Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Delights of Mogul Kings in Queens

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Delights of Mogul Kings in Queens

Article excerpt

Need a Punjabi-speaking attorney? Or perhaps an accountant fluent in Urdu? Want to find out how the Pakistani national soccer team played yesterday? Or, far more important, are you looking for an eligible and highly traditional bride of Indian descent?

Any Indian, Pakistani, or Bangladeshi immigrant living in New York City can tell you that there's an easy answer to all of the above concerns: Just go see the candy man.

Of course many of the customers who pour into Tariq Hamid's main store in the Flushing section of Queens are primarily there to pick up food - hot curry dishes at lunch; smooth jewel-like confections flavored with almonds and saffron throughout the day. But many need information, contacts, news, and sometimes just a sense of connection. And that's OK, says Mr. Hamid, proprietor of Shaheen Food and Sweets. That's what the business is there for. "We get calls from everybody and everybody comes here," says Mr. Hamid. It's good for business, he says, but also, he insists with a disarmingly warm grin, "We like to help." Hamid's store, the crown jewel of his $3-million-year business, sits squarely in the center of New York's booming Indian and Pakistani community. A sweet sense of community When Hamid's parents first came to the US in the early 1970s seeking religious freedom, that community was tiny. And it seemed unlikely that the traditional Indian candies - colorful, bite- sized, once prepared in the courts of Moghul kings in 16th-century India - would find a market. But in 1973, as New York's Indian and Pakistani community grew, the Hamids opened Shaheen Foods in Elmhurst, Queens. Grasping the need of the new immigrants for a sense of community, the family began to shape their stores into ethnic centers. They found that immigrants from religious and ethnic groups that clashed in India and Pakistan were content to work, live, and shop side-by-side. Today several Indian and Pakistani newspapers are available free at each of their five branches. …

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