Tag Archives: New York City

Social Media and Sharing Reality

I was walking around West Village yesterday when I turned a corner. It was not as cold as when the polar vortex had assailed us last week. Yet it wasn’t as sunny as the day before here in Manhattan. In fact, it was pretty foggy even for a winter’s day.

The fog on a different day seen from across the Hudson.
The fog on a different day seen from across the Hudson.

The fog was making striking patterns in the sky as it swirled around the tall buildings making them look like slim black mountains or gigantic arthropods with their front feet buried in the fog and their antennae pointed towards me as they looked down from their lofty heights.

If you knew the landscape in these parts, you’d know that those antennae were really enormous cranes or pullies perched atop the terraces. The World Trade Center, the most gigantic arthropod of all, stood like the leader of the pack looking down from the foggy heavens like a creature from the myths and legends of yore.

It was a day of epic poetry about cities and civilizations and battles and  mountains and fog and about the rise and fall of civilizations past and present.

Then I turned that corner suddenly and encountered a strikingly different sight. Continue reading Social Media and Sharing Reality

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Central Park and Columbus Circle this week

It is about 0° Centigrade/32° Fahrenheit. Since we are at a loose end we decide to take a stroll in Central Park. It’s the kind of harsh, winter day when the brightness of the sun belies the ferocity of the cold. Continue reading Central Park and Columbus Circle this week

Writing and Nostalgia

A massive storm is approaching the East Coast this holiday season. It’s going to bring rain and snow and strong winds. Outside my window, broad daylight already looks like night. It’s like someone has wiped the window panes with a thin layer of gray, translucent paint. Everything looks more drab and ominous than usual.

The water of the river looks muddy, the sharp, gray, city skyline has its sharp edges smudged against an even grayer sky. The world has lost colour. The creams and yellows of surrounding buildings, ponchos and umbrellas look off white and ashen in the reduced light.

I know what it must feel like outside. Continue reading Writing and Nostalgia

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

Summer is here in Manhattan

Just a few weeks ago it had been unseasonably cold, dark and dreary in the city. It had drizzled all day. People had huddled under their umbrellas if they could keep those wispy things from being blown away by the tyrannical wind. The wind blew through the streets encouraged by the  gigantic guiding walls of the skyscrapers while the rain lashed people’s faces like a thousand cold needles. Continue reading Summer is here in Manhattan

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

Summer at last in NYC

Today was rainy but it’s Summer at last in the city. Days are longer, people are less huddled on the streets and the buildings of Manhattan get to show themselves off dazzling those who have the leisure to look up.

Picture taken from City Hall Park, Downtown Manhattan
Picture taken from City Hall Park, Downtown Manhattan

Continue reading Summer at last in NYC

Bottledworder is back

Delhi airport
The Delhi International terminal was amazing.

The long trip to Calcutta is over and I am back in New York. It’s difficult to believe that one can be in the midst of the scorching heat of the sun one day and so much snow the next. In both places, people will smile and say you haven’t seen the scorching sun/ real heavy snow if you think this is it!
Continue reading Bottledworder is back

What gifts to buy in a global culture?

I’ve been looking for gifts for the past few days for my impending visit to India from New York. And I’ve been looking in vain.

Last year I bought some bottles of perfume with people’s names on them –unfortunately not mine but say Calvin Klein’s or Elizabeth Arden’s or even Justin Bieber’s.  Sometimes they were not names but only initials. They appeared everywhere–clothes, shoes, leather handbags–with shiny tags that said CK, MC, AB, CD, EF, GH or something else.

I suppose that in the realm of gift-giving, even if there was some confusion as to who had given the gift, there would be no confusion as to whose idea it was. Calvin Klein’s.

But on my way, at my long layover in Dubai, I realized the folly of carrying these several bottles of unnecessary fluids and leather bags (yet so necessary for the human condition) over long distances.

Dubai airport was a great, wide, beautiful, wonderful mall which happened to also have airplanes. And it was newer and more sparkling than any mall in New Jersey or Florida.
Continue reading What gifts to buy in a global culture?

Possessing books

I went to listen to a talk at the New School in Manhattan yesterday. But this post is not about that talk. It’s about something incidental I spotted in our aimless wanderings preceding the event.

It’s about books.

But to understand what I mean you have to listen to my whole rambling story.

I had to take an underground train ride below the Hudson river for about half an hour to cross over to Manhattan from Jersey City.

When I entered the depths of the station on the Jersey City side, bright sunlight was still making the Manhattan skyline shine magnificently across the river. I came out back to the surface of the earth on 6th Avenue at 14th Street on the other side of the river, a bustling thoroughfare full of cars and people and chain restaurants.

