Tales of NYC
Times Square, New York City, Photo: Internet
Dark clouds engulfed the fine morning sky of Washington DC when I was catching the New York bound bus on December 12, 2010. After having attended a stuffy Fulbright conference at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in DC, I impulsively decided to make a jaunt to New York City to spend some days with my student Aiman. When I got off the 'Mega Bus' on 7th avenue near the Madison Square, the sun was already down and the whole city looked like a large crystal chandelier. Excited and worried, I was waiting for Aiman to receive me. Suddenly I saw him wave his hands from the other side of the street and we were very happy to see each other. He took me to his apartment in Brooklyn, one of the five boroughs of the New York State at a twenty-minute distance from Manhattan by the subway train. For three days, we explored significant points in the city, the centre of America's excellences in the freezing cold. This trip was an eye opener for me as I came across a bizarre life that most of the Bangladeshi immigrants bear in New York.
According to Aiman, “The night in New York is more awake and vibrating than the day. Some earn money here; some spend.” At his apartment, I met an elderly person who we referred to as Zaman Uncle. He took me cordially and we exchanged views on different topics. “I came here seventeen years ago,” he said with a sigh. “I haven't returned home ever since.” He had left home as a seaman and traveled all the way to New York floating like a raft from shore to shore. He took the photo frame from the wall and showed me the picture of his wife, children and grand children in it. “This is my daughter,” he said. “I left her when she was in class three. Now she is a mother of two toddlers.” When asked why he did not go home he confessed that he could not manage the legal documents till now and there was no possibility of it any more. “I would either die here or surrender to the police and then pass an uncertain time in the prison. But I fear death as I have been suffering from some serious diseases.”
The following day we ate lunch out at Gharoa, a Bengali restaurant in Brooklyn. I was delighted to find so many speaking my language and eating the sumptuous Bengali dishes. However, we ordered for plain rice, vegetables, fish curry with jack fruit seeds, and fried chandpuri hilsa. For the first time in the United States I ate like a horse savoring every mouthful.
We took two days to explore the monumental sites of Manhattan. Javed Akhter of Chittagong University was out with us in the shuddering cold. We visited the United Nations Head Quarters where the world leaders meet and decide the world's destiny, the Empire State Building the tallest building in the city, the Statue of Liberty- the replica of America's liberty, John F Kennedy International Airport-the busiest airport of the world, the Times Square- known as 'The Crossroads of the World' and one of the world's busiest pedestrian intersections that exposes its exquisite beauty on December 31st each year. We also visited the Twin Tower site, now Ground Zero that still bears the testimony of the apocalyptic demolition of the nine-eleven.
I rose early from bed on December 16 and took the Washington bound bus on time. It started moving towards the Lincoln's tunnel beneath the Hudson River. I was musing over the stories that I had heard and visualising many other faces that might have different tales to tell. When the bus came out of the dark alley of the tunnel it was snowing and the morning sun was glittering on the snowdrifts.
(The writer teaches English at Chittagong University and is now studying at the University of Texas at Austin, USA.)