By Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech
A new play debuted at the Queens Theatre Dec. 23 that tells the story of an undocumented immigrant family from Bangladesh and the struggle they face trying to make a new life for themselves in Jackson Heights.
Based on real-life events, “Stories from Jackson Heights” revolves around a married couple who flee from Bangladesh to the United States seeking asylum with their two daughters. The family arrives to the United States but are quickly separated. The father is deported back Bangladesh while the mother is placed under house arrest forced to wear an ankle bracelet.
The play was written and directed by Golam Sarwar Harun, a Queens Art Fund grantee. But the inspiration for the play came from his wife Gargi Mukherjee.
In March of 2016, while driving home to Jackson Heights from work, Mukherjee turned on her car radio to de-stress by listening to National Public Radio. At that moment, NPR was sharing heartbreaking stories of immigrant mothers separated from families, under house arrest and forced to wear ankle bracelet.
Woman after woman spoke of the pain and embarrassment they felt while wearing the bracelets. None could remove the clunky devices during showers. Many felt like criminals even though they came to the country seeking political asylum. Women were enduring needless suffering for a for-profit scam.
“I was thinking, ‘Oh my God this could have been me,’” said Mukherjee. Originally from Bangladesh, Mukherjee could identify with the feels of isolation that women expressed. As a mother she understood the fear of possibly being separated from her children.
Mukherjee wanted to protest the mistreatment of new Americans and decided to do so in keeping with Bangladeshi tradition — by writing a play.