Monday, December 11, 2006

New York and back!

I have been there!
New York is three hours away from Los Angeles. But the entire process is highly time-dilated. An unearthly morning Culver City bus coming honking at me from the amidst the foggy night, with a driver that reminded me of Santa Claus, took me to the LAX airport. Half dazed, half hungry when I finished the new and improved extra-stringent security checks, I found that I had 2 hours to kill before my flight left. Hmmmm...not good I said to myself and ran to the the previous flight which was due to leave in less than 15 minutes. A mini-drama was taking place there. A girlfriend was yelling at her beau for being extremely irresponsible. Unlike India, where idle passer-bys would encircle the couple to enjoy the circus, people at LA maintain a discreet distance.
While the drama was taking a break, I got my new boarding pass - just in time. Away I flew on an early flight. The flight reminded me of Deccan Airways. Meals for buy, water for free, screen was up for a movie but the headphones had to be bought! All I needed was sleep.
The plane landed and so did I. New York terminal is very clean - much better than crowded LAX. After a series of escalators and moving paths(something I never saw in India) I reached the airport door.
New to New York - I caught hold of a security personnel for directions. He wished me Happy Diwali! He was from Jackson Heights and knew Indians and their illuminated festival pretty well. I had to reach Wall Street and he gave me Plan A, Plan B and Plan C to reach there. I forgot A, confused B and resorted to C. I took a yellow cab.
Near the JFK Terminal, I found the streets reminding me of Mumbai. It was as unkempt as India. Except for the trees - they were in their fall colours. The traffic was messy, the winds chilly and my cab driver was in perennial hurry. Goodness knows why he thought I needed to reach early. Then I understood. It was not me - it was him who wanted to hurry.
A few moments is all that is needed in NY for a person to know how hurried and harried people here are. Everyone is rushing. Everyone is running - either to reach work or home. Their lives are as dynamic as New York Stock Exchange(NYSE).
Highly car-sick, I landed in Wall Street in the evening. Skyscraper's surrounded me. Being in UCLA, I was unaccustomed to concrete jungles.
Wall Street has its own landmarks. Crowds of people milled around NYSE, a protestant was protesting, Trinity Church loomed in a distance, and Wall Street itself bore the pain of multiple running footsteps. Every building had tight security. Outside the building there were mini mobile shops with snack bars to cigarettes and much more. Very like the paan-walas in India.
Not-surprisingly these are managed by Bangladeshi-s and Indians.

I saw the South Sea port pier with my senior. The lights and the dark waters of of the Hudson River made it beautiful.

I saw Ground Zero. The area is still cordoned off and pictures of the ruin hangs on the makeshift fence. New Yorkers move on with their lives.

A PATH train brought me to New Jersey City. Seeing the Hudson river from here is an entirely different experience. The entire NY lighted sky crapper skyline looms up. Every movie captures this image - and so did I.

Kolkata has had Metro Rails for a long while now, so the PATH ways and SUBWAYS of NY was nothing new to me. To my surprise I found them as crowded as they were in good old Kolkata.

A backbone of Subways connect the length and breadth of NY. The entire system is laid out on a grid. Its easy to learn and its the cheapest means of transport in costly NY.

Early next morning I rode a ferry on Hudson River and saw a speck of Statue of Liberty. In the evening I met my school friend who was as jolly funny as 8 years before. She took me through multiple subways to Brooklyn Bridge. As we walked on the bridge, the evening sun was setting. The lights on Brooklyn and adjoining Manhattan Bridge turned on. As chilly winds froze me inside my coat- I felt happy.

At night it was time for Times Square. Neon lights blared bright. My friend said that no matter what the hour, a crowd will always be there. Shops, streets, people all seem happy. It was something like the Durga Puja in Kolkata with elaborate street lighting. From the streets of Gariahat to Times Square, we realized we came very far- both in time and space. But we managed to remain the same. Times Square mesmerized me. ....for a while.

We had dinner in a narrow mobile FALAFEL shop, with the chef giving us what he wanted to instead of what we wanted!

A subway, where we missed our stop and had to re board, and then separation at Ground Zero.

A promise to meet again, we boarded our separate trains.

My senior and I cooked dinner and it felt like home. We talked as long as time would permit me. Jet lagged and sleepy I landed in LA the very next day!

My whirlwind tour made me want to see more. New York I will come again!