Atlanta Stories 2

One morning, we woke up to loud knocking. The knocking was consistent and loud, the type that means all business. Since apartment walls are usually drywall and have no sound-proofing, I thought someone was knocking at our door. I got out of bed quickly and looked through the key hole and saw the police waiting outside. But they were facing our neighbour’s door and continued knocking.

Now that was interesting! There were 4 policemen outside. What was our neighbour up to? We had seen this neighbour before. She seemed like a polite woman and always smiled when we met her on the stairs. She had a kid and we had met some of the other people who lived with her.

I had to leave for work so I had to stop spying and get ready. It took me a few minutes to get ready and when I stepped out, our neighbor was sitting by the staircase. I tried to act cool and make my way down the stairs without inconveniencing them but the flurry of activities made it awkward. I found my way down the stairs somehow and didn’t look back.

A few men had been arrested. We inferred later that they were involved in gangs and drug deals. I don’t think they stayed there every night but would stop by sometimes.

When I came back from work, the action scene had concluded. Our neighbour had been evicted and the apartment was being cleaned out.

The apartment complex we lived in was a gated community but the gate was almost always broken. The apartment administration would fix it sometimes and add more security options but it would be get broken again.

The smells of Atlanta

Did you know that marijuana smells sweetish and unpleasant? We had a few neighbours who smoked it all the time and we could smell it all the way up to our apartment. I wonder if it’s possible to get high through passive smoking. I didn’t feel any different.

The part of Atlanta that we lived in had several stinky streets with problems of open defecation. Homelessness exists in the US and you can find people living on the streets in warmer cities like Atlanta. The homeless would often beg for money and make temporary shelters under flyovers and street corners. I don’t think I ever saw children who were homeless.

Walking downtown was always fun. The stadium was right there. The streets were busy with tourists, soccer fans and people wearing costumes.

Roadtrips

Road trips are a popular way for intercity travel in the US. The first road trip we took was from Atlanta to Nashville. It was less than four hours away but I was so restless throughout the trip. Now I don’t mind road trips as much and sometimes road trips are a much better option than being in tiny planes getting tossed in the wind.

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Atlanta Stories

Atlanta is a vibrant city, full of life, very diverse and  and we lived there nearly four years. We recently moved and I wanted to record a few of our unique Atlanta experiences before we forget all about them 🙂

Atlanta summers can get as high as 38 degree Celsius with humidity. That heat is familiar since I am from Kolkata. What’s different is that some of our neighbors just sit in their cars during hot summer afternoons even though all apartments have air conditioning. Sometimes they turn music on but sometimes, they just sit in the parking lot for hours, doing nothing else.

For a few months last year, someone would play loud music around 3 AM every night while sitting in his car. The music would often wake us up and it turned into quite a tradition. In fact, a few days after the music stopped waking us up, we wondered if the neighbor had left. Around the same time, we had a neighbor who would practice his drum lessons late at night. Since everything else is “hear a pin drop” quiet, those drums were loud.

Our apartment was right next to railway tracks for cargo trains. These trains run through the day and night and their weight would make our furniture rattle.  I don’t think we will miss that part about living there.

For a few nights I stayed by myself while my husband worked night shifts. One night while trying to sleep and trying to ignore those creaks and sounds that are creepier and louder at night, I heard a loud scream, ‘they’re gonna kill me!”

At first I was frozen to the bed in fear, unable to move. When the shouting was accompanied by more commotion, I realized that the noise was coming from right below our apartment. I jumped out of bed and ran to the window.

There were police cars everywhere. The railway tracks were lit up and people’s porch lights were on which made the night look brighter than it was. A man was struggling to escape the clutches of two policemen.  He had managed to make it halfway over the fence.

The fences are almost 6 feet high and he was trying very hard to slide across to the other side. The police seemed to have caught him just as he was about to reach the top. So when I looked out of the window, I saw the man almost on the tips of the fence with two policemen trying to prevent him from making it to the other side. My heart was still racing as the man continued screaming, “they’re gonna kill me. Help! Help me, momma! Momma!”

It was during the same year when the media and public were misrepresenting police actions and making police appear to be villains all over the US. You might have read some of the bad publicity city police offices were getting and most of the stories were falsified. That night I prayed that the officers would do the right thing because clearly the man was trying everything he could to get injured in order to escape arrest.

Soon an elderly lady ran out of one of the apartments on the ground floor. I was shocked to realize that the man was in fact calling out to his mother. She lived right there, in our apartment complex and perhaps so did he! There was a crime suspect living so close to our apartment!

The elderly lady ran out shouting words of comfort to her son and abuses at the officers. In that moment, the man managed to break free from the police and ran towards our building. More police cars had arrived by then. It was like a scene from the movies. Sirens blaring, officers hurried out of their cars chasing him on foot. He was surrounded in seconds. They were now on the other side of the building and I couldn’t follow the rest of the action. The commotion continued till the man was finally arrested and the mother calmed down.

Over the next few minutes the police cars departed, apartment porch lights went out and the outside was dark again. I was too excited to sleep. I had just witnessed something exciting – a crime bust right below our apartment!

When my husband returned home from work later that night, I learned that the man had been involved in regular theft from the cargo trains that parked on the tracks at night. The police had finally caught on to his tricks and had arrested him.

