Tag Archives: Jersey City

Life is in the details

This morning was the first real snow of the season in Jersey City. At 8 am, it looked formidable outside with little lines of white zipping across the air and a fine, white dust accumulated on the shrubs and railings which melted on the concrete. It wasn’t easy to set out.

First snow in Jersey City
First snow in Jersey City

An army of darkly hooded people moved towards the train station in unison at rush hour, carefully stepping on the gaps in the little rivulets on the slippery ground and pushing through glass doors to enter buildings along the waterfront. Many had no work at all in these buildings and were walking through just to catch as much of dry warmth as possible for parts of the way avoiding the elements.

In the underground train stations that happen to be partially on the surface and hence open to the cold air, regular commuters showed an amazing knowledge of warm spots as they deftly huddled in corners with the least cold breeze. You could almost see their ears pricking up with the imperceptible distant rumble of the train as it approached. They jumped up from their corners and zipped past just in time as the train entered the station to rush through the few remaining steps to reach the open doors of the trains before they shut on them.

People shook their umbrellas and boots to get rid of the fine, white, dusty solid water. As the train emerged to light out of the darkness of the underground tunnel before reaching certain stations, the windows showed a sudden change in the industrial landscape along the train tracks. Awe-inspiring for those who had the time to look up from their electronic gadgets. Continue reading Life is in the details

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Boys will be boys

I stand on our balcony and look down. Two boys are hard at work.

The balcony is on a pier on the river. It’s a bright blue day with the glowing Manhattan skyline spread out on one side. The Verrazano-Narrows bridge is strung like a pencil sketch on a bright blue canvas on the other side with little beads glinting in the sun at the base that are really cars passing from Staten Island to Brooklyn on this sunny day.

The magnificence of the skyline and the slowly moving glinting dots on the precariously strung bridge, seen from this distance, seem like evidence of both the grandeur of human civilization and human hubris to a casual observer.

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Straight down below me is a narrow strip  that goes all around the apartment building filled with mulch and motley stones and bits and pieces of what look like wood shavings. This is soil for the transplanted  shrubs meant to take root here and make this building beautiful.

Every season I see the gardeners come by and uproot them and replant the strip with other plants more suitable for the season.

This isn’t a place where plants, not in the season of their bounty, can lie dormant until next spring when they bring out a new green shoot. Hardworking gardeners with electrically operated machinery periodically tear them out, level the ground and replant the plots with new plants that have been grown from seed elsewhere to beautify this place.

Transplanted plants are perhaps eagerly sent here because their beauty matches the beauty of this place, some perhaps carefully bred for this very reason.

This area is beautiful. Signs on placards all around advertise that it is ten minutes from Manhattan’s financial district. Pictures on the walls of the lobby depict men and women suitably dressed enjoying a drink against the magnificent view of the river and the skyline–smiling neither too much, nor too little–just enough.

It is late afternoon and the boys keep criss-crossing the strip of concrete that covers the boardwalk. The mulch borders one side and the railing on the river’s edge borders the other side of the strip. They pick a stone each very carefully (or maybe a wood shaving) from this makeshift soil, walk or run across the strip of hard ground and throw it in with all their might into the river across the railing.
Continue reading Boys will be boys

Rush Hour to NYC

The ability to dart across short expanses of available space and the incredible dexterity required to weave through narrow cracks and crevices without getting trapped or trampled on are attributes of highly evolved species of creatures of the animal kingdom. Such qualities are highly prized in order to survive or gather food in very challenging habitats where only the fittest survive.

I discovered that the speed of rodents, the agility of cockroaches, the lithe grace of snakes in their natural habitats can also be spotted where I live. That highly adaptable, quick and dexterous breed of the fittest form of life is abundant in my city.

With highly developed reflexes to stimuli and a competitive spirit only to be matched by the most efficient of predators in existence, these creatures can’t be stopped from reaching their goals. As you get close to large metropolitan areas, you may view this creature in overwhelming numbers. This creature is gifted with more speed, greater agility and higher dexterity than the best of them if only lacking sometimes in as much abundance of grace.

I am talking of none other than the urban commuter navigating their way to work through subterranean train systems during rush hour into New York City. Continue reading Rush Hour to NYC

Trapped characters at dusk

I was watching some very young kids playing on a pier next to the Hudson on the Jersey side a couple of evenings ago. Summer evenings are great for watching people in a place usually as cold as it is here all year round. The air was balmy and the mood pleasantly mellow.

One tiny person toddled over and stopped right in front of me and just stared for several minutes. At that age, the world is full of amazing wonders. It looked like s/he would like to say something but didn’t quite have the words for it yet. Another kid, barely older, followed this one to see what was up. This second one had the confident air of command. “Say hi,” ordered the second to the first. “Ba ba” was the response and they both dawdled along to more important work.
Continue reading Trapped characters at dusk

How Hurricane Sandy passed through our town

The NYC skyline after Sandy through the window. Photo Credit: MD

Sandy came and went and left a lot of devastation in its wake. We were more fortunate than many in my locality in Jersey City, New Jersey. We mostly observed the storm from the windows with almost no interruption in power or any other discomfort.

Many of my friends don’t have power yet. Many are throwing away food from their freezers after three days of no power and many spent the night in the cold despite diesel generators. Many intersections in our neighbourhood don’t have lights yet and the road along the river to Hoboken from our side is still cordoned off. The Manhattan skyline looks quite different from its usual bright self with a long, dark section in the middle across the river. The Verrazano-Narrows bridge looks half suspended by an invisible thread from the edge of the river upto the middle of the Hudson since only half of it is lighted and the rest of it has no light. Continue reading How Hurricane Sandy passed through our town

Durga Puja, Fall, Kashful and the city

বাংলা: কাশফুল
Kashphool. The real deal. via Zemanta. বাংলা: কাশফুল (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I got out of my apartment building yesterday and there they were. A bunch of dried, white grass flowers framed by concrete next to a stern sign that read : “Private. Do not trespass.”

Kashful. Or its distant cousin has bloomed in Jersey City. Fall has touched even the concrete.

Kashphool
Kashphool in Jersey City? The World Trade Center is across the river. Photo credit: Bottledworder

Kashphool? Or Kashful? How do you approximate from Bengali? Wikipedia tells me it’s called Kans grass in English, a grass native to South Asia. (“Kans grass”! Sounds strange. Not much better than Saccharum spontaneum, apparently its scientific name.)

This Kashphool in Jersey City is different from the ones at home in India.
Continue reading Durga Puja, Fall, Kashful and the city