Sunday, February 12, 2017

Walk across the Brooklyn bridge

Brooklyn Heights - This Newyork’s Posh neighbourhood has been the watering hole for over a century for budding and successful writers from all over the world.   

Two of my  favorites – Amitav Ghosh and Jhumpa Lahiri have made Brooklyn their home and that was enough of a reason for me to take a walk across the neighbourhood.

A guided walking tour that starts at 2pm from Brooklyn Borough Hall on a cold January afternoon is’nt exactly  a great time in this time of the year to venture out on a walk.

That Saturday afternoon at the stroke of two, as if by cue snow flakes started descending as our tour guide and local historian John started off with telling us about this island that set the standards for many a social change in the United States of America.

Abolition of slavery being one of them.

Oh well … he started off with something like this.  He said, ‘this is my last walking tour of Brooklyn Bridge under the Presidency of Barack Obama, pchhh… such a classy President we have had’ and he chuckled. That explained a lot.

The walk across some of Brooklyn’s historical neighbourhoods was peppered with the revelations of American celebrities who brought property in Brooklyn heights for astronomical amounts.  Not surprising from our tour guide who claims to have worked in the real estate business before he became a walking tour guide.

Among many other things we learnt that day was that the first Haagen Dazs outlet to ever open was in Brooklyn. And you thought that a posh ice cream brand like that has to have a European origin !!!   

The snow had intensified and there was atleast an inch of snow all over the streets.  We stepped into a small cafĂ© called chocolate factory, that made brisk business as we walkers helped ourselves with the rest rooms and some hot chocolate to keep us going in the cold weather.

The bad weather played spoil sport in what would otherwise have been a breathtaking view of the Manhattan skyline stretching from the Statue of liberty up until the tall glass skyscrapers across the river that formed the famed Manhattan skyline.

The walk ended at the Quaint Brooklyn Icecream factory right underneath the Brooklyn Bridge where we stepped in to take refuge from the snow as well as for some warmth and hot coffee.  ( certainly no ice cream in that weather. )

As I sipped my chai ( yes that is the American brand name of tea bags spiced with cinnamom and cardamom) I watched through the window  the view of the Breathtaking Brooklyn bridge from underneath while heavy vehicular traffic moved over it and across the city.

I promised to be back the next day to walk across the Brooklyn bridge, weather conditions obliging.

On Sunday afternoon the weather was more than obliging.  It was sunny clear sky by New York standards and the temperature on the mobile phone indicated a 2 degree Celsius, which was cold by a non New Yorker’s standards.

Much to my surprise Tourists thronged the Brooklyn bridge. Getting down from the nearest subway station, a leisurely walk across the bridge can be a good 45 minutes with plenty of photographic moments capturing the Manhanttan sky line and the bridges across the Hudson river. 

Faraway at Staten Island stood Lady liberty dressed in green.

And that is when you miss a good DSLR camera. 

As you walk across Brooklyn Bridge watching the breathtaking view of New York skyline you cannot help but feel the energy and determination of those millions of migrants from all over the world, for well over two centuries who beckoned Lady liberty and arrived at her shores and built this magnificient city from where the world’s wealth passes through.
Here is a poem written by Walk Whitman written before the Brooklyn Bridge was completed. He clearly felt the area’s energy on  ferry in 1856, years before the bridge was built.  ‘Crossing Brooklyn Ferry’ sings directly to us, its future readers, and is an enthralling document of Whitman’s physical and metaphysical crossing of the Bridge. Through its themes of spiritual ascents, moral doubts, and sublime conections , it foreshadows everything that this landmark would come to represent.

Flood-tide below me! I see you face to face! 
Clouds of the west—sun there half an hour high—I see you also face to face. 
Crowds of men and women attired in the usual costumes, how curious you are to me! 
On the ferry-boats the hundreds and hundreds that cross, returning home, are more curious to me than you suppose, 
And you that shall cross from shore to shore years hence are more to me, and more in my meditations, than you might suppose. 

Others will enter the gates of the ferry and cross from shore to shore, 
Others will watch the run of the flood-tide, 
Others will see the shipping of Manhattan north and west, and the heights of Brooklyn to the south and east, 
Others will see the islands large and small; 
Fifty years hence, others will see them as they cross, the sun half an hour high, 
A hundred years hence, or ever so many hundred years hence, others will see them, 
Will enjoy the sunset, the pouring-in of the flood-tide, the falling-back to the sea of the ebb-tide. 

Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Dal Khichdi in Gurgaon

Gurgaon – a city that has always been fascinated me. Everytime I have visited the city over the last 12-15 years I am amazed at how the landscape of Gurgaon that was once upon a time farm lands, has  changed over the years. 

Tall Glass buildings, a throbbing night life, young call center workers, immigrants from the south, east, west and north-east of the country along with those illegl immigrants from across the border integrate into this hub and figure out their survival strategy amidst the adrenalin rush of the  Harayanvi and Punjabi locals. 

In that melting pot you find those neo Gurgaonites, still nostalgic about their Old-Delhi lives, that they left behind and migrated to Gurgaon.
You will spot that not so wide generation gap that divides the middle aged and the millenial, between those who go all the way to Chandni chowk and Sarojini  market to shop and those who have comfortably adapted to the funky malls of  Gurgaon. 

No other satellite city speaks so loud about the changing Indian middle class like Gurgaon does.

It is a Milton Keynes of the east, I said to a fellow colleague who had travelled from the UK.  
It was a business trip with a packed agenda.  We had checked into Westin Gurgaon. 
I was nervous and prayed for nothing to go wrong.
And voila Murphy’s law proved itself to be so true.

Motion sickness and lack of fresh air due to prolonged exposure to closed air conditioned spaces had been causing havoc to my digestive system every time I would travel. My worst fears came true. A throbbing headache followed by violent bouts of nausea and I was out of action. 

I survived the first half of our meetings on day one, frequenting the rest rooms and barely able to hold myself up. Beyond a point I realized I could not hold up and I quickly excused myself and returned to the hotel. 

The reception at Westin Gurgaon, sent over a staff to ensure I was all right. 

A doctor was summoned and he prescribed me medicines. A member of the staff ran down the local pharmacy to get me my medicines and very soon I was feeling better. I still needed to rest.   

Just as I was reclining into the bed, wondering when to take the medicines, the Chef knocked at my door and asked what I would like to have. I shook my head and said I just would not want to eat anything and would like to go to sleep.

Much to my protests, the Indian hospitality prevailed.  An hour later, at about dinner time, he sent over with the room service a tray with food. Complimentary from the kitchen, the room service said to me as he wheeled the tray into my room.

With trepidation I opened and looked up the tray. It was the pithy  and watery ‘khichdi’ with very little spice and salt that I would have expected my mom to make for me when I was ill.
The smell of hot freshly cooked food permeated the room and whipped up my appetite and my almost numb taste buds. As I set the plate, I saw something that made me smile. There it was … a ‘get well soon’ card from the Chef.

Tears strolled down my cheeks. What better could one ask than your typical comfort food and the warmth of people around you caring for you when you are sick and far away from home.

That was unexpected luxury from strangers, that too in a five star hotel.   

And then I slept like a child. 

I had heard that Westin chain of hotels, the world over are known for their comfortable luxury pillows.  There are different types of pillows to choose from.  And truly they take the definition of comfort mattress to a new level.

The next day morning, armed with intake of light juices, a mild watery khichdi ( a repeat of last night’s menu prepared by a different Chef who was instructed by the previous one before he left for the day) for breakfast I was all geared up to hit the road for the day two meetings.

The strong dose of doctor’s medicines, kept my digestive system under control and I was pulling through.

That evening, with a feeling of accomplishment, I came back to my room and took a long relaxing bath in the tub.  I was feeling better although I knew the medicines were holding me up. 

As I looked through the window of my 9th floor hotel room, that moon lit night, the city of Gurgaon pulsated and throbbed with life.  The glass buildings that housed the service centers of the global multinational corporations were brightly lit all night, the highway that connected the satellite city to the national capital twinkled with red and yellow lights of moving traffic that felt like a necklace laced with pearls and rubies.

When I checked out the next day, I could not thank the staff enough for their thoughtfulness and making my stay a comfortable one.   A day later when I was back home I received a call from Westin Gurgaon asking I was feeling better with a special instruction from the doctor to complete the course of medicine that he had prescribed. 

I vowed to stay there the next time I visited Gurgaon. Hopefully I may not have to summon the doctor and instead enjoy the luxury, comfort and warmth of Westin, Gurgaon, knowing fully well that I would be cared for like a special guest.    


“I am blogging about my luxury stay experience for an activity at BlogAdda in association with MakeMyTrip

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