walking through the streets of new york, there is a certain thrill associated with coming out of madison square to be confronted with the heart of one of the biggest cities of the world. the first step onto times square has brought a certain smile, a certain sense of awe to me every time i have made it. you can feel the success of the city in the way it has grown: planned, laid out, professional.
compare this directly to bombay; because for the true bombayite, everything is compared to bombay. even bombay itself. the sense of craziness, the sense of being a gigantic city remains… but the lack of planning, haphazard growth that is hallmark of the evolution of bombay is very very evident. bombay has a distinctly different aura to it, the survival factor is very evident in the way the people in it live, in the way the city continues to grow despite all odds – whether it be bomb blasts or floods. new york is almost disdainful of survival, it seems to know it is meant to be the grand kingpin of cities.
london lives in a little cocoon of superiority; trying to hold on to past grandeur, assuming that it is still the centre of the earth. the sense of development is there, but there is a feeling that the city is a little past its prime. it tries to marry the old and the new, which is not always possible…
looking at them, they are, literally, the past, the present, and the future city kingpins of the world. so very similar. and so very different.
ice skating has a deceptive grace to it. having watched/read so much about it.. even watching those on the rink right there in front of you; it seems as though its just a matter of gliding on the damn ice. which should come naturally to you. the minute you step on the ice, you might think you can be off. au contraire, its like learning to walk all over again. only this time in a perfectly rhythmic manner. the first steps on ice are alternately scary and dreamy. on one hand, you have no idea where your legs are going to go. on the other, you’re literally gliding over the ground beneath your feet. the barrier becomes the be-all, and end-all of existence… at least it was for me. it took me nearly 3 hours to be able to move in a pseudo-graceful manner over ice; with occasional moments where i would be running on the spot, or duplicating the ‘broadway dance’, trying to regain my centre of gravity.
the weirdest concept was getting up. as you do it, you’re pretty convinced there is no way this is going to bring you back to your feet without you slamming into the ice again… until you’re actually standing again. like magic.
the second time, its baby steps, but you start running much faster. and suddenly the citibank caption makes sense – ‘live life as an eight year old.’
zooming to the top of the empire state, i wondered how it was even possible that this structure was erected in 400 days… in 1930. unbelievable. but then, everything vanishes from your mind when you take your first steps on top of the empire state, and see one of the most famous night views in the world. breathtaking on every degree of the 360 you can make around the platform; there is a glow to it… you can feel the city pulsating around you. i remembered the “flight” of the london eye that i had taken. as you reach the top, the slow unfolding of london envelopes you in its grandeur. so very typical of london, there is haze as well… but the majesty of london can be believed so much better. once again the contrast of the two is very apparent.
for all its hype though, the empire state has nothing on the rockefeller center. from entering it, all the way to the top, i was struck by two things – the friendliness of the staff (maybe due to lower crowds) and the vibe of elegance that it emanates at every point: the lobby, the swarovski shop, the target floor, the crazy show in the lift… and then you step out onto one of the peaks of manhattan, the only thing separating you from the sky being a pane of glass. the panorama that you can see, unbarricaded almost.. is unbelievable. at the final height where even the pane of glass is barely there, the wind threatens to tear you off the top and send you flying into space… you finally understand why new york will always retain that sheen to it. to think this was financed by rockefeller himself at the height of the depression.