Warning: This post is for those who feel ‘strongly’ about most of the things ;)!
(Still from Manhattan)
Woody Allen walked the streets of Manhattan as the self-proclaimed intellectual with a condescending opinion towards almost anyone and everyone whom he did not fancy or had fancied at one point of time. His thoughts amused me but his ‘Manhattan’ stayed with me. Throughout the growing years, images of New York kept adding from the mushy ‘You’ve got mail’ to Spidy adventures to ‘As good as it gets’, ‘Raging Bull’ or sitcom ‘Friends’ – the city spoke to me from the frames of the 75 mm and the printed letters in paperback covers.
With a background of a city like Kolkata – a city that speaks to you, New York always appealed to me. Just as Bombay did, a city with its characteristics that either mesmerizes you or makes you curse it! I always aspire to live, work and brush shoulders with those who toil and sustain themselves in cities like Kolkata, Bombay, Paris or New York. A city about which the more you read, the more you watch, the more you feel that you cannot stay indifferent to.
Being a Bangali, I’m blessed with this sense of being overtly possessive about my opinions. Somehow the concept of ‘opinion’ for most Bangalis seems to sustain on uncontrolled emotions and strong feelings. Once there’s an opinion, it’s very likely that that would hold ground for ages to come. So if shi(n)gara (samosa) is good in Pun(n)tiram (a sweet shop chain), then that’s that. Period. We will shed tears if need be every time thinking about shingara that we are missing, sitting thousands of miles away from Kolkata. Or if it is the ‘lal jhanda’ of the communists that the Bangalis are vouching for – then they would do that for decades if need be.
So here I am, a Bangali, smitten by the thoughts and images of New York, finally setting foot on the big apple, already in ‘awe’ of what’s about to hit me.
First visual: Sardarji at the helm of a NYC yellow cab, in front of Laguardia Airport in his Punjab da accent, sternly at two Parisians ‘Maadam, tell me exactly bhwere to go.’
(The conversation that follows in French and Punjabi English makes the Bangali glad! She feels she is in New York!)
Second visual: The Port Authority bus drops her bang in the middle of 7th Avenue and Broadway. Faces greet her. Shoulders hit her. Neon Lights dazzle her. As she snakes her way through Friday afternoon pedestrian traffic towards the Path Stations, balancing her duffle bag and grabbing her camera, the Bangali tries to relate ‘Ah! It can challenge Shyambajar!’ .
Cars stop for people to cross and pedestrians give vehicles the famous ‘look’!
WE RULE(c) Durba Gupta
First encounter: She finally reaches 33rd Street, Path Station. Sweating and dragging her bag (which by now, following the law of nature, has given away), tries to figure out the $1 and 75 cents to buy a ticket to Jersey city. She fumbles, keeps people waiting ‘impatiently’ (remember it’s New York) and delves deep into her bag to fetch the last quarter.
Finally one gives up! “How much are you short of?” he barks at her and then adds ‘Here’s a 25! Keep it moving’ he asserts. She uses his quarter, but finds her own quarter eventually and chases the good samaritan down the station to give him back his quarter. (he gives her the 'unlike New York' look and walks away with the quarter).
Second Encounter: On the platform trains whizzed pass her as she struggled to figure out her train, and inadvertently landed on people moving in unnatural speed. ‘Watch where ye goin’!’ said the strong jawed, bush shirt as he strode by quickly.
New York City, where they say no one has the time to stop, help and listen! First three hours in New York from the dazzles of neons to the famous New York ‘Attitude’ made her hungry for more…
The tryst with New York finally ended – after 36 hours – and I experienced a city with my eyes and my ears and my thoughts. I tried to take in as much as I could and I stayed true to my ‘opinion’ – a city given an opportunity, I would go back to feel more and live more.
Here's to Woody Allen's NYC vision: