Saturday, September 5, 2009

NY, NY (April,2009)

Recalling my business trip to NY, it just appeared to me that I did not notice, or had interaction with a single child. For a moment, it almost seemed like an aberration in the Matrix – a world without kids; or a Vanilla Sky dream!. I tried harder, and it took me sometime before I could recollect a kid I saw in NY, and one by one more images appeared, and it felt alright – it was not an aberration or a dream.
At IGI I had to wait for some time in the cafeteria-cum-restaurant next to the visitors’ lounge before I could make an entry into the airport. At the terminal, I got some currency converted and after the check-in went straight to the waiting area. AI 101 set to depart at around 1:00 AM was boarded on time. I had the window seat. Next to me was a very old couple. They were asleep for most of the journey and did not cause much trouble. I started watching movies on the video panel. After watching two movies – Family Holiday, Tare Zameen Par (Hindi), I started feeling sleepy. I did not want to sleep to be able to cope up with the jet lag later. The strategy, it was later to be revealed, is not a good one.
We were traveling north. I was just about to sleep when I saw the familiar orange line adjacent to the horizon. And I decided to wait for the sunrise. The sharp line was slowly melting into the sky to form a thick shade of the color. The dawn was testing my patience. Almost half asleep, I started wondering if we had started traveling a little west running away from the horizon as it had been quite a while since I had seen the orange line. Finally after about two long hours, the crescent showed up. And just after only about fifteen minutes, I could not look at it directly. Sunrise from 35,000 feet. Below on the ground was a spectacular view; white patches of different shapes, most of them I could not identify – rectangular, straight lines, flake like; and some that I could – broad and meandering they could not have been anything else but frozen rivers.
Somewhere near NY, there were three layers of clouds suspending one above the other. It was just splendid. We were above the third and moved across the layers as the plane lost altitude. Crossing the third layer we could see the ground. It took me some time to recognize what I was seeing below. It looked like iron mountains to me in the beginning!! It was the sea under strong winds. Soon, the landscape started to come closer and much clearer - houses, tennis courts, roads and eventually cars - lots and lots of them. And finally the wheels touched the runway. JFK is pretty efficient. I was out of the airport in no time.
Movies, CNN news, and the famous comedy series ‘Friends’ formed most of what I thought about NY. No discredit to the directors…they have projected the place quite well. It is only that the perception is now much more vivid. NY is truly a global city. The drivers of the cabs I took in NY during the two weeks I stayed there were Pakistani, Egyptian, African Americans, and Ecuadorian. I saw Chinese, Japanese, Indians, and Spaniards on the streets. The colleagues at the HIT Lab were all from different countries of origin. I met my boss from my previous job over dinner near little Italy. He is an Italian by origin. The list of the countries of origin of the people I interacted with would probably include more than 25 countries.
Evolutionary perspective always finds space in my observations, sometimes at the time the observations are made, and sometimes later on when I recall events. The people I was meeting in NY were on a branch of the evolutionary tree separated by time (thousands of years) and geography (thousands of miles). The connection however seemed much stronger and much more universal than the differences. And that is probably the reason I found some very good friends in NY. By the way - there are so few people in NY !!??. What is all the concrete jungle for? Only Times Square can match any of the roads you can pick in Delhi if you compare the density of people you see. In the buildings, the corridors are empty. In Metro, there is always a seat available. I wish we could have all of this extra space in Delhi.
I am an engineer and New York is all coordinate geometry - Blocks and streets. After office everyday, I used to just walk across the block for the subway. The places I visited included the Museum of Natural History, the suburbs of Tarrytown, Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty, the Empire State building, Trinity Church, Wall Street, Times Square, Ground Zero, and the Columbia University campus.
