Shahed Alam, dressed in a trim black suit, is pacing outside a marriage hall in Queens, talking to himself about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Inside, past an ivory-keyed grand piano, raindrop chandeliers, and an elegant staircase, a middle-aged Bangladeshi-American couple slow-dances on a hulking stage, attendees of a party celebrating the second anniversary of the New York-based, English- and Bengali-language TV station Time Television U.S.A.
It’s September 26, and by 10 p.m., as guests dart for the dinner buffet following appearances by a Hindustani classical singer, a children’s folk dance troupe, a teen pop star, and an official from the mayor’s office, the first U.S. presidential debate, taking place 18 miles east at Hofstra University, is heating up. A bespectacled senior watching the debate on his iPad begins walking around the room, tsk-tsking.
Alam, the TV station’s political correspondent, takes the stage to film a live segment summarizing the debate’s highlights for the channel’s evening bulletin. Clinton and Trump have entered one of the final battlegrounds of the presidential election, Alam explains in Bengali, taking a seat on the stairs as little girls dressed as sunflowers flit around behind him, shrieking. Trump promised to release his taxes if Clinton, who many believe to be a friend of Bangladesh, releases her controversial emails, he continues. It has yet to be seen how their performance at the debate will affect the polls, he says, signing off. The studio then cuts back to Time TV’s lead story: coverage of its own anniversary party. The bulletin will be broadcast to roughly two million viewers, Alam says, a majority of them in the United States.