Saturday, December 03, 2005

the eternal confusion of the sugar-coated mind....

Yes, I changed the title and probably the meaning along with it. I just returned from a trip to the big apple last week and have been making repeated attempts to write a blog on my experience there. I dont know what has made me paranoid about putting those four days in type, it was truly magical to see NY all pepped up for the holiday season, the lights, the sounds and feeling overwhelmed staring at a huge mass of humanity just floating around the city.

But beneath the festivities I felt real edgy just like I often felt in those 10 years in Bombay. Now the gang constantly peppered me with questions as to what 'edgy' exactly meant. It took me a while, close to over half a day to arrive at a truce with Mala on this topic. I was on a death-wish arguing with her about livin in NY , because for one she was the die-hard Bombay-NY citizen, the one who knows nothing of a world that exists beyond the two islands ( if u can imagine places like Syracuse dont exist) . Not that I object to the experience of living both these cities offer. Its a gritty deal, not for the faint-hearted, one where you learn to deal with the abundance of opportunities, where the city defines your personality ( which is really awesome, i accept, when you r a kid) and the total lack of a 'life' as any other part of the world might put it.

But ever since i became that control freak who chucked the bus-rides in Houston because he hated someone else controlling the pace of his life, I just cannot imagine a city defining you. If there was anyone who defined u, it had to be u.

Another thing that hit me was the complete absence of the American feel good factor. I know I sound more like some awe-struck teenager from Jhumritalaya who had his chance to move around in Bombay. No i am not being that guy. I am looking at it trying to really evaluate what it is that the city has to offer, trying to be unbiased in my evaluation. I have nothing against the city, i know a part of me kills to be there even now. But there is a limit how much a city can rub off on u, exhillarating to start off with, fatigued in the end. It was nice to see ppl being ppl, no smiles, no Have a good day, no Hello, and no Thanks. In fact my request for an 'xtra' hot mocha was met with a frown. I dont mind that at all, in fact was refreshing to see some normal behaviour. Human beings in general dont want to be polite, at best ull find some random eye contact. But conditioning can be a weird thing. Three years of that makes you want more. I along with my friends looked like morons greeting everyone and then gettin nothin in response. I realised all the sugar coating has made me unreal. But that could also be said the other way around.

Then what is real?

Baz Luhrman in Sunscreen couldnt have been more apt.

"Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard;"

I think my 10 yrs in bombay can be 5 years in NY. Thats more than enuf.

But did i mention NY being magical. Now I can see what made Ayn Rand write epic novels, because only a city like that can inspire u and make u achieve greatness that no other city in the world can even get close to.

I refused to be drawn into the touristy feel of the city, choosing to get inspired by the constant energy that flows through those streets. We did a lotta random walking, stopping at coffee shops, eating to our heart's content, running into ppl we had known in different lives and in different worlds. It was like being pricked with pins from the past, something that made the guy across the street look like my school mate ( didnt work out with me, but my friends all met someone) It was nice to hear ppl talk about Garodianagar in the middle of Manhattan, totally a random occurence. Could have been Shivaji Park in Central Park how do you explain that?

The desi wave though has truly arrived. I remember from Kal ho na ho ( not very good reference material) where they mention every 4th guy in NY being desi. Well, I sure found more than every 4th guy being desi. The place is literally swarmed with desis, in every walk of life. I dunno how many were the tourists-by-thxgivin-and-software-engineers-by-any-other-day types, but many of them looked like they lived there, or in jersey ( the truly desi adda).

Our conversations always had a thread linked to Bombay, which even made us roam around the city trying to picture parts of Manhattan which came closest to places in Bombay. (Bombay freak show, I tell ya) We found Bandra, Prabhadevi, Nariman Point, VT, Colaba, and Marine Drive in our 4 days, who knows how many other places we would have seen. I need a break ppl...I have to go to bombay. ( thats what the city does to you even though u feel like u need to move away...:))

So in between the falafel sandwiches and the kati rolls, the mochas and the turkish coffees, between cigar smoke and desi snarls, between trains to nowhere and walks in central park, between conversations about life now and the future I just felt full. I also had my fill on stories that couldnt get darker, but sadly were true. The entire city just made me feel full of energy, anxiety, fatigue, of being homesick and getting inspired all at the same time.

This truly is a city of blinding lights.


We also visited Boston for a day ( which was charming in its own way), walked under the dome at MIT, checked out the posters, classrooms, the museum at the numero uno technological institute in the world, but somehow we all arrived at the conclusion that we didnt want to be there (na, i dont think a case of sour grapes) Its just that we all have had mixed feelings about Engineering and what we had to go through, that even though we looked inspired, each one of us had second thoughts about being in a place like that. Harvard though was an alien territory for us, we didnt feel intimidated because we never fought those wars. Though it was wonderful to be there.

Questions usually pop up as to what u would say a picture perfect moment in ure life would be like....

lets see...

How about having adrak ka chai and pakoras in ure Manhattan apartment with a view of Central Park having an endless conversation with old friends about incidents in school and it drizzling outside and the golden sunshine weaving its way thru the mist.

I got close to that.

Thanks Mala, Kartik, Rahul and Hitanshu for an awesome trip!


Blogger Simba said...

good article dude. i can relate a lot to it cos i was in manhattan myself and am fida on bombay-manhattan. But i agree with you that no city or for that matter NOTHING in this world can define you. You can come close to identifying with it but certainly not let it define a charecteristic about you. Thats one reason why i wudn't count myself in the leagu of mala though am pretty close to her thinking. The big apple does rock indeed but i would say its the people who over the years have transformed it and in the process haven't realized it. Hope you got what i was trying to say.

11:26 AM  

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