Some times, I forget I lived in London for 2 1/2 years. It is not that it was a unpleasant experience, it is just that I have lived in New York and the suburbs of the city that I simply forget. Even when it was announced that Sadiq Khan, born of Pakistani parents, had become the new Mayor of London, it really didn’t register.
Then on Thursday evening, September 15, I got a call from one of Africa’s leaders in New York City Imam Konate, intimating me that there was going to be a meeting with Mayor Khan, who was visiting Canada and the U.S., with Mayor de Blasio. I should be getting the invitation from the Mayor’s office the next day, and that I should reply immediately about attending as there was space for only 11 African leaders. Sure enough, the invitation arrived the next day and I quickly accepted.
Well, come Saturday night, the whole city of New York seemed to have turned upside down with the explosion in the Chelsea area of the city, on 26th Street between 6th and 7th avenues. I said to myself I was just in that area on Wednesday, September 14th, after a meeting at the Police Headquarters, where we were bade goodbye by outgoing Police Commission Bratton, and the new Commissioner O’neal was introduced to us as the ethnic media assembled. The next morning, I could see the Mayor speaking about the explosion and what New York City was doing, and I wondered whether he would have the time to meet with Sadiq Khan at the LaGuardia Community College, Long Island City as planned, a meeting planned for 2:30-3:30 pm, with doors opened at 1:30 pm.
I figured if I left New Jersey at 1:o0 pm, I should be able to get there by 2:00 pm, as the train would get into Penn Station at 1:40 pm and I would have plenty of time to take the ‘E’ train and get there on time. The NJ train did get into Penn station on time, but then that’s when my trouble began. I went to the 8th Avenue line, where I was supposed to get the ‘E’ train. I waited and waited as the C and A continued to come and go and no ‘E’ train. After many trains, I finally asked the conductor, the driver, whether the ‘E’ train was coming, and he said no, that I should take the ‘A’ to 42nd and then take the ‘R’.
But then, I saw the N train 42nd Street and thought it goes to the area I was going – wrong. In the train, I asked the Chinese conductor whether the train went to the LaGuardia Community College, and he didn’t know of course. Then back in the train, I asked one of the black passengers, he said he wasn’t sure. But then, he searched his phone and told me to get off at that train station we had reached and take the No.7 train to the next stop.
So, by the time I finally got to the college, the Hall where the two Mayors were speaking had been filled up, which I didn’t know at the time. I was ushered upstairs and when I got into the room, I thought it was too small and there less people there. Then, I saw on the television screen, the two Mayors being introduced by the President of the College, and the moderator, an Egyptian-born Professor at Long Island University being introduced. I wondered where the event was being held, until it dawned on me that it was happening downstairs while we were upstairs.
It was of course a good discussion between the two Mayors, each one praising the other, and Khan trying to emphasize London being the best city in the world. But one thing I commend him on was how he talked about Hillary Clinton, “Well, may the best candidate win. I know she will,” to great laughter and applause. De Blasio was more smug, mentioning the name Sanders in one of his answers, which I believe must have annoyed a lot of people like me. And of course, the question I had submitted was not one of the questions the moderator asked. When the ‘African delegation’ assembled after the event, I could see there were 9 Muslims, 1 Christian, and 1 Godanist (of course, me).
So, in short, my attempt to interact with Mayor Khan, to discuss ‘old days’ about London, never materialized. I don’t have regrets, except it took me another four hours to get back home. C’est la vie?