I am a city…. work in progress

I am a city

Having visited at least a good many cities around the globe and a big chunk of USA, a large bit of Canada with an equal helping of India I was wondering about my intake of these cities and how much inroad they’d made in my being.

happy cities are those that now abide in memories having given enough enchantment with a healthy dose of large saucer eyed wonder. these cities upon actual visitations are now beyond recognition hence they are best visited while relaxing in an armchair at home.

India:
Memories of Bombay of the 50s and 60s or aunt, grandpa’s home in Amritsar with its unhurried laid back swish of skirt, turn of leg and those magic time bits with storytelling and folklore shares by elders accompanied by the mandatory hoopla and accoutrements. The batasha and rewadi sugar candies and Irani hotel mints and fresh paav roti can never be replicated as we too have reinvented ourselves beyond recognition having acquired more eclectic tastes with sinfully dark chocolate mixed with hot red pepper chillies being numero uno. those tall lassi glasses made heavier with burfi and paranthas with dollops of butter would be unthinkable for us now with an iffy digestion and snooty prima donna gourmand chiffons covering our blasé shoulders.

memories of hill stations be it around Bombay or up north near the lower Himalayas were so refreshing, straight out of Ruskin Bond and simple pleasures gave maximum joy then. Now, these places still fill eyes with wonder and enchantment once you only focus on nature and the majesty of the Himalayas and the valleys in loving company of kinfolk. One can easily train mind to tune out the jarring out of sync changes and partake “the swati” like a “Hans” and get inebriated.

Natural wonders of USA be it the Niagara Falls, Grand Canyon, various Caverns, Cascades and gorges, pristine blue lakes et al esp. Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs and deep Azure Lake Tahoe were/are my most cherished memories along with my first bird watching jaunt with an enthusiastic group of
ornithologists with first hubby. Another sepia postcard is of my attending a performance of Swan Lake ballet by Mikhail Barishinikov at the Kennedy Center in DC and a piano recital by Vladimir Horowitz. It was a a bit of heaven for the soul. Music does heal. Have done it all – Operas, Chamber music, woodstock, rock concerts, shows, rodeos, circus, wild drives on Daytona beach and in Canada….

Italy filled me with absolute wonder with its astonishing lofty architecture and the vision of their craftsman…having gone from Rome, Vatican (Sistine Chapel) Venice, Florence and then the Italian Riviera with its gorgeous lakes Bellagio, Como and Lecco, the little village of Rapallo and Cinque Terre tore out my heart with their incredible beauty. A lace making nonna framed in an ancient doorway in the tiny island of Burano will always stay with me as a beloved sepia postcard.

…to be contd…
I am a city …2

I want to add a few more “peaks” that got highlighted during growing years.

My handshake with Yuri Gagarin ( a luck by chance factored in I guess) – he was the first Russian Cosmonaut to shoot into space and was invited to India .

My absolute enchantment at the sight of Queen Elizabeth in her decorated carriage as she slowly floated away on King’s Circle street which was near our home in Wadala, Bombay. year was circa 1961 I believe.

My up close enjoyment of a film shoot featuring the late legendary Madhubala and Kishore kumar. Have yet to see someone more beautiful than her.

Some personal “miracles” as already shared in “My Amazing Grace/ Journey” series written a while ago. I have seen India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his daughter Indira Gandhi in person in Bombay. Enough of Bombay now.

Stuff I recall the most wrt to our trip to England :

Trafalgar square with its pigeons, London Eye cannot recall going up in it; though we did see a couple of plays – one being Les Miserables and other Witches of Eastwick. Being a shopaholic Harrods quickened my blood flow and I enjoyed our visit very much. Cannot recall much of London other than our visit to Stonehenge. Ferocious bookworm that I was and had read tons of Victorian romances – so a visit to Bath was especially memorable- My highlight was Stratford-Upon-Avon – Shakespeare country – it was quite enchanting. Wish to revisit England god willing.

Dan Brown’s Da Vinci code and Angels and Demons gave so much impetus to enable us to thoroughly enjoy Paris and other European cities with their wonderful gothic cobbled streets and antiquity and overhead glowering Gargoyles

Paris lived up to my expectations and that made it memorable. Last year in April we were in gay Paree and luckily our tour group was less than twenty and we lucked out in tour guide who was a fount of knowledge veritably and generous to boot with his personal time- being an ex-pat American. Guided tour of Louvre with choice exhibits prevented tired feet and I’d already decided which “painters” were of interest to me hence…the visit was sheer eclectic pleasure. Da Vinci code made me see everything with “wondering” eyes. The glass pyramids inside and outside and the colored glass windowed shops inside the Louvre were beautiful.. we did all the touristy highlights but the churches were viewed with Da Vinci afflicted eyes and the pleasure was doubled. View from Mont Marte and the pinnacle of Eiffle tower as conquered by me were exhilarating and was toasted with champagne . The cherry on top were our visits to Giverny – Claude Monet home and gardens – that had to eden as it was achingly beautiful – and then our tour of the grand chateaux in Loire valley. One of the Highlights has to Versailles Palace which reminded me of the gorgeous Piti Palace in Florence. After gorging croissants day and night I did not touch one for a month after we returned.

 

I am a city….3

Let’s talk about my beloved New York State / City. – no matter what is done to our big apple, it will shake the dust, rise and shine as bright as ever !

have been through 911 with it hence we now have a history together and I love my town’s heartbeat as my own
I bit the big apple for the first time during Christmas and New Years somewhere in the mid 70s en route to Niagara Falls – Waiting in Times Square for the clock to strike midnight hour tightly packed sweaty bodies was rather heady then while now the very thought makes me giddy and pukey. Plus the thought and horror of imminent cooing calls of nature – all those people crowding Times Square during new Year’s Eve – do they wear diapers – have always wondered – okay, okay -please do not glare at me!
Newly minted hubby took me to 42nd street and all those adult places simply to see my reaction – a perfect blend of distaste, curiosity, flaming shame and embarrassment. Never liked seeing skin flicks – give me thrillers and murder mysteries any day. Enjoyed the absolute thrills afforded by my very first of dozens of sighting of the majestic Niagara Falls, on both US and Canadian sides. Then, as we were returning to our hotel post dinner, a hand grabbed me by my shoulder. I nearly jumped out of my skin! It was the Frankenstein monster !
I do not scare easily ( having slept with a ghost next door for real ) But I got afraid as I was unprepared. Whole 99 odd pounds of me shivered. It was a robot Frankenstein monster and we duly freed “me” and came away. Hubby had a good laugh and I never lived it down. Visited all the landmarks then like Empire State Bldg. for views, Lady Liberty, twin Towers and then later in 1981 again.
In 1984 we’d moved to India.

I returned to USA in Sept. 1999 and to live in New York city in December 1999.
Having lost first hubby tragically, his elder bro got me remarried to Ganesh who too was a lonely widower. It was a match made in heaven between two states – Ganesh is from South India and I am a north Indian. Not only do we have different mother tongues but our festivals/ holidays are celebrated quite differently. With some effort we’ve clicked and life is chugging along nicely.

Have visited all five boroughs of new York city and my first intro to life in NYC began with Brooklyn. Only Brooklyn I was acquainted with was from “Welcome Back Kotter” sitcom and the very thought of living in Brooklyn filled me with horror. I did not wish to lower the car windows for fear of stray bullets and all. ganesh kept saying Park Slope Brooklyn is a lovely neighborhood unlike the image in your head and now I know it first hand and love it here.

will continue later… on my beloved NYC

~

Part 4  I am a city  – Sept.28, 2015

Today I shall visit in mind our go to summer spot the historic city of Amritsar, Punjab India.

