On the morning of my first day of work at Victory Factory, I met the guys -- Abedan, Sudhir, Sandhani, and the other workers -- at the Smile. From there they regularly car pooled from the block in Jamaica to Hollis (home of Run DMC), where Victory Factory was located.
I felt very self-conscious stepping into the Smile. Sahishnu -- already backed up with breakfast orders at the grill -- acknowledged me with a look. I don't remember ordering anything; I just sat there feeling strange and waiting for the ride to my new job.
Aside from the new job, I also got a new place to live. A room became available at Trishatur's place and I moved my few belongings the half block or so to his place. Trishatur was another of that handful of guys who really stepped up for me when I had needed it most. A long time employee of the United Nations, Trishatur -- like me -- had come to the Center at the age of 16. An autodidact, he has an affinity for languages and a love of foreign cultures. (See some of Trishatur's great photos here.)
In later years, Trishatur would play a significant role in my own formal education, but at the time of my move into his apartment, it was simply his acceptance of me that meant the world. I was just beginning to settle into a routine of waking up late, exercising and working half days at the Factory, when Shambhu approached me with an idea.
How would I like to join the Peace Run's full-time crew? Peace Run '89 was set to embark on a 50-State relay run in just a couple of weeks. Shambhu said that the team -- which was to be headed by Arpan again -- needed another solid set of legs and that I wouldn't have to worry about my expenses. He'd take care of it.
Shambhu was the brains and driving force behind the Peace Run (which in its current incarnation is known as the World Harmony Run). To me, though, Shambhu was more than that. He'd always taken an interest in my development. While his team could surely use another set of dependable legs for the upcoming run -- which would last about three and a half months -- I felt at the time that Shambhu's generous offer was more about getting me out of the city and giving me room to grow.
I was (and am) grateful for the offer and immediately accepted. A short time later, I found myself in a van emblazoned with the Peace Run '89 logo heading south out of Manhattan on what was to be an eventful summer.
Great shot above of Shambhu and Narada in San Francisco as the World Harmony Run '08 passed through. See some of Shambu's other great photos on his Flickr site here.