Saturday, March 15

Manhattan mornings

Last week, when I got a chance to be in New York I was thrilled at the prospect of having to spend my weekend there. It would give me a chance to see New York.

It was biting cold when I reached NY. But the adrenaline rush braved it all. The cold wind, rains that obscured visibility from most observation decks, the fatigue of the 14 hr flight, even the reversed body clock.

I was there to make the most of the trip.

First things first, when one goes from Mumbai to New York, especially if you are the ones who get retailed happiness in malls you have to get the regular out of the way.

So there I was just 2 hrs after my trip, at Macy’s with my mental check list of “what to get for whom”

Macy’s like a maze and I got lost several times. Yet, loved the assortment of brands, the availability of sizes and the styles to chose from, and for a drop dead shopper like me, there isn’t anything like Macy’s Oh, no there is the Fifth Avenue

New Yorkers are happy without breakfast, they are more into buying coffee, But for some of us a breakfast is a must and there’s nothing like this café on Times Square followed by star bucks coffee. Starbucks is to an average New Yorker what Vada Pav is to a Mumbaikar I believe.

There are always two ways to explore a city, one is to do the touristy way, pick up one of those IN City guides and do all the “ To Dos” or just feel the city. Its sight and smell, its parks, malls, eateries, cinema halls, the roads, the graffiti on walls, take a bus ride, board the train, eat off the road, strike a conversation with cabbies, let them take you to the fun places and just soak in everything.

And that’s exactly how I intended to explore NY.

Just imagine a walk down 5th avenue and stumbling towards the very famous Rockefeller Centre. It’s an art deco between 5th 7 7th avenue, which has an ice skating ring, the lovely Rockfeller Centre café and loads of shopping places.

5th Avenue is a shopping treat but it’s also a visual delight, the broad boulevards, the beautiful architecture that feels like an art studio would actually house some fashion brands.

I could not help clicking what Walt Disney had to say about itself.

And this is what New Yorkers are reading now.

Well, I have picked up this book on tape, it would befascinating to read about the trials and tribulations of the black progeny of mixed heritage Obama, negotiate his space in America. I hope to find the man Obama admist presidential hopeful who feels economies like India are taking jobs from America. But this…. I would save for another blog moment. When I feel like writing about the calculus of opportunities and lack of it.

And if we thing our media goes on endlessly, the US TV too loves to over engineer. Hence, channels after channels dished out why Clinton (Bill, this time)thinks Hilary needed to win Ohio & Texas and why Obama is a manifestation of America’s call for change.

My book shopping was the most elaborate one with a visit to Barnes & Nobles. I managed to pick up some extremely good stuff that’s keeping me very busy ever since I came back.

For now more of 5th Avenue.

New York is divided in to five boroughs. It was unfortunate that I could not visit the other boroughs like Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens and Staten Island besides Manhattan but I managed to see a lot of Manhattan.

My hotel was at Times Square, a tourist attraction. The neon light at Times Square gives you a feeling of having arrived on NY scene however fleetingly.

I want these pictures to speak because the grandeur of Times Square, its glowing neon signs, its tourist savvy shops cant be contained in words.

Colleagues advised me to watch a broadway show, preferably a musical, well I know Broadway is great but frankly the idea of a musical like Chicago or legally blonde was not as warm as it should be. I chose “Come Back, little Sheeba”, a hard hitting playon contemporary American life. Broadway is an experience not to be missed on any counts. While plays in Mumbai have their own earthy charm, Broadway surprises you with its magnitude, its professionalism, its branding, there are 39 theatres with a capacity of 500 people in theatre district.

The next thing on my “to do” list was taking the subway in US, I got into the subway near my hotel and went to places like SOHO & Chelsea.( These were all recommendations by various cabbies.)

Subway is the life line of this over worked, over frenzied city. Students, working professionals, tourists all board the subway to reach their destination; the stations are alive with music. Youngsters can be seen performing hip hop once in a while to buy their coffee.

I enjoyed walking down SOHO & Chelsea. My moment in the sun was seeing a statue of Mahatma at the Union Square Park, not far off, somebody screeched on a loudspeaker to an imaginary audience about US psyche post 9/11. Mahatma’s message bears repetition in a wafer-thin urbane memory.

I also got an opportunity to visit my boss’s family in US which gave me an insight into a midtown family life. I had to curb my urge to click pictures several times that evening.

Work was fun mostly. I got to meet some very good people and got a complete perspective on Diversity, a concept very nascent to Indian organizations.

Off work, I spoke to some old college friends, people who had migrated to US on Student VISAs, some had got their work permits, others were waiting for it, the pressure of living in a country different from their own was telling. Some had married, some hadn’t. Some had accepted, some hadn’t, some were happy, some weren’t.

Their lives were a curious mixture of some things East & some things West. A heady cultural cocktail they would pass on to their progeny. A burden they would carry into their lives.

Ever since I knew I was to go to New York, I wanted to visit what is now known as Ground zero. The erstwhile WTC, the structure that often passed off as symbol of America’s progress and whose innards were bombed on 9/11 changing the contours of world politics for ever.

As and as you stand close to the only wall there, the magnitude of human tragedy hits you. One look at the vast expanse of land that used to be WTC, , the scale of destruction invades you.

My hair stood on the edge and there’s in no way I can express what I felt. Nothing absolutely nothing, justifies bombings of a civilian structure, nobody ever deserves to stand in debris to find the dead body of a loved one who was not even exposed to the complex nuances of International terrorism. Whether this happens in Kashmir or Godra, Mumbai or Israel, or World Trade Centre.

It is unacceptable. And it has to be rejected. By every nation and every time it happens. Beyond all kinds of economic, geographic, and military interests. Because the tenets of power cant debilitate its own existence.

I saw this father explaining the significance of 9/11 to his kids at WTC site. I hope these kids inherit a future that is free of terrorism of this kind.

And so finally the sight old New York - Sex & The City hoardings , the yellow cheese cake with red jelly , rain washed roads & parks and this snap. An excuse of a tree and a lot of concrete.


shikha said...

My view and perceptions of new york and US in general are very very different from yours....

It is one of those posts which started with certain expectation and in the end i just ended up scrolling down...probably I am not a very accommodating person who can try and find meaning in a 360 degree difference in perspective...

There is lots that i have to say about this place...which i think needs a post of its own...:)

Anonymous said...

Very nice post Shuchika.

Really liked that bit - the pressure of living in a country different from their own was telling. Some had married, some hadn’t. Some had accepted, some hadn’t, some were happy, some weren’t.

How true !

Anonymous said...

Have always wanted to go to NYC, but then never seem to manage...