Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Ze city

New York, New York

I spent a week toodling around the sweltering city while V worked all hours of day and night. I cannot accurately describe how I feel about NYC without wading through the various emotions it inspires in me and also probably hurting someone’s feelings. Let’s just say that in the woolly cloud of emotions, for me, it is a wonderful holiday city and just a block away from gastronomic heaven. But if push came to shove and I had to live there I don't know how I would deal with it. The week went by with alarming speed and although every minute of it was chock full of something, many of them were just blank-mind enjoyment moments, like strolling down 5th Avenue with nothing in my head but the thought ‘Ooh, what an ugly bag – who in their right minds would pay THAT kind of money for it?’.

I met 4 school classmates, 3 of them after a gap of 14 years. Technology has a lot to answer for. In the days of snail mail and old fashioned land lines it was very easy to lose touch. You swore in slam books, year books, autograph books, that you would be friends eternally. Then you all went to college in a hundred different towns dotted around the country with just a poor mans stamp to fix to a letter. After a few exchanges the letter would start to get lost, be misdirected, forgotten and then dropped off the agenda. Long distance phone calls were exhorbitant and college way too exciting and grown-up to be hankering after school friends. The ones who wrote/ called and to whom you wrote back/ called stayed your friends over the years while the bulk dropped like flies. Everyone, except the postal service, thanked the Lord when e-mail made its entry, boldly saving trees and friendships.
The 3 I met after the huge gap had been good if not close school friends of mine. We never got back in touch even when e-mail appeared and the only reason we met now was because of an alumni group email where I was arranging to meet the 4th schoolmate – someone I had maintained irregular touch with, whose email ID I had lost and whom I was keen to meet again. Two tea’s and a lunch later I knew why we hadn’t stayed in touch – it was because we were essentially very different people with very little in common other that the nostalgic memories of school days and because we were geographically and mentally at different places in our lives (and had probably always been). It was fun in some ways to meet and talk about school, exchange gossip and find out how the intervening 14 years had shaped lives. But other than that there were just the same existential questions – living abroad as a desi, children and why none of us have them yet, holidays, spouses, weight, thinning hair, parents blah blah blah. Conversations I seem to be continually embroiled in, nothing new or more or better. I will do it again in 14 years.

Needless to say I shopped although not nearly as much as I hoped to. In my minds eye I was dreamed up this huge pile of clothes and shoes and jewelry and make-up that, when I got back, would mostly have to live on the guest bed because my cupboard would be already be overflowing with my stylish New York get-up. Sadly I and my overactive imagination are like estranged twins. There I was in Bloomingdales, then Saks and then Macy’s – each time confused by the sheer volume and varied choice – overwhelmed and outnumbered, I spent too much time browsing and not enough flashing V’s credit card. When I finally got down to it I shopped but kept checking my impulse to purchases using all kinds of inane parameters (spending money/ world poverty/ children in hunger/ whom to blame for greed genes/ guilt at spending all the money/ deserving as I work hard/ generally charitable, so OK then – and then again in a loop). So I bought fewer clothes and shoes than the plan. And of course since it’s already Autumn/ Winter in the United Kingdom I’ve had to put them all away in the hope that someday summer will return to this Queendom.

Talking of weather, did I already mention it was sweltering? Let me say that again – Sweltering – ah! That feels better. The warmth of your glares, my English roses, is brighter than the sun. It was in the ‘high nineties’ which translates to ‘very hot’ in my vocabulary. One night there was a huge storm, a veritable thunder and lightening show with pounding sheets of rain adding to the music – simply beautiful and reminiscent of storms the monsoons bring in India. The concrete didn’t have the mitti smell but the sheer beauty and power of it was a welcome change from the never ending drip from the sky that invades the UK and can only be described as damp. The clapping thunder and shockwaves of light were mesmerizing and the big drops of rain left everything undeniably soaked. The heat was unbearable only on one day, when all I craved was Air-conditioning and iced water. But other than that I loved the heat, proving undeniably, much to the amusement of my brother, that I have indeed become ‘firangi’.

Walked everywhere and thoroughly enjoyed the sun beating down upon my back. Mid-town Manhattan is a walking tourists semi-paradise. Its all in a grid with Avenues and Streets cutting across each other so there is no chance of getting lost. The ‘semi’ portion refers to the inane traffic and honking of horns and the dirt on the sidewalks. London is a much cleaner city that way and traffic is very civilized in comparison. I walked to and through Central Park, up and down Riverside Drive, Park Avenue. Visited the Met and MoMA and bought myself a cute Travel card holder (could not bear my London Transport one any longer). Met cousins, an aunt and ex-work friends. Spent an afternoon hurtling through New Jersey, to the fantastic home of friends for an evening of barbeque and talk. Followed the instruction of many a New York blogger on where to eat and what to do. Filled my days with laid back busy-ness, eating sumptuous meals and meeting people, watching American TV and gaping at the confidence of Noo Yaawkers.

Before I go and begin to think/ drool about the inevitable Nu Yark food post that follows, let me just say that I am in love. With the Container Store and Anthropologie - absolute opposites of each other. The first because as the name indicates, its all to do with organising stuff and that fits right in with my main OCD of everything in its place etc. The second because the entire store is a hodgepodge of pretty clothes and house wares, all feminine and exacting and plain heart-breaking-ly pretty. I am torn.


  1. Anonymous11:25 PM

    aaahhh...the container store...therapy!!!40in2006

  2. Oh lucky lucky you - I want to go back!!! Any photos?

  3. chakli3:43 AM

    i loooooooooove anthropologie. i find them very expi but can't help browsing through the store. they have such lovely things.

    nice post.

  4. Seems like you had fun. All the walking whets up the appetite for more food, doesn't it?

  5. 1. It's so hit and miss with meeting old friends after years apart - usually more miss than hit. Even if it's someone that you have very fond memories of, chances are by the time you meet them again, they've totally changed and...the awkwardness that's replaced the camaraderie is so much more difficult to take than the awkwardness with random strangers.
    2. Hah, I so miss the grid. Even I barely ever get lost!
    3. Did you really think the traffic was that much worse? And the roads dirtier? Really? Pfft.
    4. I LOVE the container store. I could spend hours there. Gosh, that's too revealing a revelation.

    Ok, I'll stop yakking now.

  6. Southways8:03 PM

    I just love Anthropologie - especially their dresses!!! Eagerly awaiting the food post.

  7. wow, very interesting description of NYC and your trip. ... now, i wanna see the city more than ever! :)

  8. Er... can I please take you shopping? I have never come away from a shopping expedition thinking I didn't spend enough... quite the contrary, in fact

  9. Oh no! You came to New York??!! I live just an hour away from there! We coulda met, you know :)

    Did you try "Pongal" at Lexington Ave? We try to go there every time we are in Manhattan. I just love their food!!

    Did you try the ferry ride around the island?

  10. Finally coming out of my self-imposed hibernation!
    Hello and hope you are doing wel...