Ibrahim Chowdry became a key figure in New York's Bengali community, sort of a "go to" man.
Both Laily and Noor recalled a father who was busy; that he became the guy to call in the Bengali community. He was always rushing out of the house.
Except one day when Noor Chowdry had gone to the Bronx Zoo and come back with a 15-inch catfish he'd caught in the lake. His father was about to leave the house, but when he saw that fish, he took off his jacket, rolled up his sleeves and got a knife out.
Bengalis are known as fish lovers and Ibrahim Chowdry could not give up the thought of a spicy fish curry.
John Ali Jr. also remembers that Bengali food was the one constant from the homeland.
His father, Mustafa "John" Ali, like Chowdry, also came to play an important role for Bengali men in the industrial towns where he worked, including Chester, Pennsylvania, home to a Ford car factory and the Sun Shipbuilding plant along the Delaware River.
Ali learned English from listening to the radio and helped "anchor the broader network of escaped seamen in a series of key locations," Bald wrote.
Ali Jr., 83, remembers his father always having a pot of curry and rice on the stove's back burner. Just in case any of the Bengalis stopped by.
Ali Jr., who wrote on the last census that he was a "black Bangladeshi," moved to Atlanta almost three decades ago, where he settled in the mostly black southwest neighborhood of Cascade. He married a black woman, as had his father, and never saw himself as anything else. In his tenure in the Army, he'd always been colored.
In his youth, he read a lot of Indian history, about independence and the infamous, 18th-century Black Hole of Calcutta incident in which prisoners suffocated in a dungeon.
He recalled his father listening to news about India on the radio and translating it for his fellow Bengalis who did not know English.
"I thought I would see Bangladesh one day," he said. But he never did.
His father returned to his hometown of Sylhet in the 1960s after his wife's death. "I was surprised he went back," Ali Jr. said. "He got homesick."
Shortly after, his father died on his way back from Haj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage, in Saudi Arabia.
Ali Jr. says there was always a pot of curry on the stove when he was growing up in case Bengali visitors showed up.
These days, he sees Bangladeshis running the corner gas station or convenience stores in his neighborhood.
"Salam alaikum," they greet him.
"Alaikum salam," answers Ali.
It's not difficult to see why the Bengalis would assume this black Catholic man is one of their own. But beyond the universal Muslim greeting, Ali can say nothing to them in Bengali.
Fatima Shaik's grandfather's ancestry was a positive for her family who lived under the sting of racism and segregation in New Orleans.
Her family was told they were unworthy and ignorant. But they held onto the memories of Shaik Mohamed Musa, whose family owned land in India, who traveled across the world to come to America, who started a business.
With a father like that, her grandmother encouraged her dad, he could achieve anything.
"My father spoke of his father all his life." Shaik said. "He always spoke about how important India was to him."
Musa left behind a hookah from India, a few papers and jewelry, including a diamond stickpin. Hurricane Katrina washed away much of Shaik's grandfather's belongings. Her father died the following year.
Shaik began searching, "in earnest," she wrote on the Bengali Harlem website, "as one suddenly does after realizing just how much is gone."
She is excited about her journey to Kolkata, specifically to Hooghly, across the Ganges River, to the place from where her grandfather and many of the early "exotic" goods peddlers hailed. Director Kavery Kaul plans to document Shaik's trip in March for an upcoming film, "Streetcar to Calcutta."
"The story of Fatima's grandfather, Shaik Mohamed Musa, belongs to all of us," Kaul said from Kolkata. "It's the history of the Indian diaspora and the making of America, the story of long overlooked links between cultures that looks to the past as it points us ahead to the future of our global society.
"The project takes me back to Kolkata where I was born and it leads Fatima on a journey in search of the name she bears." Kaul said. "Entering a world so different, so far from home, is sure to give her another sense of belonging."
In some ways Shaik feels it will be a journey guided by spirits. She will be taking her grandfather and father to India -- the home that one knew and the other always dreamed of knowing.