New Yorkers in Profile

Ed McGuckin: Bronx Born Wrestler

November 30, 2011Written by | Comments Off on Ed McGuckin: Bronx Born Wrestler

Ed McGuckin remembers his childhood in the Bronx when he and his friends would wrestle on old mattresses in his backyard.That passion for wrestling never left as the 27-year-old McGuckin turned his pro-wrestling dream into a reality.


As a child, McGuckin was always fascinated by the world of professional wrestling. Whether is was staying up late to watch WWF monday night raw or wrestling with childhood friends in his backyard, wrestling had always been a part of his life.


“I wanted to be a wrestler for literally as long as I could remember, some of my earliest memories as a kid were of watching wrestling,” said McGuckin.


McGuckin  hangs around the neighborhood, working out at the gym near his house and

drinking at the local pubs. His friends know him as Ed, a guy from the neighborhood, but his fans know him as “Jigsaw”, a high-flying, trash talking masked wrestler.


“It’s hard for me to take him seriously when I see him wrestling,” said Edward Hogarty a childhood friend to McGuckin. “His mask is supposed to be intimidating but I know it’s just Eddie under there and it actually makes me laugh,” said Hogarty.


McGuckin attributes his passion for wrestling to some of his childhood idols such as the loud and flamboyant “Ultimate Warrior”. “Seeing guys like warrior wrestle would always get me so pumped up as a kid,” said McGuckin. As he got older, McGuckin expanded his wrestling fandom to other forms outside of the WWF such as Lucha Llibre style of Mexico and companies like New Japan Pro Wrestling which enriched his love for the sport. “This was some of the most athletic wrestling I had ever seen and I was hooked,” said McGuckin.


McGuckin began to explore the possibility of becoming a wrestler when he tore his Achilles tendon in high school and was forced to give up playing basketball and football.  “ I had always been a huge fan of pro wrestling so the idea of one day stepping foot inside the ring was always in the back of mind, but I always assumed it was a longshot,” said McGuckin.


After his Achilles had healed, basketball and football seasons had already passed and McGuckin was left looking for a new way to stay in shape until the upcoming basketball season. “In an act to just keep active I found a pro wrestling school, at the time it was just for fun and to kill time until I could play basketball again but I became hooked and never played high school sports again, I was fully engulfed in the pro wrestling world,” said McGuckin. After joining “Chikara Wrestling” based in Philadelphia, McGuckin decided to give pro wrestling a real chance as a career.


McGuckin’s wrestling career would then take off as he became “Jigsaw” a name he claims was given to him by wrestling buddy Mike Quackenbush of Chikara Wrestling. “Jigsaw” started gain fans in the underground wrestling world and McGuckin began wrestling for any company that was interested.


Certain rigors come with the life of a professional wrestler. Traveling is obviously one major aspect of professional wrestling that would keep some people from pursuing there dreams. McGuckin has a different approach to the traveling he has done as a wrestler.


“I feel extremely lucky and grateful for this path I’ve chosen because I don’t know if I would have ever left the tri-state area if not for the opportunities  wrestling has given me,” said McGuckin. McGuckin has wrestled in 31 states as well as Europe, Mexico and Canada. At the end of November, McGuckin will be embarking on his first voyage to Japan. He is scheduled to spend three weeks in Japan touring with Osaka Pro Wrestling.


As a career, McGuckin has been able to support himself fairly well as a professional wrestler, especially when he wrestled for “Ring of Honor” a more high profile wrestling company. “ I’ve been able to get by financially but there really isn’t a 401K or retirement plan in this business and if you want to survive you need to very smart with the money you make,” said McGuckin. McGuckin also works part time as a personal fitness trainer and was an elevator operator for a private building in Manhattan as he took time off from wrestling this past summer.


Unfortunately, McGuckin understands that he will someday have to give up wrestling. “ I do plan to stop, I love pro wrestling and everything its given me but at the same time no ones body is meant to do this forever, the body breaks down, this business cripples people, I’ve set a plan to make sure I get out before my body tells me I have to get out.” said Mcguckin.