Sepia memories and tender chiding voices call out :
– cajoling, ringing, preemptory, admonishing ….

Childhood is such a mixed bag of inebriated “larks” coupled with growing pains, real, imagined slights and bruises from falls and deliberate pushing.

Amritsar even though searingly hot during summers, never bothered us
as we had only fun and frolic “masti” in mind super charged with energy as all of us cousins were in those days.

I recall doing an early morning round of the historic gurudwara Shri Santokhsar
sahib. It was a serene soul soothing place even though such thoughts or partakes were foreign to us at that time. We were mostly interested in doing a parikrama (circling) the sarovar (pond) and paying obeisance as taught by the elders. Bare headed that we were in frocks etc. we had to borrow scarves from the person who minded the shoe racks.

In those days to pass the time I recall being given preprinted copies of word “Ram” that we had to pencil in each box – we laboriously did that and then each word was rolled into a tiny ball of dough to feed the fishes in the above pond. I’ve always wondered about those fed fishes’ salvation for eating all those “godly” dough balls. Did we also benefit from this exercise? that is a moot point.

Amritsar after Bombay’s concrete jungle was a city full of history and secrets. The narrow bylanes, open sewers and co-joined houses back to back were great exploration sites. We’d often jump over roofs and reach the end of the lanes like we often see in Bourne legacy and Taken etc. movies these days. Voyeuristic opportunities abounded too as we hopped from house to house.

Grandpa had a horse buggy and cow and a calf in those days. We got fresh cow’s milk with home churned butter topping freshly baked bread. The bread delivery guy “Kashi” was a fixture and we all looked forward to his run in our area as he came laden with freshly baked sweet breads encrusted with chubby raisins and then cut fresh fruit hawkers.

In those days a lesson in Indian history was subtly delivered by visits to Jallianwala Bagh where general Dyer was responsible for a massacre of 1000 innocent people gathered there for Baisakhi celebration. I remember feeling horror, immense grief and revulsion for the cruel Dyer and recall using all the cuss words I had in quiver which were rather paltry in those days but well worth mouthing. I doubt if mom would’ve washed my mouth during that instance.

Other historic places are fuzzy now. We however greatly enjoyed meandering through the narrow lanes in the old part of the city, marveling at the hustle, bustle and the amount of commerce that took place. Sweet water wells abounded in most open areas between narrow lanes and temples with beautifully crafted doorways and cool interiors. Pantheon of Indian gods demanded a huge amount of temples and hence these were found at every nook and corner of the old city.

Amritsar like its name ( nectar) holds a special place in my heart. Both grandparents and sundry relatives had houses there and thus we had many choices.

A visit most evenings to the Company gardens for delicious eats was a must and the buggy was put to good use.

Golden temple and Durgiana Temple were the highlights in visits, always and we
usualy went there a few times.

Golden temple of the Sikhs has this inexplicable aura that simply seeps into the soul.

Durgiana Temple nearby of the Hindus has this beautiful image of Lord Krishna and according to legend, while this temple was being constructed Lord Krishna came there on all fours as a baby – you can see the foot imprints of the lord in the marble tiles. I always touch them and feel blessed.

After these visits we usually ate all kinds savories along with sweets.
There was no fear of adulteration nor contamination in those days and even small amounts of money went a long way as they had great buying power.

Month and half of summer vacation simply flew past quickly and then we were back home in good old Bombay carrying heavy school bags with leaden feet….. the overnight train journeys in the Frontier mail were simply wonderful and formed a part and parcel of summer thrill.

ps: there is so much to add … after partition of India, I remember seeing cross border folks visiting grandpa in the middle of the night and both weeping. have experienced wartime in this city during other visits and cowering in the basement as war planes screeched past – Other tales of horror – so many unsaid tales of grief and joy which comprise the warp and weft of life and this resilient historic beloved hometown of Amritsar.

 
to be contd…

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