My Beloved City
Shock. Disbelief. Anger. Sorrow. Despair.
That was the sequence of thoughts that I had over the last 12 hours, ever since Bhaskar called me and told me that the twin towers of world trade center collapsed. I could not sleep, nor could I think. I could only watch news to see if by some miracle the clock turned back and the towers came back.
Those who know me know how much I love New York. I have been subscribing to New York Times fully five years before I ever visited New York. I still read it every day, including the obituaries. For me, New York is the hometown I found through my life long wanderings.
For a short while, I lived close to WTC. I could see it from my back porch. I could take the subway and be there under less than ten minutes.
On this fateful day, I imagine all the times I was there in the city.
I walk by the south street sea port, watching the festivities on the piers. I watch the fish being downloaded on the Fulton fish market. I go by the wall street, paying homage to the Gods of Money, and the Bronze Bull on the street. I haggle with the merchants in China town, and share my table with strangers at a Dimsum place.
I walk around Soho, looking at the young beautiful people wearing fashionably black clothes. I look up and notice the iron railings, all beautifully carved, reminiscent of last century occupants of the buildings.
I go up to the Houston street, and catch a movie at the Angelica theater — perhaps an old favorite. I slip into a local bakery for a slice of cake, and perhaps some Tiramisu. I watch the artists walk in and around the Washington Square.
I go up to the mid town, wait for friends next to the Christmas tree, and watch the couples ice-skating in the rink. That was where you would wait if you get lost (Cf: Home Alone II). Or, that is where, you would bump into strangers and become friends (Cf: Sunday in New York).
Or, if mood strikes me, I walk into one of the expensive stores on the 57th street, and buy the only thing I could afford: a scarf. Perhaps, if the day is nice, I can take a stroll in the central park. On any given Sunday, Harlem’s churches have excellent Gospel music.
This city, inhabited by the American Indians, built by the Dutch, controlled by the British, became the American City, nay a city of the world. The Jews gave it the culture, and those wonderful bagels and delicatessen. The Italians added the love of Opera, coffee, and the parades in the little Italy. The French gave the city its sophistication, its Fifth Avenue high prices restaurants, and the distinct decor of the museum street. The Irish built the majestic catholic churches, and guarded the City as the police and the fire fighters. The Latinos started the clubs and the pulsating music. These days, the city is energized by the infusion of the Indians, the Bangladeshis, the Africans, and the South Americans.
Some how all the human achievements culminate in the grand glory of this city. The primordial cave paintings, the great pyramids, the vedic chants, the canals of Venice, the gothic churches of Paris, the pubs in London, the gardens of Tokyo — all art, music, human achievements reach their greatest moment in history in this city made by man and nurtured by his spirit.
Whimsical, magical city. City of Edith Wharton, City of Dorothy Parker. City of Woody Allen, City of Neil Simon, City of Dvorak, City of Billy Joel, City of Simon and Garfunkel. City of Bharti Mukharjee, City of Salman Rushdie. City of the old and the new.
Under the bright light of a summer morn,
A crowd flowed over Lower Manhattan, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.
Flowed up the Fifth Avenue and along the Broadway ”
[Bastardized version of Waste Land]
Shock. Disbelief. Anger. Sorrow. Despair. Hope.
Yes, eventually hope and surely, rebirth.