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Opinion | An Ode to the Queen City of the Hudson

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Poughkeepsie, NY — When I took on the job of teaching literature and writing at Vassar College in the summer of 2005, a colleague told me that Poughkeepsie, lesser known as the Queen of Hudson, was a post-Industrial City. Speaking to dismissal. I had a vague idea of ​​what it would look like: I got into a house or office, a dead factory shell with broken windows, overgrown grass, a rusty car, a company sowed. ..

I had good reason to think about it. At the turn of the 19th century, the factory here produced glass, beer, natural wood dyes, clothing, furniture and more. Poughkeepsie IBM during World War II The plant, one of the company’s largest and most historically important manufacturing sites, has won a contract to produce munitions. In the post-war years, the company turned its attention to typewriters and the like, followed by computers. Until its withdrawal in the 1980s, the factory, which was the region’s main employer, was the backbone of the city’s economy.

But in the decades that followed, local manufacturing moved elsewhere. By the 1990s, the city had a hard time finding its financial foothold. But it’s changing. Today, the local economy is built around service industries such as healthcare, education and tourism.

What was missing from my imagination of Poughkeepsie was the people who called the city their hometown. The Wappingers, who lived along the eastern bank of the Hudson River from Manhattan Island to the Connecticut River Valley long before factories and scholars settled here, called the area their hometown. The word poughkeepsie comes from the Wappinger word U-puku-ipi-sing. This means “a reed-covered lodge in a small water area”.

Many of us who live around the campus have little interaction with the city, but outside the academic bubble there are diverse communities. A glimpse of it in a winter son’s indoor soccer match. And when snow gives way on a summer dog day, many locals find some relief in the Wappinger Creek swimming pool.

To reach the water, you need to jump over metal fences and walk narrow paths through dense vegetation. The stream is divided by a large pile of soil with grass and trees. From one, the ropes that people use to swing underwater are hanging.

In May, I returned to my hometown of Patna, India. My trip coincided with the Hindu festival Akshaya Tritiya. Legend has it that the sacred Ganges flowed from heaven to earth. It was also Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of a month-long fast from dawn to sunset in Ramadan.

On the promenade on the banks of the Ganges, a young Muslim man dressed in bright Kurta traveled through a crowd of students sitting on the steps and saw a girl taking a selfie at the water’s edge. .. The groups weren’t mixed, but I was impressed by the wide promenade that allowed a shared view of the differences. At that moment, I was returned to Wappinger Creek. There, people of different skin tones share a space, and in some cases limbs are intertwined.

Many of us are at stake due to growing income inequality, religious or ethnic tensions, and severe pandemics. Still, if there is a public place where different kinds of crowds can gather freely, I have to feel that there is still hope for democracy.

There are no signs of “closed”, abandoned buildings, or a dry story of deindustrialization. The stream is flowing, but time has stopped. There is no historical burden here. You are with your friends and floating on the water. It’s not just your body — even your breathing appears to be weightless in the end.

Caleb Stein is a New York-based photographer. Amitava Kumar teaches at Vassar College and is the author of “A Time Outside This Time”.

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