McGuckin now has fans from all over the country and even had his own action figure made. According to McGuckin however, it is the love of the sport that brings all the joy. “Pro wrestling has taken me places around the world I would never thought possible, I met great friends and childhood idols, I love this business because there is simply nothing else like it, every bump and bruise has been rewarded with accomplishments and friendships that I would never give up for anything in the world,” said McGuckin.



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Interviewing the Interviewer

November 28, 2011Written by | 2 Comments

Looking every bit the part of a television reporter, with glossy black hair cascading down her shoulders, brown eyes that exude intensity, Liz Gonzalez looks directly at the interviewer, cocking her head to one side, taking in every word.

It was this focus that has helped Gonzalez reach to her current position today as an Emmy award winning reporter for Telemundo.

Listening is the most effective way to interview, however getting people to open up is a quality that every good journalist must possess. Gonzalez has that quality of putting people at ease and lending an empathetic ear. At the same time there is also a tough, no nonsense attitude looming under that exterior.

When questioned as to how she got to where she is today, “You have to really want it, and really go after it.”

Gonzalez did not always know she wanted to be a journalist. When she first entered Florida International University (FIU) as a freshman, like many college students, she was not clear as to what her major might be.

FIU had a broadcasting/journalism department. Gonzalez decided to take a class in journalism, simply to see how she liked it. That one class would be the beginning of a career.

She pursued it with a relentless determination. During her college years any opportunity in the journalism field that came her way, she ran with it, whatever it might be. Be it an internship for a local radio station or working for the Associated Press on election night, gathering election results.

By the time Gonzalez was ready to graduate college, she had two full time job offers waiting. One of those full time offers was to write for the Miami Herald, even though at the time doing print was more money, she opted to work for Visnews, an international news agency.

She said it was very easy for individuals to get caught up in the desire to make money, instead of focusing on long term goals. “Don’t let yourself get sidetracked,” said Gonzalez “I didn’t want to be a print reporter, I wanted to do television. I would have done myself a disservice had I steered myself away from what I really wanted to do.”

Gonzalez was assignment editor for Visnews, eventually finding herself traveling all over Latin America for three years.

This is where knowing three languages would become instrumental in her success. Gonzalez was fluent in Spanish, Portuguese and French. “Speaking another language, got me where I am today,” said Gonzalez. She had known Spanish due to her family being of Spaniard descent had taken French in high school and took a course in Portuguese in college.

As assignment editor, her job was to tell people what to cover and where to go. However, she came to realize that she wanted to be more hands on, gather the news as opposed to telling people what to cover. This ultimately led to Gonzalez moving to Peru, where she would be a foreign correspondent for national Telemundo.

Eventually, she found herself back in New York. Within three weeks of returning to the states, Gonzalez was working for CBS in English and would later do freelancing for CNN in Spanish. She ultimately landed her present position, that of reporter for Telemundo.

For four years, Gonzalez covered the education beat. Education is important in the Hispanic community especially amongst immigrant parents who might not know the ins and outs of the American system.

Paula Wu, of Peruvian descent and a long time viewer of Gonzalez, said “Gonzalez plays an important role in the Spanish community.” Wu cited that when Gonzalez was an educational reporter, she found her segments to be helpful to her own family.

Now Gonzalez covers everything from the economy to politics to murders. “To wake up in the morning and not know where I’m going to be that day, or what I’m going to be doing that day, I enjoy that.” As such she can be anywhere from Queens on one day to New Jersey the next. She goes anywhere in the metropolitan area, where the story is.

Despite much of the career success Gonzalez has attained, it did not always come easy. “The first time I did a demo tape and sent it to the managing editor at Telemundo, he crucified me. He said it was horrible, too long and you’re not authoritative enough…I wasn’t crushed, not entirely.” Applying herself to make sure the next demo tape was going to impress. Sure enough, it did.

Nick Lourenco, Gonzalez’s cameraman, said tenacity is the quality that has made Gonzalez successful. Lourenco said that Gonzalez is very organized and knows how to draw people out of their shell for interviews.

Working for Telemundo has produced some very rewarding experiences for Gonzalez. One story that Gonzalez covered was a child, being denied education because he was undocumented. In the end, she walked the young boy straight in to his classroom. She tells this story with pride.

