Finally the day arrived…one month ago, I landed in Missouri, US for my Master’s degree, and now I was traveling to “the greatest city on Earth” – New York…to spend the Labor Day weekend with my friends – Pushkar, Gauri, and Bharat.
I landed at the Laguardia airport and Pushkar came to pick me up. We went to his place, where I met Ananya – his housemate – the sweetest, smartest, most patient person I met in NY..and Rishi and Tanmayee – the most gracious and thoughtful hosts I have ever met. Gauri and Bharat arrived soon after and the four of us were finally together after two whole years.
The next day, we started our sightseeing with a visit to Pushkar’s college. On the way, I was confounded by the awesome skyscrapers, the sprawling streets, and fashionable yet indifferent people, each lost in their own worlds. No wonder the song Empire State of the mind was playing in a constant loop in my head all through the day. We took the ferry to Staten Island – and what a ride that was! We were greeted by a cool breeze, with the Statue of Liberty welcoming us against the spellbinding New York skyline. After the ride, we had a delicious falafel for lunch, and then shopped at a street fair, where we got to experience the superb local artistic talent in NY. We would get glimpses of the talent at the subway station and on the roadsides throughout the trip. After a luxurious dinner at Obao, we left for the main attraction of the day – Time Square. And it lived up to the hype. A sea of people amidst blinding lights and dazzling displays – it was indeed a visual treat. We spent an amazing evening snapping photos and indulging in craziness. We followed it up with sumptuous ice-cream at 10 below – a boutique ice cream parlor, that in my opinion is a must-visit for an out-of-towner. To end the night, we went to the Exchange Point, where we admired the NY skyline at night and just spent some time together.
The next day, we shopped to our heart’s content at Burlington and Forever 21. This was followed by a visit to the outstanding Grand Central Station. I was completely mesmerized by the grandeur and intricate artwork. We spent some time just letting it all sink in, and of course, a photo-op 🙂
The last day of the trip was the pinnacle of awesomeness which started with a tram ride to Roosevelt island. I have no words to describe the experience. I will let the pictures talk for themselves.
This was followed by a walk through Central Park – where we saw the bridge that is the location of meet-cute scenes in a number of movies, and the beautiful fountain. And then the perfect end to the trip – the visit to WTC. The whole experience was mindblowing. It starts with the elevator ride which takes you to the 100th floor in 47 seconds flat. Then you enter a standing theatre where a screen plays a movie about the evolution of New York – from its past to the present. It captures the people, the places, the essence and spirit of New York, and the last scene is a shot of the current view of NY from the top..and then the screen parts to reveal the actual view of New York from the 100th floor – I literally had goosebumps when I saw the outstanding view. And to top it all, we had reached just in time for the sunset – so we enjoyed the view in daylight, witnessed the glorious sight of the sun bidding adieu to the city that never sleeps, and then were amazed by the brilliant night view. It was the perfect end to the weekend.
As much as it was beautiful and astounding, this trip was overwhelming as well. The skyscrapers and the sheer number of people were a stark contrast to our charming small town of Rolla with a sparse population. It took me a while to familiarize with the hustle-bustle and slew of activity that characterizes the city. And it was emotionally overpowering too. Since the time I landed in Rolla, things were good – my university, roommates, my house – all is good. I have even made a few friends. But something was amiss. Though I hadn’t realized it before, I was lost and lonely..not homesick, just disoriented. So when I finally saw Pushkar at the airport, I was overwhelmed with relief. Security engulfed me, and I felt at home. Life made sense again. My dearest friend was here – all was finally well with the world. Surprisingly, the feeling has intensified since I came back to Rolla – I had expected to feel better, but somehow this trip made me crave for the love and care I am used to. But knowing that these guys are just a few hours away is extremely comforting.
This trip was also an acknowledgement and celebration of the progress all four of us have made in life. We have made it till here. We have changed, all of us, since we were together the last time. We are no longer the naive undergrads, with trivial problems which seemed like the end-of-the-world at the time. We have evolved, matured, and changed – but changed for good. We have grown, but haven’t grown apart. We still have our own challenges, our own personal Everests. We lead our own separate paths – yet when we finally meet, we can still pick up from where we left off. We can still connect and understand each other. Our friendship has survived and matured over the years. Things have changed, oh yes..but they have never been better 🙂