Monday, 1 June 2015




The trips begins with a little blunder in the form of two two cabs arriving at 4.15 AM to pick us and drop at Princeton Railway Station. The train to New York is at 5.10 AM. Actually, Yasmin had booked the cab on Monday. She forgot to save the cab's number and when trying to verify the booking, she booked another cab on Friday evening. Now, when we come out to take the cab, we find two cabs waiting for us. The first one is the same person who had dropped us home from Hong Kong Market, East Brunswick, last Sunday. Yasmin does not argue and realising her mistake pays extra 20 dollars to him without using his cab service. She later, in the cab, explains to me that she did want the cab driver to suffer on her account, he was up at 4.00 AM to pick her up and not paying his due would be doing a disgrace to the self respect of a hard working fellow. Moreover, she did not to spoil the whole day for 20 dollars. How nice of her to shoo away the blunder in such a good way. I appreciate her.

I find everything easier here than India, right from taking the ticket from the ticket kiosk to boarding the train. The trains usually run on time except in winter during snowfall. The platform is clean and quiet. There are only a few passengers. There is an announcement for the passengers destined for New York City to move to the far end of the platform and board the train from the lower end. I can't understand. We move to the lower end but the gate is closed. The train arrives and two ticket checkers alight and unlock the gate. The passengers get down the stairs and from the lower platform, they board the train. Something new to observe and learn! The Ticket checkers are very fast in their work.

The train is very neat and clean. It is double-decked. The seats are two in a row, two on the left and two on the right. At the very entrance, there is a space for the wheel chaired passengers and the senior citizens. The physically disabled and the old folk are looked after well here. People see to it that they may not have any kind of discomfort and are always ready to extend their help to them whenever needed. The train moves without any jerk. The train number, station-stoppage, next station keep displaying on the digital screen and a computerized voice keeps announcing. We have this facility in India only in Metro trains. There is no crowd inside the chair car. Everyone is seated.

The train stops at New Brunswick, Edison, Metuchen, Elizabeth, Metro Park, Linden, Newark International Airport, Newark Penn station, Secaucus and then we are inside a long tunnel which ends at New York station. It takes only 65 minutes to cover 54 miles. Hmm...this is New York...the much heard and much read New York City. Even the railway station is like an international airport, abuzz with moving crowd, elevators, escalators, branded shops, eateries, subways... I, from a small, developing and over-populated country, feel lost here.

The policeman outside the station points out the direction from where to get a cab. There's a provision in the cab to pay through card-swipe. A mini television installed on the back of the front seat is telecasting the news headlines. A glass with a small window in the middle separates the driver/front seat from the passenger's seat. Through the busy, broad streets of the New York City, the yellow cab takes us to the China Town, 88, Bowery Street.

It is still early and other tourists have not arrived yet, not even our tourist guide. The shops have the shutter down. However, we locate  a few Chinese Bakery and go there. They are selling breads, buns, croissants, cakes, tea and coffee and other beverages. Never have I seen in my life so many varieties of breads and buns. They look so yummy. I want to taste them all but knowing the limit of my appetite and capacity of my stomach, settle down with an almond bun with tea and Yasmin with croissants. They taste good.

We come back to the Bus stop at Bowery Street, The Tourist guide is there. Her name is            , not a student this time, but a working mother in her mid age, who says with a smile that she wants to have a burger at Mac Donald's rather at the Restaurant at the riverside because the burgers cost two-three dollars at MacD whereas nine dollars at Hudson side restaurant. I like her for her affectionate smile, her gentle ways, her devotion for her work and family and for us, her caring attitude for me when she extends her hand to support me when I am getting down the bus, her getting down the bus and going after to look for the passenger who has not come at the supposed time.
 New York is just a hub of tall, taller, tallest buildings and tall that you have to take a lot many steps to move back and keep tilting your head back till there's all possibility of getting a somersault, to get the complete view of the zenith of the tower or building. I wonder how do they make such tall buildings or towers. The scene of September Crash 2011 flashes in my mind and I just shudder at the very imagination of the tower crumbling down and people running in panic here and there finding no place safer to move.

