Before there was OpenWater, there was Oriental Rug Company

Before there was OpenWater, there was Oriental Rug Company

“Koo-nul, where are you from?”
“Oh I’m from New York, but my parents came here from India”
“That’s so nice to see, your family must be one of the
good ones
Private Equity Investor comment to me in 2019

Earlier this year my brother moved into his new office space on Park Ave. He is a physician and fortunate enough to be running his own private practice. He was never very good at working for the man. As the family came to all congratulate him, I turned to my mom and asked, “ma… wasn’t dad’s office somewhere around here?”

My dad too was an entrepreneur. He ran an import/export business in the 1980s selling Oriental Rugs. Turns out none of the Johar men were very good at working for the man.

I asked my mom to dig up some photos of that office and I wanted to share them here. My dad’s office was off Broadway. It was in a warehouse like building which only had a freight elevator. I have faint memories of the elevator man pulling a lever to bring us up and pushing it down to stop once we got to the floor.

Driving through Manhattan, we passed through the same commercial neighborhoods my dad would pack his van with and sell. He commented, “That store still owes me $400.”

I shuddered for a moment. I realized the dreams that my brother and I are living now are the dreams my parents came to this country for for themselves. We live in this city now with all of the same ambition — but also have the luxury, the nice office, the budget to take cabs, seamless, you name it.

My parents would share stories about how a fun night would be downing a bag of chips with a Budweiser in their studio apartment. They would relish in the memory of folding up clothes and shoving them into a pillow case, their substitute for the real thing.

They made the most of those dreams, eventually moved to the suburbs and put us into an incredible school system and community.

They are proud of what they did, save, invest, save more. Live modestly even when times got better.

I have no plans to stop taking Uber, ordering seamless, or buying any jeans necessary, however I did want to take the time to tribute this journey. I know it is not unique to my family nor is it unique to immigrants.

Here are some pictures of that office:

Left: Dad holding me on his desk. Oriental rug behind us. The calculator would print a receipt. The giant paper on his desk is a spreadsheet. Middle and Right: Brother in Dad’s Office

My mom and I had the idea of getting these memories collected and framed into art work on my brother’s new office wall. In addition to the pictures above here are some of the photos we used for inspiration from that era, along with a sketch my mom drew.

For the unveiling, I picked Father’s Day. My Dad doesn’t accept gifts so we always have to be creative. The father’s day card included a print out of the pictures I shared above. After handing the card my mom brought up the painting.

Here it is in full grandeur.


Magazine made for you.


No posts were found for provided query parameters.