Many people in the Hispanic community come up to Gonzalez and say, “I’m so happy I met you, because I need your help.” Gonzalez prides herself on developing a lot of trust in the Hispanic population. The trust and respect Gonzalez has earned is not only in the Hispanic community, it’s also in the mainstream news community as well.

In 2010 Gonzalez took home her first Emmy for her coverage of Captain Sully and Miracle on the Hudson.  The Emmy sits proudly on the mantle in her living room.

When asked if Gonzalez ever had regrets about a decision relating to her career, a simple to the point “No,” is the answer. “If your true to yourself, and make the right decisions for yourself, you will not have any regrets.”

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Freddy Zeideia: The King

November 28, 2011Written by | 1 Comment


A mailman, a supermarket cashier, a plumber, and a truck driver, congregate on a bustling Astoria Friday afternoon.  The grill sizzles. The pungent smell of chicken bathing in the culinary holy trinity of peppers, onions and celery engulfs the 30th Street air.  They are all here for one reason, to see “The King.”

Standing a hefty six-foot-one, sporting a crisp dark beard and chef pants patterned with rainbow fish with a matching bandana to boot, he has every look of a culinary king.

Farez “Freddy” Zeideia owns “King of Falafel and Shawarma,” a burgeoning halal cart stationed on the corner of 30th Street and Broadway in Astoria, Queens.

For the last nine years, “Freddy,” as he goes by to the majority of the locals, has run this food cart shelling out overwhelmingly sized portions, coupled with the humbleness and happiness of an adult whose every wish has come true.

“This is fun. We’re here 363 days a year, rain, snow, heat waves, we’re here,” Zeideia said.  “The neighborhood, the people, the regulars, the energy, this has never been ‘work’”.

The wildly popular food cart serves upwards of 400 people a day, from 11am to 8pm, and is open every day of the year besides Thanksgiving and Christmas.

A college dropout from LaGuardia Community College in Queens, Zeideia began taking culinary courses at the renowned Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan in late 2000.

The self-appointed “King” started his business on a whim 10 years ago.  “I was broke, by myself, and down on my life. My father had died in late December 2001.   It was a rough for me.  Graciously, as the man my father was, he left me a sizeable amount of money.  I grabbed my 3 closest friends, and in October 2002, we we’re in business.”

Zeideia uses his mother and father’s old Middle Eastern spice recipes for the majority of its foods including the chicken, shawarma (thinly sliced lamb) and falafel (ground up chickpeas).

“I remember where I came from, my parents, they taught me from a very young age my way around a kitchen.  I wanted to keep them in my cooking.”  Zeideia said.

Garnering critical acclaim from over 25 local and global, magazines and internet websites, the cart has seen an exponential increase in customers over the first nine years.

“The neighborhood has warmly embraced us. Of late, we’ve gained so much positive press from people who love our food, I’m so proud of all the work we’ve done, and where we are now,” Zeideia praised.

Employed by a staff of five of his closest friends, and one of the staff members son’s, Zeideia believes wholeheartedly in keeping the recipes, and success of the business within a small group of friends that have been by his side since his childhood.

“I grew up with these guys; I get to work every day with my closest friends, how many people can say that?” Zeideia pondered.

The staff’s shining accomplishment, with the trophy displayed on top of a makeshift plastic platform beside the cart, is their 2010 “Vendy Cup,” granted annually to the best food cart in New York City during the summer’s “Vendy Awards” held on Governors Island.

“I was there when they won it; it was so great to see both Astoria and Freddy being celebrated.  Freddy deserved it, the food speaks for itself, and the man is a saint,” said Tina Petropoulos, an Astoria native and frequenter of the “King” cart since its inception in 2002.

“That was unbelievable, the love, the reception we received when we finally got back to work a few days later; it was just beautiful,”  Zeideia explained about the winning of the award.

So as the chicken and pita keep grilling, the falafel keep bubbling, and smiles keep coming, Freddy vows to continue his journey of running a thriving food business, incorporating family recipes, personal relationships with customers and the personality of a comedian.

“I see no end in sight.  As long as these hands are functioning, I’ll be at the corner of 30th and Broadway every day.”  Zeideia vouches.  “Every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas.”  A King-sized declaration indeed.

