An ode to New York

This post has for long been overdue. I am sure people who know me well also know how insanely obsessed I am with New York City. For starters, I do not live in NYC but in Troy, a small college-town 2 hrs north. Yet, whenever the grip of gradschool work loosens even a slight bit, I relocate myself to the Big Apple for a short while. Infact I would like to believe that I am not a tourist anymore thanks to my countless visits here. But despite that, the City has always unfailingly had something new to offer everytime I return.

A picture of Downtown Manhattan & the Brooklyn Bridge taken from the Brooklyn Pier

 There is something in the air here I suppose. There are very few places in the world where the ‘Brownian motion’ of humanity can be perfectly seen and this is definitely one of them. Every person here is a ‘type’ and the city is like one big theater where everyone is on display. Personally for me, this is the closest I feel to home i.e. Bombay in its myriad aspects with the risk of using the cliched statement of Bombay being India’s NYC to justify the same. The subway, the swarms of people moving briskly on the streets, their indifference to their neighbours, a melting pot of virtually every known race in the world along with their culture, cuisine and lastly the grandiose skyline all truly project what I would consider the ‘Capital of the World’ . Merely walking on the street for 5 mins here will be the biggest learning experience any man can have.

With all this eulogizing, I agree that the City has it’s share of problems too. Infact, someone rightly said ” New York has always been going to hell but somehow never gets there ” . The light from Times Square doesn’t exactly glow throughout the city and I have been to places which are ‘dirty’  or rather unfortunate by American standards. But despite that, the City continues to amaze me just like a child fascinated by a new fairytale everytime. I sign off from this post after wrapping up yet another jaunt to NYC hoping I will be back sooner or later.

Cheers,

Nikhil

P.S. These tunes always help me get in the perfect NYC groove 🙂

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Tom’s Diner

I am sitting in the morning at the diner on the corner

There’s a woman on the outside looking inside, does she see me?

No she does not really see me cause she sees her own reflection

Once upon a time before the rain began…I finish up my coffee. It’s time to catch the train.

Incase you didn’t figure this out already, these are the lyrics of the famous song ‘Tom’s Diner’ by Suzanne Vega , one of the greatest songwriters & singers alive today. This song is undoubtedly her best work till date; originally released as an acapella but later remixed to gain widespread commercial success (was infact featured innumerable times on MTV in the ’90s ).

This song basically is an account of a person who stops at a place called Tom’s diner for a cup of coffee. This place is very much real and is on the corner of 112th St-Broadway in New York City now as Tom’s Restaurant. It is very famous as the exterior of the Monk’s Cafe in the long running sitcom Seinfeld. Now, what is the reason I am writing a post on this place or song ? Two big reasons actually !!

It is an amazing coincidence that I got to watch Suzanne Vega perform yesterday just a week after I had stopped at Tom’s Diner for pancakes & a pistachio shake at 4 AM on a very rainy morning (just like the song except for the coffee instead of the shake 🙂 ). Tom’s Diner is 3 streets away from my friend’s apartment in Manhattan and in all my three trips previously to the city, I have always walked past it but this time my curiosity got the better of me & I finally visited this place. Not once but twice. And needless to say,both the times were amazing.Infact here is a picture I took of this place in September ’10.

People generally have to say this about Tom’s Diner- a warm and pleasant ambience which not only makes you feel very comfortable and settled-in but gets your mind thinking about distant, profound subjects while sipping over a coffee or relishing a good bagel. I couldn’t agree more when I walked in the first time one chilly winter evening all alone tired from a walk with my camera in Central Park. There was definitely something about this place. Something I could not describe in words justifiably.

Whatever the reason was, it certainly was not because it was the subject of Suzanne Vega’s hit song or because of Seinfeld.  I only regret not having heard Vega’s song then because when I finally did hear her sing the same song yesterday, it eerily felt awesome that I had literally ‘lived’ the song. Besides this song, she performed a musical play she composed with Kay Matschullat for Broadway this coming April named ‘Carson McCullers talks about love’. The setting was perfect for such a performance. In a small, ‘intimate’ theater in Troy where she enraptured the audience with a story of love, hatred and deceit magically expressed in the form of a conversation between a couple with interjecting musical layers. This was my first experience of musical theater and the fact that I was on a seat 3 rows away from Suzanne Vega, the pianist and the guitarist only made it better.

