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The Big City – The Land of the Free

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New York, oh boy, it’s just like in the movies!

I was beyond excited when I got to know that I would be going to New York even though winter was just about trickling in and I hated the cold. It was just absolutely awesome. I was warned though that I would either love it or hate it. Well, fortunately, the former worked for me.

Turning every street corner, I would just picture someone like Carrie Bradshaw walking out from one of those high-end stores, while we listen to her endless tales of love, sex and life in the big city and question the reality or absurdity of it… (I don’t know why this came into my head, it’s not like I adore this series, although they call it ‘iconic’). I longed to see a movie star, but I didn’t come across any.

Apart from this, New York is just overwhelming, as one friend put it.

It’s a concrete jungle. It’s full of sky-hugging buildings. I tried my best to capture that famous Manhattan skyline, but I’m really not a good photographer. And besides, it was freezing. My fingers felt numb after a few clicks. But, that sight was just so cool. Please don’t call me godey. I was just so impressed and I still am.

Manhattan (a little blurry and not so proper – I’m not a good photographer)

New York’s also funny. Things are not like ‘usual’ over there. They drive on the other side of the road. Their pedestrian crossings are white, not yellow. People don’t necessarily wait for the red light – both pedestrians and vehicles, that is. There is quite a lot of tooting of the horns. Also, the sirens – the police cars, the fire trucks, the ambulances… (just like in the movies!). The temperatures are in Fahrenheit, not Celsius. Again, this left me a little confused, as I couldn’t quite figure out how cold ‘cold’ was in Fahrenheit just to tell everyone back here how I survived the freezing weather (not so, but anyway). Oh, they call you ‘Miss’, not ‘ma’am’ or ‘madam’.

And then… the famous yellow cabs. Lines and lines of them. And you stand on the side of the street, put up your arm and shout ‘taxi’… ah, again, like in the movies.

But there is so much to do and see in New York. And culture-wise, history-wise too, and that is complex in its own way.

Liberty

I went to the Statue of Liberty. A ferry took us there after about half-an-hour of airport-style security. Here was this great symbol of freedom, democracy and friendship. It was a much calmer setting – away from the stock market and the Security Council. Beyond this was Ellis Island. This is where millions of immigrants landed over a century ago looking for freedom, for a better life. It was the New World for them. The stories of these immigrants are moving. To some, this island offered hope. To others, it meant suffering. Some found work, their families live to tell the tale. Others died of disease and faced many traumas.

They came here looking for freedom, for new hope

Besides that, I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This was something I was told I had to go and see. This was simply stunning. A day was not enough to go through it all. I particularly enjoyed the European collection. I was extremely excited to see Van Gough’s Self Portrait right there in front of my eyes, just as much as I was with about all those other paintings.

The Van Gough collection

Then there was shopping. Those stores…Macy’s – ‘the self-proclaimed world’s largest department store – was a city of its own.

Central Park was a little gloomy, but crowded nevertheless.

I was also lost several times. But I don’t think New York is complete without being lost. But, once you figure out how the avenues run, it’s pretty easy.

The whole area was lit up for Christmas and there were plenty of sales. The streets were busier and prettier in the night. There was that really famous big Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Centre. Time’s Square was packed whether it was morning, noon or night. The famous Plaza Hotel was richly decorated. The interior was very pinkish. There was plenty of food and plenty to do in the city.

I met with old friends and made plenty of new ones.

It’s the city that never sleeps, and it’s the city that keeps to its word.

New York’s a lot modern. There was a little bit of old England in Lincoln Centre (where you get the Julliard School and the home of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra), and those English-type horse carriages (forget the protestors demanding an end to that). The buildings, the people, the pace, the billboards… it’s just very different. America’s culture, I was told, is about change, and I guess that’s what New York is about. Well, also, it’s cosmopolitan or ‘international’. It’s the Free World. They change. So do we.

Just one last thing about New York, and this is something that will always stay with me. I went to watch the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. They were playing Handel’s Messiah. The orchestra was much smaller and no matter how many times you’ve heard this, it was… blazing, brilliant, stunning… such effortless playing. Out of this world. And it didn’t matter how tired we all were, as we rose to our feet when they played Hellelujah chorus. But, even more than that, was that trumpet solo – the Trumpet Shall Sound – the clear, crisp tone of the trumpet still resonating in my ears.

New York… till we meet again!

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