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Ger Duany: Leaving His Mark From Sudan to New York

November 28, 2011Written by | 2 Comments

When the Sudanese civil war broke out in 1983, young children were turned into soldiers forced to fight. One of those young soldiers was Ger Duany, now 33 and living in New York as an actor, model and philanthropist. “I learned how to handle all types of weapons before I learned my ABC’s,” he said. Keep reading →

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Joe Gatto: the Impractical Joker

November 28, 2011Written by | 190 Comments

After slightly adjusting his black hat with “White Castle” printed on the front, Joe Gatto expertly takes the order from an anxious customer. On the outside, he is an employee of a fast food restaurant, peculiarly incapable of looking directly at the customer’s face. Behind-the-scenes, he is a professional comedian playing out a deliberate scripted prank on clueless customers, while filming a hidden-camera TV show “Impractical Jokers.” Looking into the camera is the man who spun his life from working for a financial consulting firm to being a noteworthy part of the entertainment industry. “After I made my first short film, I just didn’t see myself in the corporate world anymore,” said Gatto.


Initially studying to be an accountant and spending years working in the business world, Gatto chose to work in the entertainment industry and is only now getting his first taste of a new lifestyle as a successful comedian in front of the camera. Currently his days are packed with promotional events filled with fans desperate for attention and a chance to impress, taxi ads, trailers, YouTube previews, subway ads and other public advertisements for the TV show, dressing rooms with spas and open bars, Lexus cars and Beamers sent out to drive the four stars of the show around town. All of this seems surreal to Gatto, who, it seems only yesterday, was packing his bags to move to Los Angeles to chase his dream of becoming a screenwriter.


His laugh and bold sense of humor fill the room with exuberance. Listening to Gatto’s hysterical anecdotes, it’s almost impossible to imagine him involved in any other industry other than entertainment. Having gone to Long Island University C.W. Post Campus majoring in accounting, this comedian has in fact once held a position at Accenture Consulting, a prestigious consulting firm in New York. Consequently, having gone through volunteering in the film industry, personally creating and editing short films, traveling across America to pursue a screenwriter’s dream and eventually starring on a comedy show premiering on TruTV in December. The only remaining link connecting Gatto to the corporate world is his current residence in the Financial District.


Cameras capturing four best friends daring each other to do the most shocking pranks in an array of settings is the main idea behind “Impractical Jokers”: a TV show catapulting Gatto into the heart of the entertainment industry.


Straight out of college, Gatto and his friends formed an Improv group called the Tenderloins, which became inactive for several years until Gatto’s return from L.A. “The Tenderloins picked up again and we started doing more shows at comedy clubs in New York. And then the Internet happened. And viral videos happened. And we started doing a viral video contest called ‘It’s Your Show’, which was run by NBC,” said Gatto. Winning contest after contest, the four friends got noticed by production companies and acquired an agent.


The idea of creating a show portraying their vibrant dynamic was only a natural next step to take. “So we made a sales tape about some pranks, which was basically our pitch for the show. In the end, MTV wanted it and TruTV wanted it. We decided to go with Tru,” said Gatto, casually shrugging his shoulders.


“If I could use one word to describe Joe, it would probably be ‘genuine’,” said James Murray, Gatto’s best friend and costar on Impractical Jokers. Gatto doesn’t claim to be an actor. He doesn’t pretend to be one. He doesn’t memorize scripts. Nor does he forcefully repeat lines into the camera. “The thing that works for me in our show is that I’m just trying to make my friends laugh. I just do what I do,” Gatto said with a humble smile on his face.


Nonetheless, a celebrity in the making, Gatto’s education never reflected his dreams. “To be honest, the only reason why I even got an accounting degree is because my father said every company needs an accountant and you can work anywhere and I was also really good with math,” confessed Gatto. His first job for Accenture Consulting relocated him to Philadelphia, where he immediately got a full taste of an energetic fast-paced corporate lifestyle, which seemed to satisfy him at the time.


After the 9/11 attacks, Accenture gave Gatto several months off to allow him to pursue different career paths. During this time, he created ‘Penny’, a short comedic film consisting of an inner monologue of what girls and guys think when they’re dating. The short film shifted his ambitions from succeeding in financial consulting to succeeding in the film industry.


