Posted up in his cart in front of Trader Joe’s on 14th St. and 3rd Ave, Mitu is one of most popular street vendors among the NYU students living in East Village. In between taking orders for pick-up over the phone and cooking up a storm of white sauce, NYU Local was able to get to know the man behind the plexiglass, about the crazy shit he’s seen and his plans for the future in this new mini-series, ‘Who’s That Halal Guy?’ It’s almost as good as combo over rice.
NYU Local: What’s your name?
Mitu: My name is Mitu. M-I-T-U. I’m from Bangladesh.
NYU Local: How long have you been working here?
Mitu: I have been working here for four years. Same place, same spot.
NYU Local: When’s your shift?
Mitu: I take Monday and Tuesday off.
NYU Local: What do you do on your days off?
Mitu: I watch TV, or, my favorite thing is to sleep. Whenever I get time, I sleep… even in the subway.
NYU Local: So where do you live?
Mitu: I live in Queens, Astoria. Ditmars.
NYU Local: How do you like living in Queens?
Mitu: Actually, it’s a nice place!
NYU Local: So why not have a cart in Queens?
Mitu: Actually, I work for my owner. I am not the owner of the cart.
NYU Local: But you’re the guy that all the NYU students here come to, right? Tell me about them.
Mitu: They are very nice, polite, gentle. And they’re very young.
NYU Local: Anything crazy happen here before with NYU kids?
Mitu: In the last four years, only once. It was Saturday night. It was almost like… they were like fighting. But nothing happened, really.
NYU Local: Who was fighting?
Mitu: They were drunk actually. NYU students. And they were in groups but they didn’t fight. They were shouting and then they walked away.
NYU Local: How big were these groups?
Mitu: Five or six like that. And they were my customers!
NYU Local: What were they fighting over?
Mitu: I don’t know what the matter was! They were shouting. But nothing happened. Walked away, then. Some of them were encouraging them to “Fight, Fight!”
NYU Local: So what’s your favorite food? Is this your favorite food?
Mitu: Not at all. Our main thing is rice, fish curry, vegetables.
NYU Local: So what time are you open?
Mitu: My schedule is 8pm to 8am.
NYU Local: So that’s why you love sleeping. What else do you do in your free time? TV?
Mitu: Criminal Minds, it’s like CIS… That means ‘Criminal Investigation in the Spot.’
NYU Local: CSI?
Mitu: Yes, CSI New York. Now, I’m watching Criminal Minds.
NYU Local: What do you like about Criminal Minds?
Mitu: I like to see how crime happens, what people do when they’re in crime. They try to do many thing to survive and to escape. And police also prosecute the criminal. What they do, what tactics… I feel interested.
NYU Local: Have you seen any crimes here?
Mitu: No but, sometimes, they fight here.
NYU Local: How many fights have you seen?
Mitu: Once, I was a witness of fighting. It’s when I was very new here. I had to go to court.
NYU Local: What happened?
Mitu: A white drunk guy, he was beaten by a… black guy. In front of my cart. And I had to call the police. Because the black guy beat the white guy very seriously. And he laid down here for like two minutes. I was very, very shocked. And I called the police. And… he was dead!
NYU Local: He died?
Mitu: No. I was thinking “He’s dead!” He was lying, he was not moving. I was just busy with my customer, then the fight…
NYU Local: Do you know why they were fighting?
Mitu: Yeah, I know. The white guy was saying something racial about the black guy. Around my cart. He was drunk and he was shouting. The black guy was not drunk at all. And he was punished.
NYU Local: How?
Mitu: He was in jail for more than a year. The black guy. And he had a bad history.
NYU Local: What do you think about it?
Mitu: I was in trouble too, because I was a witness. I had to go to court two days, twice, without sleeping, working the whole night, going to court. And in the afternoon, going home, no sleeping, come back here again join my job.
NYU Local: So why are you set up here on 14th St?
Mitu: Actually, when I had no job, I was looking for jobs and one of my relatives, he had many carts like this. Gyro carts. And this cart was one of his carts. He shared the cart with his friend and, now, he’s the owner. And my relative sent me here to learn how to cook everything, then I came here.
NYU Local: Everything going okay?
Mitu: Here I am in great pressure. I mean, work, work, work. Too much pressure.
NYU Local: Are you thinking about changing jobs maybe?
Mitu: I’m trying to be a yellow cabbie. I drive two or three weeks, Monday night only. Practice driving yellow cab, but I am not taking any customer. Roaming about in Manhattan. And it’s not an easy job.
NYU Local: So why do you want to become a cabbie?
Mitu: Actually, I think if I am a yellow cabbie, I can work – If I wish to work, I can work; if I wish to rest, I can go home and rest. But this job is not like that. Sometimes I am on my feet for 12 hours. There’s a seat, but sometimes when it’s busy, I can’t sit!
NYU Local: When are you busy?
Mitu: Thursday night, and Friday and Saturday are more busy than Thursday.
NYU Local: And no time to watch CSI!
Mitu: I only watch that on my holiday. But I also see some geographical documentary. Africa. The serengeti. If I ever have an opportunity, I will visit Africa.
NYU Local: Where else do you want to go?
Mitu: Now, I want to go home [to Bangladesh].
NYU Local: When was the last time you went home?
Mitu: It was five years ago. More than four and a half years. This June, it will be a complete five years.
NYU Local: When do you think you’ll go back?
Mitu: When it is five years, I will get a U.S. passport. When I get the passport, I will go home. I can go home anytime, but I have a plan to get the passport, then go home.
Photo by Luis Landas