“Auntie, what you cook?”
That question gets repeated by the many people who frequent Zeeran Sahadatalli’s apartment at New Community Associates. The reason? Sahadatalli is well known for making seafood curry dishes, homemade pita bread, and stews, and for welcoming others to help themselves.
“They go straight to the pot,” Sahadatalli, who was born in Guyana and has lived at Associates for six years, said with a chuckle.
The smell of aromatic dishes simmering on the stove keeps visitors coming in. Of course, they stay for Sahadatalli’s unmatched hospitality.
Care Coordinator Jasmin Lopez described Sahadatalli as a quiet resident who participates in all the building’s activities and “is always willing to lend a hand to help.”
“She treats the staff in the building like her family,” Lopez said.
Keith McKenzie of Environmental Services works in the building and would agree.
“She’s a very loving and giving person. She’s kind to each and every one,” said McKenzie, a fellow native of Guyana who has gotten to know Sahadatalli over the years.
Most sentences spoken by 72-year-old Sahadatalli are punctuated with the ring of an infectious laugh. Her lighthearted manner, however, belies the tragedies endured in her past. Sahadatalli married when she was 17 years old. When she was 40, her husband of 23 years, Rupert, died suddenly, leaving her a widow with six children. Sahadatalli said she chose not to remarry to avoid upsetting her children. Years later, her second eldest son passed away at age 51.
It was also during a season of loss that Sahadatalli found her home at NCC Associates. A longtime home health aide to a resident in the building, Sahadatalli grew to become familiar with NCC during her 10 years working for the client. Her client died just as Sahadatalli secured an apartment for herself in the building.
In addition to her hospitality skills, Sahadatalli is well-versed in sewing, making her own curtains and altering dresses. She worked as a cashier at Woolworths for eight years, during which time Sahadatalli says she amassed a large collection of dresses. Sahadatalli came to the U.S. in 1989 after her daughter, Wonita Mangra, sponsored her.
“I try to be like an independent person,” she said. Sahadatalli has 12 grandchildren and four great grandchildren.