A disaster is a disaster .People facing nature's fury are the same anywhere .I cannot understand how the magnitude of one man's suffering can diminish that of another or vice versa. If my home , my life, my family is threatened , whether it is in Manhattan or Matunga I am going to hurt . And hurt.
There have been a few irritatingly, insensitive comments being made as New York and the other parts of The North East in the US have been lashed by super storm Sandy in the last couple of days .
Silly stuff like oh it's important only if it happens in the US or why is everything that happens in New York need to be reported or how come disasters in our part of the country do not get this kind of coverage .
It's as stupid as saying Oh! the rich patient needs no compassion. You would be surprised at the number of people who believe this.
I for one am grateful for the coverage Sandy received. Not just the storm itself but the admirable manner in which the administration has gone about warning the public and residents in the path of Sandy, of the impending natural disaster , well ahead in time , noting the intensity and exact time it would land at their doorstep and equally importantly how the city's guardians have gone about managing the impact , minimising death and damage in an incredibly professional and humane manner.
I hope my city's local guardians and administrators will learn from this so that when Bombay, God Forbid, has a flooding disaster again such lessons hopefully learnt will come useful. Or any other city, region, province, world over will learn how to predict and deal with the onslaught and aftermath of natural and other disasters.
Thank God for the relentless coverage is what I say And then of course, it's New York after all, DO YOU MIND? That Badshah of all cities. New York is the only real city-city as Truman Capote said right? Of course the city makes and must make good news. We cannot really be so stupid as to ignore what happens in the greatest metropolis of all (well, maybe next to Bombay) .
New York, New York.
I have been to New York just once in my life. That is, if you do not count one hurried, hassled transfer we did more than 30 years ago, two toddlers amidst sundry baggage in tow, from LaGuardia to JFK en route to Caracas. No we will not count that for I kept my eye not on the skyline of the famed city but on my two boys and aforementioned luggage. Phew ! Cannot believe the amount of trans-Atlantic voyages we have taken when the kids were young. I think it was our own youth and any absence of fear youth brings with it that made us do it. I cringe now to even think how on earth I managed it all.
Anyway to go back to the Big Apple (the small Apple is of course the one I am typing this on)
The first and only time I went to New York was maybe seven years ago and I am still plotting and planning to go there again. I stayed in Hoboken with my niece and nephew and all I knew about Hoboken was that it was the home of Frank Sinatra. Well, to be fair, Bollywood film maker KJo did make it his home too and the home of all those celluloid NRI types he would have us believe live real lives out there. But that is another, yes, story.
Vandana and Sriram , the best hosts one could have for they left to me to my own devices , showed me how to cross the Hudson and how to navigate my way to Manhattan and beyond via the right PATH and I was set.
Oh , and there was my champion companion and partner in the Discover New York on your own crime , another first timer in the city .Shyam who, poor unsuspecting guy had this aunt- of- the- husband -of- his cousin take charge of his next two days.
I still remember pointing out to him hey this here bench (at the Hoboken station) is where Shah Rukh found the pining Rani Mukherji finally or some such inane observation. And making him take pictures of moi in the foreground and Manhattan in the back ground.
Even though I have never seen the Twin Towers , that first time in New York , their presence was so palpable . That indelible landmark was, albeit invisibly, constantly looming over my consciousness and it was with great determination that I had set out to go and see and feel the great spirit of this city.
But here , just last week , that very skyline was darker than the darkest Gotham city ever was and lovely, charming Hoboken was on my TV screen all ravaged and the station flooded and the PATH subway inundated and the streets turned into rivulets and parking lots afloat with yellow lotuses disguised as cabs.
Looking at all the images and pictures of New York now under Sandy's influence made me go and hunt out the pictures from my visit and then there was no stopping. Such fun memories of fun times. Wonder why I never blogged about it. Maybe it takes a disaster to make you still your crowded mind and halt the speed of your faster than a bullet life and make you stop and recall experiences that have been memorable and precious. And know how valuable they are , how maybe irreplaceable and un-creatable again maybe too.
So here is my ode to a city I hope I will visit again and whose people and whose custodians will always be on top of everything – always .
Sitting on the open topped tour bus gazing open mouthed at each marvel of architecture , wondering at the Flat Iron building and the gaily striped awnings that gave a bright , cheerful character to the edifice .
Gasping with delight when spotting B B King’s name in neon lights and almost falling out the bus taking a picture of that for my husband ( well I did say yes I will marry him knowing he liked BBK) or the warm, wide smile the window cleaner threw my way as our bus went cheek by jowl with his truck .
The sad and hopeless sense of loss and quietness as we passed by The Dakota building on 72nd Street and Central Park West knowing Strawberry Fields were sometimes not forever and again a never say die sense of happiness when spotting a framed picture of the Beatles in HRC on Times Square or smiling to myself when realising Madison Square Garden is not a garden after all?
Getting off the bus and wanting to seriously feel the city , walk down the Brooklyn Bridge , breathe the air Bob Dylan breathed in the East Village bistro maybe ?
Running into the couple from “back home “ Seattle and exchanging notes on our tattoos and happily abandoning forever the tour bus but not before thanking the lovely guide cum conductor who remembered us from the day before and let us go with grace and admiration for our enthusiasm.
Winding our way to Ground Zero to look at where once the Twin Towers were , lying in wait for Vandana to come from work and all of us trooping to the Venezuelan restaurant , the surprise treat planned for me and the absolutely mad brave swiping of the menu card so I could take home a souvenir. Catching the Devil wears Prada one evening and a play at the quaintest little theatre I have ever been to and then on the last morning, despite the rain , dragging Shyam again to come with me to Central Park .
Maybe there’s much more to New York and as someone said I cannot recollect who or how he exactly said it , each man reads his own meaning into New York so is it to me too. A city that lives , breathes and lets you live too . That can take you deep into its core and yet not rob you of your individuality. The city that lets you be . The city that reminds you of home. Of course we will write about it and weep over it and laugh with it and exult in it . Its New York, New York .