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New York City

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DQW Bureau
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Shashwat DC, on his visit to New York, was completely bowled over by the

sheer scale and size of the buildings, the flyovers, the Wal-Marts and the

airport

As my plane landed on a chilly January dawn at Newark International Airport,

the first thing that came to my mind was the sheer scale of the complex. I could

see from the air itself, that the place was mammoth. And once I disembarked, my

doubts turned into reality; there were some hundred odd terminals and more.

Newark Airport is some 20 odd miles from New York, in the neighboring state of

New Jersey. It took some 30 min drive to reach my hotel on 50th street, the New

York Palace Hotel. Right next door to the hotel was the St Patrick Cathedral

that seemed to be inspired from maestro Antoni Gaudi's famous Sagrada Familia

Church in Barcelona. And so was the famous Rockerfeller Center, some meters

away.

Mapping Manhattan



In many ways, walking in between those sky-reaching towers gives you a sense

of deja vu. Have we not seen this somewhere is a constant hum that keeps

reverberating through the conscious mind and there are valid reasons for it. New

York City (I will henceforth use the rather stylish acronym NYC) has been

captured on celluloid innumerable times. So when Spiderman is shown slinging his

way through the rather narrow streets of Downtown, or how Robert Neville (Will

Smith) in I am Legend, finds out in the empty streets of Manhattan that he isn't

actually the last man standing, or even John McClane (Bruce Willis) and a store

owner play a bomber's deadly game as they race around Broadway while trying to

stop him. Closer to home, a certain Karan Johar, has canned NYC almost

exclusively in the very few films that he has made (thank heavens).

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St Patrick Cathedral

So returning to where I started, walking through the different avenues (think

of them as latitudes) and different streets (more like longitudes), I would

often nod to myself recalling the place from some unknown corner of my memory.

I read somewhere that it is easy to discern a tourist in NYC; they walk with

their heads up. So in spite of the fact that I didn't want to seem like a

tourist, I could not help admiring the glass giants that lined the streets of

the city. It is hard not to be amazed at the way they have imagined and then

went on to create a modern city like this. In fact, NYC has the largest numbers

of skyscrapers, more than any other city in the world, over 4,000 of them.

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A Nation of Shopaholics



While in America, I also got first hand experience about the consumerism

that it is renowned for. Almost all the shops in Manhattan had a sale sign

outside proclaiming 50 percent discounts over even 'Going Out of Business' sale.

I even spotted a sale sign on Saks on 5th Avenue, the departmental stores for

the hoi polloi (it is another matter that I couldn't muster enough courage to

enter even with that sign on). After American football (rugby for us), shopping

seems to be the favorite sport for Americans and little wonder that every

company seems to be cashing in on that craze.

Newport, Jersey Manhattan

My trip to Wal-Mart was amazing; I for one had never seen so much variety at

such bargain prices. The Wal-Mart at Woodbridge was huge and was told by my

guide and colleague that this one was no exception as all the other Wal-Marts or

K-Marts are as big if not bigger. I went to Circuit City and Staples in Jersey

City and they were indeed huge. And more often I would find most of these malls

in a single location, right next to each other, making it easier for the

shoppers, so as to say.

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Wal-Mart

Even so, online seems to be the most favored way of shopping for most

Americans. All these shops like Best Buy, Wal-Mart, etc have an online store and

once you have made a purchase you can ask it to be shipped to a store nearby

from where you can pick up the good. And there is just no limit to what you can

purchase online, right from cars to menial help, everything and anything is

available on the web.

The best thing about shoppings was the culture, when you enter the shop you

are not obliged to buy. At no shops did I have shop assistants coming to my aid

or shopkeeper making faces if I left without buying anything. From the costly

jeweler to the lowly mom and pop shop, you could breeze into a shop look around

and breeze out, if you didn't like anything on display. In fact almost all shops

have a return policy, you can return the good you purchased within a fixed

period, and no questions will be asked. They really treat the consumer as a

king.

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Welcome to United States of Gujarat



The best thing about traveling in NY and especially so in NJ, was that

Indians are ubiquitous. Anytime of the day and you could always find a brownie,

two seats away on the bus or the train. Most of the small transactions, like

buying grocery or newspaper can easily be done in Hindi, as Gujju brothers own

quite many businesses in NJ.

At a mall in Woodbridge, I came across women dressed up in sarees or salwar

suits and the parents talking to their small kids in Marathi or Gujarati

(probably to make them learn). Never for once, did I feel out of place, when I

was in NY or NJ. I also came across a mutant Indian breed known as ABCD,

American Born Confused Desi, these poor mortals detest us pure Indians and would

make it a point to talk in a made up accented language to highlight the

difference. I came across a Gujju shopkeeper at a wine store, while I spoke to

him in Hindi; he made it a point to speak to me in English (all the while

talking to his mate in Hindi).

Also after a long time, I felt like an Indian. Because, everywhere that I

went, be it a South Indian or Gujarati or a Marathi, we all connected to each

other as Indians. There was bonhomie, a feeling of brotherhood. Sadly, it is in

India, that you do not feel the same (the moment I landed in Mumbai, I was

rudely awakened from dream by the fight between bhaiyyas and Marathi manoos) And

I come to an end of my American tales, there is so much that I have learnt and

cherish that I could just keep talking on and on. Like any other tourist to the

land of opportunity, I have come back quite impressed by the culture and place.

But the most impressive thing remains to be the thing that impressed me at

first: the sheer scale and size of the buildings, the flyovers, the Wal-Marts,

the airport, everything. I am reminded of a quote that I came across at Liberty

Museum, Auguste Bartholdi (the man behind the Statue of Liberty) had traveled

across America in 1870s and was very impressed by the land and its people.

“Everything in America is big, even the peas,” he had stated. All I would like

to say is, Ditto!

(The author is Senior Assistant Editor of Dataquest)

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