With a voice like raw honey and beauty which was supremely graceful, she absolutely swept me off my feet. For an hour when she sang, I could feel an inner silence overwhelm my mind and I forgot every worry, every sorrow  instead to absorb the music and the feelings wrapped within it streaming outward from a radiant Suzanne onstage. In my own words she has both Audrey Hepburn’s grace & Regina Spektor’s eclectic ‘folksy’ music going for her 🙂 . If my post even got you slightly curious about Vega check her out on Youtube on the following links.

“Caramel” : Vega’s sensuous best & my fav. of the lot  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-1mIOBbKi0

“Tom’s Diner” original version : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z66rDVkaK4w&feature=related

As for a Suzanne-smitten me, I shall try my best to catch her next in April on Broadway.

Cheers

Nikhil B.

I, Ibn Battuta

Long Long time since I blogged- 2 whole months infact 😐 . I blame final-sem lethargy primarily for this and secondly the fact that I have been traveling way too much during this period. While the usual Chennai trips [for project wrk etc.] kept happening every 20 days, I managed to make a cursory visit back home and also a one-dayer in Hyderabad for a black metal gig [ returning hours before my GATE exam 🙂 ] . And lastly, the greatest trip ov all- GOA again with the best ov friends. In sum, I guess I have clocked a record 12300 kms by train travel. Had there been be a ‘miles’-collecting and redeeming system similar to the airlines even in our railways, I am sure I would have hit some jackpot :).

For those who don’t know, Ibn Battuta was a Moroccan traveller who travelled a staggering 75000 miles, way more than his nearest contemporary- Marco Polo. My assumption at me being a Ibn Battuta of sorts might be a little pretentious, I agree. Each of these trips have been characterised by a total carefreeness, traveling in a light and minimalistic way and absolutely no worries about anything at any place. I wonder if ever in the future, I would be able to travel in this manner because a natural fallout of added responsibilities ( in job, grad school etc. ) would be fewer holidays and loads of more work. Anyway, I have decided to put a temporary hold on my plans for other jaunts and decided to spend my last month in insti. ‘peacefully’ immersed in project work and senti-farewell parties :).

And now that I’m back , I promise I am here to stay in blogosphere for good :).

Roots

Here I was, returning from a tight 2 day sojourn to Madras combining work and pleasure like I always do :P. But something felt different this time around.

Having been raised as a Tamil Brahmin in the grand city of Bombay with a rather infamous distinction of having visited my native state of Tamil Nadu only about thrice in my 21 years of existence and with an impaired knowledge of the Tamil language, such visits to Madras always raised the risk of arousing my curiosity in tracing back my roots. This is the dilemma I found myself in constantly this time around as I waded through a swarm of my Tamil brothers and sisters in Chennai Central station while imbuing the aroma of fresh filtered coffee and savoring the spicy Sambar rice minutes before I boarded my train back to Nagpur.

For the first time, I truly felt a lost connection with the Tamil way of life often wondering about so many things I saw around me in Madras which ideally should be very obvious to me. My good friends are aware about the special significance that Madras holds for me for it has always been the uncanny residence of my most cherished social priorities. By saying this offcourse, I am not in the slightest way undermining Bombay and all that it has given me. Bombay will always be my home but an odd feeling likened to that of a refugee (in a place that I had so long perceived as my home) has set in me which has helped me conclude that I need to trace back my roots, get in touch with my birth-culture , my true ethnicity. Especially considering my immediate future plans of pursuing higher studies abroad, I truly feel there couldn’t be a more appropriate time to reaffirm my roots before I spread my wings and fly off to a far away land.

Cheers !

The Last Good Day of the Year

I am incredibly happy right now. ‘Thoroughly refreshed’ infact, just the way one must ideally feel at the start of a new decade.

Having been roomies and great friends with Kotecha, Potnis and others of their ilk, I have been influenced by their infectious sense of travelling and adventure. Coupled with an intrinsic wanderlust from birth, I have turned into a travel aficionado of sorts. It’s been more than a year since I took off time exclusively for travel from the never-ending mire of internships, exams and applications-blah.  An excuse of celebrating the Last new year’s eve together as college-mates served as a catalyst to an already brewing thought process in my mind and lo! The plan to get our asses outta Nagpur took a firm shape with everyone [ Kotecha, Tyrant , Deng , Hara , Potnis , Deshmukh & Randy] jumping right in ( for they too like me were burdened with a new-found perpetual boredom induced by a heavily relaxed 8th sem schedule in the insti :). So, here we go :

30 Dec 2009

2100: Bus tickets purchased by Deshmukh and Randy.