Investing a tremendous amount of time and energy into networking in this industry through his volunteer position at IFC, Gatto soon decided to pack his bags for Los Angeles, where he would go after fulfilling the promise he made to his mother: to spend three years trying to make a name for himself as a screenwriter and come back if nothing worked out. “Overall, my family was slightly skeptical, but none the less extremely supportive,” said Gatto sitting in front of an impressive collage of family photographs on the wall in his apartment.


The photographs fully captured a pleasant friendly dynamic between the members of Gatto’s large Italian family. He’s the youngest of three children; he has two older sisters, Gina and Carla, whom he maintains ‘best friend’ relationships with. “I’m also the youngest of 15 cousins in my generation. And then there’s 20 first cousins once removed under me. I’m the youngest older cousin and the oldest younger cousin,” said Gatto.


Taking on the role of an “older brother” adds yet another one to the many hats Gatto already wears. “At this point, I’m aiming to put out a quality product that makes people laugh. I want to make sure that the show stays true to the one thing that I’ve always been trying to do, which is to make people forget about life and laugh a little,” he said. With less and less time left until the premiere of “Impractical Jokers” and more and more positive reviews appearing on blogs and websites, Gatto is on a fast-track to stardom. And to think that his childhood dream was to simply become an architect.

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Peter Cavanagh Serves the Arts on the Stage and Behind the Bar

November 28, 2011Written by | 4 Comments

Framed black and white portraits of dead writers watch over diners at candle-lit, wooden tables. Book shelves line the exposed brick walls while olden day lamps hang dimly below them. A rugby ball lies on one of these shelves like a makeshift book end and high chairs sit at a bar under a banner of mini world flags a few feet away. The Dorian Gray Tap and Grill on 205 E. 4th St. reflects the many facets of its owner, Renaissance man Peter Cavanagh.

Irish bred, New York City native Cavanagh, 46, has a plethora of lifetime achievements. Turning a year old in January, the Dorian Gray is just one of them. But the bar he calls his “home base” is more than his latest project. It’s an homage to his roots in the arts as a musician, actor and author, but most of all, to his distant relation, Irish writer Oscar Wilde. It also resembles Cavanagh’s own candid nature, classic and rugged all at once.

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Carrine Hackshaw: The Weight of Student Activities is on Her Shoulders

November 28, 2011Written by | 124 Comments

by Christine Dayao

It was never Carrine Hackshaw’s dream to become a teacher, let alone having to plan the extracurricular activities of several thousand high schoolers. After working for 10 years as an English teacher,  she was selected as Richmond Hill High School’s Coordinator of Student Affairs, a job that is both tedious and time-consuming yet rewarding and humbling.  Keep reading →

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Gil Schweiger: The Urban Ranger

November 28, 2011Written by | 1 Comment

When most New Yorkers go to work, they usually hop onto the bus or the train, and head to an office or a place among the bustle of the big city.  But on the Greenbelt, Staten Island’s forest area, one man leads a very difference existence.  Being a forest ranger is an atypical job, especially in a bustling metropolis like New York.  But it is the calling of one man.

Gilbert Schweiger, or “Gil” as he is commonly known as, works as the Senior Ranger at William H. Pouch Scout Camp.  For the past nine years, Schweiger has watched over the camp and the forest.  With not one, but four trusty German Shepherds by his side, it’s Schweiger’s mission to make the camping experience as enjoyable and as enriching as he can.  At 49 years old, Gil Schweiger is in charge of maintaining the grounds at Camp Pouch, whether that means planting more tress, picking up trash, or renovating camp sites. Keep reading →

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Patrick ‘Sincere’ Thompson: Living Out His Dreams

November 28, 2011Written by | 1 Comment

Friends and colleagues alike shook their heads in disbelief when Patrick Sincere Thompson made dramatic career change at the age of 20. Despite his youth at the time, he was raking in $80,000 as an investment broker for Morgan Stanley when he cashed it all in to work as an intern at a recording studio for a mere $5 a day.

“My mom and others thought I was crazy,” said Thompson. “But it wasn’t about the money. It was about the experience and the opportunity to do something that I loved. I dipped into my savings and just did it. Being successful meant more than having money. Being happy meant doing what I enjoyed and I enjoyed being around the music business.”


