I exited from the airport terminal, with my heart absolutely racing. I couldn't quite believe that I had landed in New York.I mean, it just couldn't have been me.But there I was,walking down the aisle to the exit door, and going through those first exciting moments of having landed in a city that I had dreamt of seeing for close to a decade and a half.
Got out of the terminal and looked for Vali,my good old school friend.And there he was,lazily leaning against a pillar,with an iPod in his ears and lost in oblivion,almost!It just didn't feel that I was meeting him after close to a decade.Almost felt as if I had just bumped into him outside the classroom in school and was meeting him the next day.I guess those are the little things and charms of life - seeds of friendship sown and grown naturally, without one having to water it too much. Felt damn good to meet him after so many years. He had lost a lot of hair, but if anything, had gotten wiser,which tended to get reconfirmed in the course of my conversations with him over the next 72 hours!
Hopped onto a bus from LaGuardia to Penn State station.It was a nice long drive through the entry roads to New York.Both Vali & I got into some serious, animated conversation during this bus drive, catching up on old times,updating each other of a few happenings in our lives,and not to miss capture the essential differences from the times we grew up till today.It sure had been an action-packed journey for both of us,in our own individual ways.I strongly felt our personalities coming through, as the bus treaded along the interiors of New York.Almost made me forget that I had come to the big city,and ended up enjoying the deep conversation with an old,deep friend!
We then walked through Fifth Avenue - one of the many landmarks that I had seen on TV all those years ago and would see for myself in flesh and blood in the next 3 days. The first big landmark I saw on Fifth Avenue was the NY Public Library.Vali told me that its one of the largest and members can borrow up to 30 books at a time!Now,that's an ocean of books for sure.Imagine the scale of operations,the magnitude and volume of books that a library would be having to cater to the needs of tons of New Yorkers!Granted,not all New Yorkers are voracious readers,but still,servicing even a miniscule percentage of readers from the Big Apple,would need a reservoir of books!Well, this was just the start of the numerous stunning moments I was to have!
We then crossed Macys' Departmental Store.Vali told me that it was the world's largest departmental store.I almost shook simply because, I found it hard to believe how a store can be coined as the world's largest.On seeing the board outside Macys, I remember Forum Mall in good old Bangalore.And that was the biggest "mall"(not a store,though!)that I had ever seen in my life before.Well,everything is BIG in New York,king-size,almost!
Finally,my eyes rested on that magical building with historical significance - the Empire State Building.My eyes narrowed when I saw that building.My heart was racing as usual.And I was hit hard by the sheer size and power of the imposing bit of architecture staring down at me.Once upon a time, before skyscrapers hit the other parts of the globe, this was the tallest building in the world.I just said, WOW ,to myself.
Following this poignant moment,we entered an underground station.I thought it was the famous New York subway,only to be corrected by Vali that it was a Path train station - one that connects NY and New Jersey.I got into the train with all my baggage and froze when the train entered a dark tunnel.It was pitch dark and the train was ripping at the rate of knots.I refused to believe what I was seeing. I mean, how in the wild world,can a train run with such pinpointed accuracy at such crazy speeds, underground,without an iota of light?Beyond my comprehension!The only 'light at the end of the tunnel', were at the stations.That's when I understood the whole mechanism, that the Path trains are not meant to disturb the traffic above,nor can they actually travel above the earth- one has to cross the Hudson river to get to Jersey city you see!That's where we got to eventually,and I liked the quiet and peace of Hoboken in New Jersey,where Vali and his roommate lived.