I’m used to a certain spacious ambiance around school campuses.  But campuses here in the city are very different. When I came out and entered the street off of 6th Avenue on which the building with the auditorium was located, I was surprised.
Continue reading Possessing books

Night

The river is completely dark. A solitary vessel is glowing  like a diamond-studded jewel on the inky black surface. The roar of the helicopters that criss-cross the sky all day is finally gone. The voices of the people who pass by speaking a dozen languages about office affairs by my window in the afternoons and evenings are all silent.

Even the gulls are gone.

A solitary lamp glows on my nightstand providing just enough light to illuminate my keyboard rather insufficiently. When I look outside the window I see circles of light on the concrete right below the street lamps in a straight line all along the river.

There is no one there. Yet I don’t feel alone.
Continue reading Night

Holiday lights in Manhattan

Yesterday we thought it would snow. The sky turned as gray as slate, the sunlight dimmed, the ducks took shelter under the piers, the water of the river looked like a solid mass.

In short, life seemed like the cloud before the silver lining  except that the silver lining never really came. No snow really happened.

A little bit of solid snow fell from the sky which you could spot if you looked carefully at a dark patch. The little snow was blown around helter-skelter in a way that you could tell it wasn’t rainwater. Enough to check off the list of some earnest young holiday tourist in these parts who could say seen snow in NYC–check on his notebook.
Continue reading Holiday lights in Manhattan

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

Telling Stories (Part 2: The Arrangements)

Continued from: Telling Stories:(Part 1: The Confusions)

The little blind lane on which my parents’ flat is located in Calcutta is very narrow but by no means sleepy. As you pass by the other flats you notice a mixture of old and new buildings. The new buildings rise up perpendicularly–straight from the road–while some of the older  buildings have benches made of cement in small verandahs adjacent to the street beyond which the actual rooms start.

collage
collage (Photo credit: **tWo pInK pOSsuMs**)

As I walk by my eyes glance over the verandahs, the curtains slightly ajar or the doors half open. A woman sweeps her balcony behind the metal “grill” of the railing. A green curtain is half closed behind which I  see an elderly man sitting on a wooden bed in front of the TV, his head hidden from my view by the wooden shutter. A section of an old painting shows itself on the wall through a half open door. Voices float out of the homes in various different sharps and flats. I hear pots and pans clanging in the background as the domestics talk loudly to the women of the house as they clean the vessels. A voice floats out. Someone practising singing at dusk with the singing master. [Still has a rather long way to go, I think, that voice,  as I pass.] A dog with four newly born puppies lies curled up on a cement bench on a verandah waiting for the domestic help to come out with a bowl of rice.

All bits and pieces of complete stories waiting to be told.
Continue reading Telling Stories (Part 2: The Arrangements)

Telling Stories (Part 1: The Confusions)

How is it that you tell a story?
What stories do you tell? What stories get left behind?
A myriad questions come to mind when I try to think of a story. Or stories. To tell.
Ultimately, I stand befuddled in tongue-tied confusion. Wanting to tell all and able to tell none.
All those stories in my head.
Recently, I’ve been able to figure out why. It all dawned on me in a single moment.

A woman thinking

I’m getting out of the train at the World Trade Center PATH station. It’s waves of people rushing out the doors stepping out with me meeting waves of faces waiting to get in. It’s waves of arms, legs, backpacks, boots, elbows, yellow caution lines and discarded metro cards on the floor (being trampled on incessantly by boots), a confusion of emergency phones on pillars, maps and defibrillator boxes all rushing at me in the crowd as I move forward.

Then, the feeling of moving up flights of steps and ramps and wide concourses, rising with the tide of people all the while saving my feet and elbows from getting jammed against suitcases on wheels and pointy heels and sharp corners of cardboard boxes. Finally the lightness of being deposited like a cork with the tide at the turnstiles.

Then moving up, and up, and up on the great escalators towards the surface from the bowels of the earth.

It’s then, when I’m very high above the turnstile level that something happens to me and I turn back. Always. Continue reading Telling Stories (Part 1: The Confusions)

Those readers in the train

Lily Furedi: Subway, 1934
Lily Furedi: Subway, 1934 (Photo credit: americanartmuseum)

I’ve been waiting  a long time for the PATH train at a station in Jersey City. The train will take me under the Hudson river to mid-town Manhattan. It arrives at last and I get in.

It’s not rush hour exactly though not everyone has got a seat. But it’s not so packed right now that someone will trample over your toes or elbow you out of their way to push themselves into or out of the train.

I notice a curious sight.

A lot of people sitting or standing inside the train are reading. Continue reading Those readers in the train

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