A Love Story with New York City – 1

The grey, cracked & decrepit sidewalks, the swarm of people scurrying past, their minds as crammed as the streets. The million food trucks & hot dog stands suffusing the air with wafts of warm food that  admittedly I’m not a fan of, being a vegetarian but saw myself yearning for the same warmth in the crisp New York winter. The roads choked with teeming traffic, the sunshine-bright-chrome-yellow taxis not just driving but blazing by, they probably imagine they’re part of a race car event. The subway stations: the most efficient of labyrinths so much so, we’ve ended up in the wrong destinations at times more than once. Having said that, they make for the best escape from the winter winds & will let you revel in the best musical entertainment in those few minutes of wait time. The steam grates aka plumes of steam arising from manholes. Throw in some rain, a man in a hat & trench coat and voila!, you’re on the sets of a 1950’s suspense thriller. Later I learnt that the steam is actually the by product of electricity generation. The Pizzas, oh the Pizzas!, slices as big as the  paper plates they come in but sinful, cheesy, greasy & divine.
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The glorious Empire State Building (West 33rd & 34th street). Aside from standing proud amid all the hustle bustle, also the reason for an everyday ritual at our home in Jersey City: spotting the colors it drapes on itself, red, pink, purple, the Indian tricolors on August 15th. If it happened to be a lucky day, then fireworks lit up the skies against the backdrop of the glittery New York skyline. We didn’t just admire it from afar, we rid the elevators to the 86th floor one afternoon & treated ourselves to sweeping views of Midtown Manhattan, the green of Central Park, the blue of the Hudson River, ant-people & toy-cars. Along with a burgeon of skyscrapers that compete to see “Who’s the tallest?” & conjoined with a sparse breathing space, there are some that stand out with hardly any effort aka, the ornamented spire of The Chrysler Building.
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If you’re visiting/live close to NYC, then you go to Central Park. You go in the 100 degree Fahrenheit summers to get some respite in the calming lush of greens. You go to ride the bicycle along it’s vast expanses and realize it’s so much bigger than your imagination can fathom, you realize by the end of it you’ve arrived at another corner of the city. You walk, jog, get some exercise and then go to listen to musicians whilst gulping ice cream after ice cream. Then, after 3 months of hot & humid, fall arrives and you had no clue the beauty of this place could triple in a trice. Seas of ochre & sienna brushed dried leaves cover the ground and the slightest breeze can beguile you into being on the sets of a Karan Johar movie.
(On a side note, if you to appreciate jaw dropping views of Central Park, watch Gossip Girl!XOXO)
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Image Source: Google
Summers in New York City are synonymous with outdoor movies at Bryant Park on the 40th Street. A weekday evening, with a couple of friends we sat back, relaxed & watched Audrey Hepburn in the Roman Holiday. Although, I have to confess, we arrived late because we had to have the Margarita Pizza from Pronto’s (obviously!) and were forced to sit way back. We spent the next 2 hours craning our necks trying to comprehend bits of the movie but we still had our fun and made a plan to visit again. Never happened. 3 years later, I watched the movie on my laptop & fell in love with Audrey.

The Grand Central Station on 42nd Street  as the name perfectly defines has never been a train terminal for us but rather a place to delve in grandeur & history. We would go to repeatedly admire the sprawling blue astronomical ceiling with stars & constellations,to whisper in the Whispering Arch, where whispers from afar can be heard crystal clear.( To learn more about the the secrets of the Grand central, go HERE )
One of these casual visits, we also witnessed a romantic proposal, the man organizing a mini flash mob to woo his lady into marrying him…needless to say, she said YES!
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Clearly, I can’t stop! The little things, the big things, there’s so much more. I can go on & on & I will…Stay tuned for Part- 2.

When age is just a number….

Before I begin, the two beautiful people/students of mine,  who are the inspiration behind this post, are the loveliest ladies with chubby little grandchildren to boast of. (and thanks to technology we still keep in touch) .
Now, let me a paint the background. Back in Bangalore I was busy running & managing a little art/craft school . Working from the comforts of home, it was more than just something done to pass the time. The passion for art combined with the satisfaction of teaching made the experience incredibly satiating & divine. Every morning & evening, I delightfully welcomed students of all ages, introduced them to my world  ( a possible topic for another post), invariably putting a smile on their faces. Some were kind enough to let me be a part of their lives and we went on to become friends, relationships I will cherish for life. Every moment, a coveted privilege.