We visit the Wall street famous for the World Stock Exchange, The Federal Hall where George Washington had taken his oath as President, The Wall Street Bull. We then take a cruise ride in Hudson and see the Statue of Liberty, The ride takes one hour but quite different from that of the Thousand Islands where we see nature in its most beautiful form and around The Hudson river, we see man's pride, glory, achievements at its zenith.

There are parks, jogging and cycling tracks, water sports and other indoor sports auditoriums for recreation and fun running parallel along the Hudson river. It being a sunny weekend, there is a huge crowd of people out there on the dock and everywhere. Really Americans know how to live king size. They work hard to earn such living. They are not dreamers but performers whether in sports, in business, in IT sectors or any thing else. I see a woman in her sixties running in shorts on the jogging track.

We sit on the wooden bench and have our lunch there. There are a few Indian families too. Otherwise, there are mostly Chinese, Americans or Spanish.

We come to the Times Square Streets of New York. There's the Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum. WE are not interested in visiting it but are quite amused to see people posing for photographs with great personalities and celebrities. It's nice to wander on the streets, music is in the air, my steps on the beat, doing a little bit of window shopping, eating Italian Pesto Pasta.  No one looks poor or impoverished. Even the rickshaw puller looks happy and sufficiently dressed. People, esp. women and babies are so beautiful! I remember the lines"A little misery is good for the soul." and feel intrigued here. Misery should be in appropriate amount in one's life to do goodness to one's soul. Too much or too less imbalances the act of goodness...huh, unable to see through this philosophical quote.

We come to one of the tallest buildings of the world- The Empire State' building, a 102- story skyscraper in Midtown Manhattan. We have to undergo the security check to gain entry to it. There are 102 floors. The elevator knows only the multiple of ten and it carries us speedily to the 86th floor which showcases the history, the builders, the work, the years to build it. The construction started in 1929 and it took only one year and forty five days to complete it. It is 1,250 feet high up to the top floor, excluding the height of the antennae which is 204 feet high. Amazing indeed! There are two observatories- on 86th and 102nd floor. We get the bird's eye view of the New York city from the 86th floor. The city, a huge concrete mass around Hudson river, glares back at me in the dazzling sun shine. I compare it to green and quiet Plainsboro of New Jersey and the lines by Duncan Campbell Scott rings like a sweet music to my ears-
     "There is rain upon the window,
       There is wind upon the tree;
       The rain is slowly sobbing,
       The wind is blowing free."

There happens another blunder when the tour is about to end. The Empire State Building is near to New York Pennsylvania station. But, since we don't know this, we come back to the China Town by bus. There, we ask our tourist guide about getting a cab for way back to railway station. She feels so sorry for us telling that we had better stayed at Empire State instead of coming here as the place is near to the station. Our jaws drop down thinking of taking a cab and spending 15 dollars for our foolishness. We wait for a taxi. Just then, a bus stops there. We ask the bus driver about the route to station. He tells us to reach the 34th street and from there, to walk to 7th Avenue. The address gets muddled up in our tired mind but we move on with unsure steps which is somewhat guessed bu the driver who honks the horn to attract our attention. we come back and he asks us to board the bus. Yasmin says that she does not have the change. But, he is a kind man who nods his head and again asks us to sit in the bus. We feel greatly relieved and immensely thankful to him for his act of goodness. We sit there while he drives and stops at every stoppage for the passengers to board and alight, gets up from his seat every time to fasten the belt of wheel-chaired passengers. I keep on observing his little yet so sincere acts of goodness. A scene from the past flashes across my mind-"A young woman, with her one year old baby, boards a bus in New Delhi. She has to stand all way long with the her baby in her arms but no one offers her a seat. It is too difficult for her to hold the baby in one of her arms and support herself from falling with another arm...but nobody ever rose to offer her a seat."

We come back by the evening train. I feel nice to be back to this quiet little town 'Plainsboro' of New Jersey. I will remember long the goodness of one soul 'the City Bus Driver' who helped us in finding our way back to station without asking for the bus fare in a foreign land.

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