Excerpt from article:
'The Prophet of Zongo Street': Coming to America
By ELIZABETH SCHMIDT
New York Times
Aug 12 2005
Published: August 14, 2005
THE PROPHET OF ZONGO STREET
By Mohammed Naseehu Ali.
212 pp. Amistad/ HarperCollins Publishers. $22.95.
...musician by night and finds himself at 3 a.m. in a cab whose driver is hellbent on proving that Armenians are the true source of world culture.
Alarmingly (and, it turns out, playfully) titled "The True Aryan," this last story turns the tables. The Ghanaian musician is full of his own concerns and ambitions ("looking at the city's skyline always filled me with a sense of success and self-importance") and, desperate to get back to Park Slope, refuses to engage with his driver's barrage of clumsy mini-lectures presenting the case for Armenians and relating to the plight of blacks. But Sarkis, the driver, catches his passenger off guard by declining to take money for the fare and saying: "In Armenia, the way we greet each other, we say, Savat tanem. So I am telling you, Savat tanem! ... You know what that means, Savat tanem? ... It means 'I'll take your pain.' " It's a gesture that breaks down the musician's Western narcissism: "With one foot already on the street, I knew there was only one thing left for me to tell Sarkis. I looked into his eyes, and with a sudden deep respect said to the man, 'I'll take your pain, too.' " The cabdriver jolts the musician back into listening, as he had as a child on Zongo Street, showing how even in the most unlikely and inhospitable circumstances a sense of connectedness between people can be restored.