Holding On to India
Jupiter Yambem was born and raised on the other side of the world, in the remote state of Manipur in the northeast corner of India. At the age of 21 he came to the United States and promptly took up a career in some of New York City's most famous restaurants, including the Rainbow Room and then Windows on the World, where he worked as a banquet manager.
But even as he planted hardy roots here ‹ marrying a woman from Syracuse, settling down in Beacon, N.Y., joining an environmental group dedicated to protecting the Hudson River, becoming friends with Pete Seeger, signing on as assistant coach for his 5-year-old son Santi's soccer team ‹ Mr. Yambem, 41, held fast to his Indian past. Retaining his Indian citizenship, he co- founded the North American Manipur Association, a small group of Manipur families that sought to promote and preserve the culture of their homeland over here.
He had two purposes, said his wife, Nancy Yambem. He wanted his son to know something of his heritage ‹ to see the dances and hear the music and taste the food. But he also wanted to construct a bridge, however modest, between two vastly different cultures.
The strands of Mr. Yambem's life came together at his memorial service. His friends gathered at Beacon Riverfront Park on the banks of the Hudson River. They had a potluck dinner and Mr. Seeger sang "Turn, Turn, Turn." Later, they released hundreds of small paper boats onto the river, each with a candle inside. Mr. Yambem's ashes were returned to Manipur and scattered over a lake.
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on October 26, 2001.