not looking at me.
“So you gave up Brooklyn?”
He had mentioned this to me on the
phone — that he was done with Brooklyn
and smartphones. I was not to try to reach
him via email. We had texted about the
directions to his parents’ place.
“Uh, yeah,” he says.
“How’s the home life and being with family?” I continue.
“You see it. It’s pretty nice.”
By ‘catch up,’ I meant try to draw him out.
He had been sleeping when I arrived a bit
before 1 pm. His father let me in, and I was
greeted shortly after in the high-ceilinged,
Suri came down and picked up the tod-
dler. They exchanged a few cute words
before he deposited her once more onto the ground and she
disappeared into the kitchen. I knew this relationship well,
with a nephew of my own. It took me a second to realize
how strange it was that this scene was commonplace to me
— a 29-year-old, his parents, their grandchild, evidence of
siblings and their spouses, all in one place on a random day
— when, in the US, it’s certainly not the norm. It was clear-
ly an Indian thing.
“It’s a good deal,” I say, on the steps outside.
“Yeah, I enjoy it quite a bit,” he says, his gaze now focused
down to the stone slab of step between his feet.
“Is that your brother or sister’s kid?” I ask.
“That’s my sister’s daughter.”
“They live here as well?”
Suri nods. A cigarette dangles between two fingers, a
few tiny flakes of ash ready to drop, his elbow resting on
“That’s cool.” I mean it sincerely, not as a filler statement.
“Yeah it’s super nice… she’s, like, kinda my best friend.”
“That’s sweet.” I look over at him. “Zoe?”
Rapper Himanshu Suri
Chaya Babu about