Today the 42-year-old runs Frontline Marketing & Productions, based in Harlem, where his clients have included artists such as Chico De Barge and his net worth is upwards of $1 million. His first promotional project was developing a series of events in New York, Atlanta Los Angeles to promote singer Eryka Badu. More recently he’s developed promotional events for HBO, AT&T Rock Star Games and Sony Playstation. Thompson is living proof you can turn your passion into profits. Many people dream of getting paid to do what they love. While some dream, others make it happen.

However his meteoric rise to the top was a long road indeed. Thompson made his way from the mailroom at JP Morgan to broker within two years, simply relying on his networking skills and gusto. But it was one particular experience at JP Morgan that changed his life. One broker in particular, Joe Zickerman, affectionately known as Hollywood Joe because he handled the accounts for Sylvester Stallone, Elizabeth Taylor and the like invited me to a party he was having at his Upper East Side New York apartment. “When I attended, I was rubbing shoulders with the likes of many of his top clients. I remember saying to myself, these folks are so happy because they’re doing what they love and making a lot of money doing it.  It was then that it occurred to me that being successful was more that just making a lot of money but it was doing what you loved.”

Spurred on by this experience Thompson made a significant career change. Shortly after this meeting he did some soul searching and realized that music, not stock brokering was his passion.

He was initially stymied by his lack of contacts in the industry but the ever resourceful Thompson eventually found his way at Wild Pitch Records were he interned for the paltry $5 a day. He kept moving forward, eventually rising to prominence. He was eventually handed the position of National Director of Promotion despite a glaring lack of experience.

“My boss ‘Stu’ loved me,” Thompson noted. “You can train someone with a great attitude to do a job anytime, but you can’t train someone with a bad attitude, that’s why he selected me over other candidates”

One particular project convinced Thompson that he really did have a knack for promotion and marketing. The song “Looking at the Front Door” by the group “Main Source” was by no means a potential chart topper, that was until Thompson got his hands on the project. Through his hard work, Thompson catapulted the record to 1st place on the Billboard Charts. Soon after he pushed a number of records to the #1 spot and began to garner the interest of the rest of the industry. Eventually he took his contacts and founded his own company Frontline Marketing.

Long time Business associate and friend Kedar Massenburg, CEO of Kedar Entertainment has followed Thompson’s meteoric rise throughout the years. “He is one of a kind, the risks he took, the things he has been able to do, for even someone successful like me, I look up to him”

However his hard work could not prepare him what happened in 2009. He still remembers the diagnosis ‘When they told me I had cancer I couldn’t believe it, it sounds cliche but i never thought it would happen to me, I ate healthy and was still relatively young.”

The cancer Thompson contracted, mantle cell lymphoma is a rare form of cancer which affects the bone marrow. Thompson knew he had a prolonged treatment period ahead of him but with his two daughters on his mind and his never say die attitude he was well equipped to deal with what would turn out to be the most trying time of his life thus far.

“It was a tough two years, but I made it and now I feel stronger than ever,” said Thompson.

Now, Thompson who only showcases his native Jamaican dialect on occasion has learned to slow down. “I haven’t stopped completely by any means, but the thought of my daughters growing up without a father hit me hard” he noted.

Small but incremental changes have had an impact. Instead of going to sleep in the wee hours of the morning he now opts for a midnight curfew. He even takes routine naps throughout the day, a luxury afforded to him as a result of his home office.

Back to full health Thompson is ready for the upcoming challenges. He now runs his company from the comfort of his home in Rockland County, only venturing into the city when absolutely necessary.

“It’s better this way, now I can get my work done but also be here for my daughters, that’s what’s really important.”

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The Success of an Unique Immigration Advocate

November 28, 2011Written by | 320 Comments

The waiting room at the law office of Gell & Gell in Lower Manhattan was packed with men, women and little children, all dressed in casual clothes, and not in business suits as one might expect. The phones rang relentlessly, overwhelming the young receptionist. She answered each call and, from time to time, spoke in both Bengali and Hindi.

Amid the chaos, a white middle aged man came into the reception area from inside the office. He accompanied a Bangladeshi woman. Dressed in a pale green shirt and black pants, he tried to comfort her. Holding her hand, he repeatedly told her “chinta korona,” a Bengali term meaning “don’t worry.”

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