For the first few minutes of our meeting, Zubin Mehta is on his cellphone with an old friend (who, it turns out, is a grandson of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan). The friend, like Mr. Mehta, is an Indian Zoroastrian—or Parsi—and the two are making plans for dinner after the maestro and his Israel Philharmonic Orchestra finish their performance that night at Carnegie Hall. They speak in Gujarati, the adoptive language of the Parsis, who fled persecution in newly Islamized Persia in the ninth century and took shelter in western India.
After he’s sorted out dinner, Mr. Mehta turns to me, mildly irritated. “New York is surprising. The restaurants all close at 10:30 p.m.,” he says. The night before, he had wanted an 11 p.m. table at a favorite spot, “but they said, ‘We cannot serve you that late, we are unionized.’ ” Tonight he is going to an Indian restaurant of repute that is happy to accommodate a late-dining celebrity. “It’s good food,” he tells me, adding in a very Indian touch: “Give them our name if you go. Then they’ll pay more attention.”
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