Cops & Community

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools” –  Martin Luther King Jr.

It is interesting how in the story of the Good Samaritan, the victim rescued and treated by the Samaritan is a crime victim. The underlying message cautions us against forming stereotypes about good people and bad people. It’s a powerful reminder of the transforming power of compassion.

Atlanta hosted an innovative approach to address the growing hostility between some citizens and Police Officers in the United States. The dialog was an endeavor to encourage mutual commitment to fostering positive relationships between Law Enforcement Officers and citizens.

This meeting and Solidarity March was sponsored by several leaders including Rev. Markel Hutchins, The IBPO, FOP, AFSCME, GA Association of Police Chief, NOBLE, NAACP, Power of Peace Project, Radio One of Atlanta, GA Sheriff’s Association and LULAC.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that..”

Several people attended the event, including those who had shown up to use this platform to advertise their personal agendas and create chaos. They were protesting about injustice but it was hard to hear them over all their shouting. It seemed that their only purpose to attend was to interrupt any effort attempted at an open dialog. As expected, the group created a lot of noise, very little impact with their protests and left when they were tired.

The path to progress is conciliatory – not shouting and protests. Consider how situations can be positively changed. Don’t get caught in illusions. You get further with firm positive appeals than with meaningless fights.  

The panelists consisted of leaders from Law Enforcement and people striving to bring about social change. Several critical topics were addressed and it brought a lot of truth to the surface.

An officer shared about a time he had to pull the trigger to protect a victim and stop a young man from stabbing her. He found out later that the victim was a mother and it was her son who was trying to kill her. The son was arrested and and the mother thanked the officer on the day of sentencing.

It takes a lot of courage to pull the trigger on a person. Officers have the huge responsibility to respond to critical situations which demand lethal decisions. There have been instances when an officer could have handled a situation differently but believe this – no officer wants to jump out of his car and shoot someone randomly. Just like other citizens don’t want to be judged because of someone else’s crime history, officers ask that they are not judged and shot for another officer’s act. We have let stereotypes cloud our judgement. All lives matter!

In addition to the panelists, select families of fallen officers and citizens were featured.

A grandmother shared about the day she lost her grandson who was at the wrong place at the wrong time. He was a good boy and the day he was shot, he had gone out to meet his friends. He was shot by an officer at a crime scene. Her appeal to officers was simply to ask questions before pulling the trigger, to look at people as people instead of at their color.

She thanked people from all communities who had stood by her during that hard time. It was a struggle to forgive and it took more courage than she thought she had to make it to the stage to share her story. But she forgave the officer who had shot her grandson. She encouraged the audience to pray for Police Officers so that they can carry out their responsibilities well.

A father shared the story of his son who was a young Police Officer and was shot and killed by a young man. This young man had been first arrested when he was 13 years old. He was 19 when he shot the officer fatally. Later the young man confessed that he was determined not to go back to prison and had purposed to kill any officer who approached his car that day.

Lives matter. Not just when police kill someone but also the other way around. Officers have lives and families who love them just as deeply as other citizens love theirs.

This father shared about the night their son died – the terrible pain and struggle. But he and wife prayed that they would forgive the young man who had killed their son. They did and they experienced the transforming power of forgiveness.

It’s natural to be angry and raise one’s voice but don’t let it hinder you from experiencing the healing that forgiveness brings. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Only time will reveal the outcome of this Dialog and Solidarity March. But may we take time to pray for Police Officers and be thankful for their service. Build a better community through cohesive relationships and teach others to live in community. It will take all of us to bring about understanding and reconciliation.

Eat: Atlanta

We tried these five restaurants in the last few weeks and recommend them! If you haven’t already,  consider making a reservation in one of these restaurants in Atlanta, GA this weekend:

  • Zyka: If you are looking to try one of the most authentic North Indian restaurants in Georgia, Zyka is the place to be! They offer lunch and dinner menus. Our favourite items on their menu are their spicy Biryani, Naan and mango lassi! Their pleasant staff could suggest additional ideas if you want to try something else. Prices are affordable and you can ask them to adjust the spice depending on your taste buds.  (More information: www.zyka.com)
  • Hankook Taqueria: Delicious Korean food served the American way. You can expect quick service and great options for street snacks, tacos and burritos. This small place has a fun decor and interesting flavors! (More information: hankooktaqueria.com)
  • Flying Biscuit: Amazing place for delicious all day breakfast and other meals. There are several of them around Atlanta and if you choose the time and location smartly, you might not end up waiting for an hour before you get a table. The amount and delicacy of the platter will make up for the cost. (More information: www.flyingbiscuit.com)
  • Smoke Ring: If you are looking for a place serving amazing barbecue, get a table at Smoke Ring. The decor and service add to the charm of the place. If you are not extremely hungry, you can have leftovers for your next meal. (More information: www.smokeringatlanta.com)
  • Aamar Indian Cuisine: Another Indian place you should try if you’re Downtown, is Aamar Indian Cuisine. They have a variety of great Indian meals and offer free delivery up to three miles. The chai served with samosas here can transport you to India. (More Information: aamarindian.com)

Have you tried a new restaurant recently somewhere in the world and loved it? You can use the comments section below to share your recommendation or consider writing a post and send it to theleadjournal@gmail.com.