Two among this family,  that remain to be special are Uma aunty & Lakshmi aunty (I call them “aunty” out of respect, them being around my mom’s age) and I unapologetically call them my favorite students. As you read further, you’ll see yourself agreeing with me.

When I first met them, hardly did I know that these two friends would gain the honour of becoming the “back-benchers” of my little classroom. Since they catered to a multitude of responsibilities at home, it almost always ensued a late arrival to class but the loud burst of energy they brought with them was infectious at the least. Always attired elegantly in the crispest of cotton saris painted in an array of pleasing colors & prints, it would be a matter of moments before peals of laughter reverberated through the walls of my living room. Rare lackadaisical mornings merely expected their presence in order to be uplifted. They beckoned us to look beyond that room, beyond art, beyond craft, beyond the paper & paint because “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” and if not for them, I probably would have been ignorant of that lesson. Their affable nature was undoubtedly popular among adults but I always thought it’s their experience that procured them the very prized attention of the little children.
Having said that, none of this hindered their progress in class. Be it paper art or painting, they were pros and constantly brimming with creativity(take a look at the pictures below). They were always battle ready to learn new forms of art, a thirst I failed to spot in the hearts of most of the younger generation. Maybe it’s because we delve in the turmoils of uncertainty and prefer to procrastinate,  that we neglect the “present” that is so gloriously offered to us. Lesson learnt.
I won’t deny that I taught them the ways of the paper strips & the brush but the truth is I learnt more from them than they did from me. I learnt that age is just a number, I learnt that being happy or making someone else happy is hardly dependent on the pitfalls of life. Although they are much older than I am,( and not that I expected it), they showered me with the respect they would offer a teacher.To be honest, it spoke more of their humility rather than anything about me. Another lesson learnt.
But, before I conclude, the one thing I am certain I will never learn from them is the magic they pour into their spicy, flavour jammed Indian Mango pickles & the myriad of chutneys, for some things can  never be replicated…..

Here’s  glimpse of their creative journey…..
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Where all the lights glisten…Times Square, NYC

“New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of
There’s nothin’ you can’t do
Now you’re in New York
These streets will make you feel brand new
The lights will inspire you
Let’s hear it for New York, New York,
New York”
Jay Z & Alicia Keys have hit the mark in ‘Empire State of Mind’! Manhattan was a mere five miles from home (Jersey City) & we didn’t really have to wait for the weekend for a rendezvous. I’m sometimes a victim of frayed memories, remembering the special moments & willingly omitting the rest but never with Times Square. The  unremitting burgeon of lights, the glamour, the electrifying joy….every bit is firmly etched in my mind. I admit, natural beauty, silence & calm have their perks & have a way of rejuvenating but there are times when a blast of euphoria helps too. Sometimes, all you need to cheer up is to watch happy people, drown in the deluge of glinting lights, devour greasy food and shop till you drop, all of which one can easily indulge in at the Times Square.

Here’s what I brought back…..
I remember having a celebrity moment when I saw myself up a mammoth screen draped atop a store. Although, I have to confess, giggling & jumping about waving hands, doesn’t really scream “celebrity”.

I remember shopping like a maniac at 2:30 AM with a bunch of cousins at Forever 21. It was more the thrill of being able to shop at midnight rather than actually wanting something. But, we girls do that, right?

I remember cuddling with the husband on the neon red steps after being shot from all the walking. Not that I needed a reason but the crisp New York autumn breeze sure helped.

I remember taking a picture with a shaggy Red Muppet. I come from the land of Amar Chitra Katha & Malgudi Days, ignorant of who a Muppet is. But he looked adorable & so what if his woolly costume was a little old?

I remember Batman rescuing me from a couple of villains. Let me rephrase that. I remember a guy pretending to be Batman, imploring us to take pictures and swinging me right into his arms.I’m not complaining, this is as close to Christian Bale as it’ll get.

