Racial Feelings in the Post–9/11 World
In the opening scene of the film Man Push Cart (2005), written and directed by
Ramin Bahrani, a pushcart vendor named Ahmad (played by Ahmad Razvi)
starts his workday. The first seven minutes of the film have minimal dialogue
but are full of activity, with the camera focused on Ahmad conducting the daily
rituals of the immigrant service class. In the early-morning hours, he arrives at
a busy warehouse to find his pushcart. After loading the cart with goods to sell
throughout the day, he drags it through the yellow cab–filled streets of Manhat-
tan, a scene depicted several times in the film, making his way to Midtown to
sell co√ee, donuts, and bagels. With much e√ort, the breathless Ahmad slowly
pushes his cart to a stop at a red light. From a van passing by, he hears an older
desi singing a beautiful couplet from a Mohammad Rafi tune: ‘‘Mujhe dard-e-dil
ka pata na tha, mujhe aap kis liye mil gaye (I didn’t know of this pain of the heart,
for what reason did I find you?).’’ The desi asks Ahmad if he is ok. He says yes,
and they both move on.
Ahmad exemplifies the downward mobility of the immigrant working class.
He was once a rock star in Pakistan but now toils as a pushcart vendor to pay his
debts. He hustles to make money; after he turns in his pushcart, he takes to the
streets of New York to sell pirated pornographic dvds to working class men of
color. Not only does he su√er from the economic obligations of migration; he
also has to prove himself within his familial and social network. He is a single
father who must earn enough money to reclaim his son from his in-laws, who
refuse to give the child up until Ahmad earns enough money to support him. As
the pressure to make money rises, Ahmad’s emotions begin to take a toll. In an
act of blind compassion, he takes in an abandoned kitten, which becomes a
symbol of his immigrant condition and his slowly unraveling social bonds. He
carefully feeds the sick kitten milk and wipes away its vomit; in the end, though,
Ahmad must dig a grave for the newborn. Each day seems to bring new failure;
like Sisyphus, he must start every morning by rolling out his pushcart and earn
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