2200: Taste freedom( oh, so sweet !!) on leaving the insti. Premises.

2300: Board the MP tourism Bus to Jabalpur.

31 Dec 2009 (The Last and the Longest  Good Day of the Year begins )

0000: Pee n Tea Break somewhere in the middle of nowhere.

0430: Reached Jabalpur, Auto to Bhedaghat.

0500: Not a single living soul, pitch darkness , a chilly moist breeze , 8 guys , a bottle of Rum and a shed.

0600: Status : Everyone alive, awake and merry thanks to the rum and some interesting exchange of words 🙂

0630: An annoyingly ‘hyperactive’ Kotecha threatens everyone ( who were sleeping and putting off getting up till the sun shone brightly ) with ‘dire perverse consequences’  and ‘SCARED and MORTIFIED ’ at his behavior, we all get up marching towards the Duandhar Waterfalls like an army out to invade a city promptly at the break of dawn.

0645: Eyes treated to a slowly brightening morning sky and majestic marble rocks sidelining a short yet amazingly beautiful waterfall and a consequent stream.

0730: An unpalatable breakfast at a resto. nearby followed by some of us choosing to take a dip into the very ‘inviting’ water of the stream and a few others out to answer the ‘sacred’ call of Mother nature in a manner closest to her that can be imagined.  While the former were left with a body-numbing experience and goosebumps galore on coming out of the water , the latter heroically survived a truly bowel-numbing experience on finishing their ‘business’ .

0815: ‘Fotu’-graphy sessions, poses , solo pics , group pics and not to forget pics of stray dogs, cute and adorable kids, weed-smoking ascetics all forming a part of Deng’s paraphernalia dominated this session.

0845: An exhausted lot-Us stop for a better tasting breakfast of jalebis, dosas and noodles.

0930: Walk uphill to reach ‘Chausatyogini’ Temple ( built 1155 AD ).Greeted by an intricately designed temple with statues of 64 yoginis circumscribing the inner sanctum of a temple adorned with Shiva-Lingam’s and Nandi’s .  Prayers are offered by the believers among us 🙂 while the rest soak in the cool and utterly pleasant breeze.

Chausatyogini Temple

1030: Walk down to the Magnum-Opus of Bhedaghat : the famed Marble Rocks and the lake around it. Site of the sensual ‘Raat ka Nasha’ song sequence by an overly bleached Kareena in the film’Asoka’ :  A 40Rs-50Mins breathtaking boat ride here justified every minute we had spent out here in Bhedaghat.  More ‘Fotu’-graphy and more awe….infact so enraptured were we that major embarrassment could be inflicted on us if someone were to take a picture of us staring openmouthed at these marvels of nature. The serenity of the surroundings temporarily dissolved all our tensions ( if any ) . The sight of an urchin fearlessly diving off a high rock into the water below only to be applauded  by awestruck onlookers like us and the interaction with a boatsman-cum-travel guide wonderfully explaining the history of the rocks in rhyming couplets will forever remain etched in our memory.

Marble Rocks

1200: Exhausted with being treated to so many wonderful sights in a few hours span, a declaration for a Grand lunch in a nearby resto. was announced.  So famished were we that even a strictly below-average plate of food given to us was devoured in no time.

1330: Long Lunch over . Time to leave 😦 .  Auto to return to Jabalpur.

1405: Partition of the group in halves at Jabalpur : While a plain and an uncomplicated ending awaited the ones returning to the ‘Orange City’ , the others were just about to embark on one of their most adventurous and challenging endeavors by heading off to a remote forest realm of Patalkot.

AARGHHHHHHHH……I don’t know if you have grown tired reading this , but I sure am tired writing now. I promise our experience in Patalkot will be penned down very soon but here’s the teaser for those looking forward to it :

All along the clock till then,

We were climbing the stairway to heaven;

Now, only time will tell,

If some of us will go downhill along the highway to HELL !!

Cheers and Wishing all the readers a Very Happy and Prosperous New Year !!

Count Grishnackh