In the museum of natural history, amongst the things that I noticed, the one that came out most prominently was the aesthetics of the people of South America. The artifacts displayed in the section dedicated to the region are just phenomenal. They are so much soothing to the senses that you can watch them for hours. The museum has done a great job in preserving this unique genre. My boss invited me to Tarrytown the very next day I arrived in NY. It was really hard to believe that a place like Tarrytown is just a few minutes away from NY. Calm, clean and surrounded by natural beauty, it is an ideal place to live in, especially for kids. In Delhi, you will have to drive for at least ten hours to reach a place like this. Ten because of the road and traffic conditions, it would have been four otherwise. Like a true professional guide, and better that anyone I have known so far, he narrated the historical significance of Tarrytown and the Rockefeller family. He then took me to a Greek restaurant – Santorini, were I had a Lamb Gyro, one of the best cuisines that I had in NY, others being chicken pot pie at Coogan’s, Falafel at a restaurant on broad-way, and a pizza and a serving I don’t remember at a restaurant in Little Italy where I went with my two bosses. The best as I recall now was the one at Coogan’s…it keeps on changing actually. Too much details on food I guess, so I will just stop!
My other boss was from my previous company – Monitor Group. The two met like old brothers separated at birth. And I was mostly listening as the two Healthcare experts exchanged wisdom. I jumped in whenever there was something generic to talk about. There I also shared the Pineapple Splash story for the first time with someone. Pineapple Splash! Yes, that is what I would call the event when I accidentally had my first hard drink. I was at Dallas BBQ for dinner that day. A waitress came and sat by my table. She was very courteous, smiling and filled with enthusiasm. After ordering the main course, I asked her what was there for deserts. Dallas offers no deserts, and even the waitress criticized them for that. Then I asked her for beverages, and she gave me a number of options. When she was giving me these options which I was only partially listening to, I saw a display at the table which said “Pineapple Splash”. I asked the waitress what it was and about the different flavors available in it. After she had given the options which I paid no attention to, I just pointed towards the display and said – I will have that. The meal arrived and there it was…this big glass with pineapple juice with crushed ice, and a test tube with crimson colored liquid submerged inside. I had had beer before, and had smelled hard alcohol, so I had a slight idea of what it was. It was little bitter, and after two or three sips, it became clear to me that it had alcohol in it. I decided not only to continue with the drink, but I emptied the whole test tube, with extra alcohol into the glass!! I thought well, if that is what it is supposed to be. After finishing the meal, I asked the waitress what was there in the Splash as alcohol and she just started naming them - Vodka, Tequila, Scottish whisky….naming about 10 different drinks, some of them I had never heard of. I thought well…that was quite a start. Now I cannot boast about “not having touched a hard drink in my life”. In all the family and friend gatherings, I have quite emphatically proclaimed my virginity to hard drinks, and I have done it several times. A mention of alcohol by someone and it came out spontaneously – “I have never ever touched a hard drink in my life” with an additional clause of “except for the time when I was a toddler when I caught cold was given a spoon of Brandi for temporary relief”.
This incident reminds me of some of my deeds during my school years. Though I did not have hard alcohol, I have done quite a few experiments with it. I once mixed Cashew Fenny, a hard alcoholic beverage - an invention from Goa, with milk and fed it to a dog (Johny). Animals generally smell food before eating. This dog however was an exception. I used to feed this dog so many times, that he trusted me blindly and used to just pounce on anything I poured in his bowl. Add to that my strategy - I held the fenny-milk mixture for quite some time in my hand and acted as if I was just about to pour it in his bowl. After tempting him with this several times, and watching his tongue go in and out, I suddenly poured the mixture in his bowl. The dog pounced and gulped almost half of the bowl in an instance before realizing what was wrong. And after the realization....he ran........he ran and ran like hell. He also made a face I can’t forget. I dont know he implied with the face but it definitely did not reflect a pleasant feeling. I also once fed a piece of bread soaked with neat Rum to a Bulbul. She sang on the Gulmohar tree in our garden for about half an hour after that. I guess what goes around comes around! Both these souls must be smiling at me somewhere after the Splash I had in NY.


  1. good one, not like written by a writer where you really have to swallow many facts, ..came to know about NY which I plann to travel ..thanks for your inputs

  2. Thank you so much for your comment. I hope you enjoy your trip to NYC.