I remember a perpetual yearning to visit the Starbucks reveling in the midst of all the action. The throngs of people striving for a cup of coffee in a moderately claustrophobic environment constantly put me off. Maybe another time?

I remember venturing into the world of M & M’s despite having a clear distaste for them. But, let me tell you, I’m a big fan of cheesy photographs with round, smiling faces! I also  sanctimoniously revere organizational & color coding skills that assuage the OCD side of me, which happens to be in abundance here.

I remember the luminous billboards & marquees, NYPD in navy blue riding sturdy horses, the thrums of people handing out pamphlets for comedy shows, the sounds of laughter & glee, the frenzy, the lights , the lights, the lights…..
Take a look,

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Vegetarian Burgers/ Sweet Potato & Chickpea Burgers

I’m constantly on a relentless quest for a good vegetarian burger and by “good”, I mean, a healthy (read “medium healthy!), pure vegetarian, a light, soft bun & positively deprived of mayonnaise. To be honest , and at the risk of sounding too critical, I have to say that at times, it feels like a Sisyphean task. At a popular joint,  a vegetarian burger signified, a sliced bun with some butter & a single slice of tomato. As you can imagine, that didn’t satiate my stomach nor my soul. Back home in India, we also have our own little burger that is loved & worshipped by every Indian there is , aka the humble Vada Pav. Back when the husband & me were in Mumbai, be it notorious hunger pangs or just a rainy monsoon day, these spicy, potato filled Vada Pav’s were the ideal snack. Continue reading “Vegetarian Burgers/ Sweet Potato & Chickpea Burgers”

The Wall of Warli- A Painting & A Story

Back in 2010, the husband & me had a little studio for a home in Jersey City, NJ. No complaints though, smaller spaces make for quick cleaning & easy maintenance. With a dreamy view of a shimmering New York Skyline, the only thing  amiss was privacy. The living room directly merged with the bedroom space & though the house seemed bigger, we would have been happier with a make do seperator. We scoured Ikea, Amazon, & Craigslist even in the quest to find the perfect room separating apparatus but in vain. That’s when the husband had a jolt of an idea & the Wall of Warli was born. Continue reading “The Wall of Warli- A Painting & A Story”

Highline Park, New York City

New York City is not just a place, it qualifies to be a phenomenon. One visit and one can’t help but fall in love….And with that, I once again begin my NYC Series in the blog. (“Once again” because the Toronto winters had prompted me to long for the the Cherry Blossom in Brooklyn.)
The glitz & glamour of Times Square, the romance of the Empire State Building & the magnanimity & allure of Central Park can wait because this post is about a less spoken, much needed,  interesting asset to the city, The Highline/The Highline Park. The Highline in the West Side of Manhattan is a 1.45 mile linear park, 30 feet above street level & WAS in fact a railway line. The railway line has been entirely transformed into a public park since 2009, replete with benches, prolific greens & flowers, live music & the primary requisite of all parks, an ice cream shop to aid in dousing the summer heat! Although the park is owned by New York City, it is operated & maintained by Friends of the Highline, who are in fact responsible for protecting the line from demolition. Continue reading “Highline Park, New York City”

The Niagara – A song of ice & fire

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever”, said John Keats. I’m no expert in the literary arts but I can safely proclaim that the most cliched line from this famous poem, perfectly extols the Niagara Falls. One glimpse and it’s a revelation that something so mammoth & magnanimous is capable of exuding grace in equal measure. Having experienced the phenomenon from New York & Ontario, I can safely say that despite mesmerizing views from both countries, the experience remains constant, in other words,  extraordinary.USA or Canada, I didn’t flinch before thanking the creator for no beauty stands before nature. When Dan Brown describes the Hagia Sophia in Inferno, he says, “a physical space so imposing that that those who entered felt dwarfed, their ego erased, their physical being and cosmic importance shrinking to the size of a mere speck in the face of God….an atom in the hands of the Creator.” The cascading waters of the Niagara can put into effect a similar starking reality.  Continue reading “The Niagara – A song of ice & fire”