dancing beneath the diamond sky

And we'll dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free Silhouetted by the sea Circled by the circus sands With all memory & fate Driven deep beneath the waves Let me forget about today until tomorrow... Hey Mr Tambourine Man play a song for me...

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

1 Rava Dosai + 1 Business Plan: All in a Day's Work

Remember I was talking about going to Udipi Palace and feeling like an idiot because I wanted to eat *everything* on the menu ? Anyways, that day after the onion-rava-dosai we were just wandering about the city with no particular agenda when we thought...hey, its been a while since we grabbed some skyline action.

It struck me - the only time I actually look at the New York skyline is when I'm showing visitors around which is a pity, considering that it is, quite simply, one of the most beautiful man-made sights on this planet. What is amazing about the New York skyline is the number of different ways you can see it, the fact that it looks different from every view, and is always breathtaking. Here's a list of my favourite ways to see the silhouette of our amazing city glittering against the night sky.

1) Hop off the subway at Brooklyn Bridge, walk halfway across the bridge towards Queens. When you're halfway across, stop and turn and look at Manhattan. And just stare.

2) Take the 7 train going towards Queens, hop off at Vernon-Jackson Boulevard, and head straight for the pier jutting out into the river. The whole city is spread out in front of you in a brilliant panorama. It feels like you're in an IMAX theatre, except you're not.

3) Take the last ferry out to Staten Island. As the boat chugs away from Manhattan, the entire city comes into view slowly. That, and the water lapping gently at the boat, and the breeze in your hair.

4) Take the 7 train back from Queens into Manhattan. Somewhere close to the point where the subway track does that roller-coasterish bend, you catch a fleeting glimpse of the skyline, in between all the buildings. Its all the more fascinating because it lasts only for a fraction of a second.

5) The best thing about all these options is that they're free ! However, for anyone who insists on paying for the view, taking the elevator upto the top of the Empire State is always something you need to do atleast once while in New York. The view from the top - at night - is entrancing ; just make sure you dont get blown off by the wind !!!

So here's where the business plan comes into the picture - me and Sujata were wondering: is there a market for a tour that takes visitors around New York City and just shows them the skyline from a bunch of different places ? If anyone has any thoughts on that, let me know. After all, when you're in a PhD program, keeping alternative career options in the pipeline is always a smart thing to do. :)

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Sujata, the GOFER

(Warning: This post has High Food Content)

Guys, I am happy to tell you that there's been an abundance of good food in my life these days. ( dont sneeze : this is a big deal for a nutritionally-deprived grad student such as myself. ) So for those of you who wish to find out more about brilliant culinary options in NYC (and for those of you who just enjoy reading about food), read on.

Last Monday I ended up eating at the most unlikely of places: in a supermarket. I never thought I would actually come to that, but I did. However, this is no ordinary supermarket - this is the Whole Foods at Columbus Circle. (Deepakka: note. You can add one more loyalist to the Whole Foods brigade). Whereas Deepa is a die-hard Whole Foodsie and I myself have enjoyed, on more than one occasion, the juicy raisins and the to-die-for Concord Grape juice she buys for Swapna and Meghana (my adorable little nieces) from Whole Foods, I have to confess that I havent been to a Whole Foods anywhere in NYC till last week. There I made the astounding realization that they have an Indian hot food bar that sells ....hold your breath...Indian food BY THE POUND !!!! Now as all you grad students out there know, food-by-the-pound itself is the greatest invention since the instant coffee and low-fat Haagen-Dazs; but INDIAN Food-by-the-pound is just a whole new level of nirvana altogether.

I also ended up discovering this delightful little place near the 72nd Street subway station: a tiny hole-in-the-wall called "Beard Papa's Cream Puffs" . From what I was told, they sell something like 6,000 cream puffs every day in New York City. How come I hadnt managed to eat even one of these 6,000*10*30 (thats 6,000 cream puffs every day for each day of the last 10 months) cream puffs in all the ten months I've been in New York City, I asked myself in disbelief. Anyways, if you want to find out for yourself what the fuss is all about, just take yourself to 72nd Street and you'll know.

However, the weekend was just unparalleled in terms of gastronomic content. On Saturday I ended up going to that old staple Udipi Palace in Little India. Now these days, Indian restaurants make me feel imbecilic. I can never figure out what to order because I want to eat everything thats on the menu. After approximately half-an-hour spent in deep contemplation of the cosmic question of whether to eat rava dosai or adai or idli-vada-sambar, I settled for my staple fare of onion-rava. After finishing up at Udipi, we hopped straight to an eating establishment thats almost at the other end of the culinary spectrum, but no less attractive : Lalo's. Anyone who's been in NYC for a little while there and not gone to Lalo's - Do something about it, guys ! Is all I can tell you. ( Oh, and by the way: when you're there, you might care to remember some strategic scenes from "You've Got Mail" and think about why the place looks so familiar...)

And on Sunday it was time for Thai, again at the atmospheric "Village Ma's" on West 4th Street. There, I cleared up a week's worth of sinuses with a fiery green curry worthy even of my palate (thats known to be super-resistant to any level of spice.) After this, we decided it was time for a change of scene and ended up at this cooooozy little wine-and-crepes place a few blocks down the road (I cant remember the name!) and freaked out on a magnificent nutella-almond-whipped creme crepe that would have floored the most rigorous Francophile.

Anyways...coming back to the original point of this post: people, dont make the mistake of thinking this is what my eating routine looks like usually. In order to help you better appreciate my reasons for waxing poetic, let me give you an abbreviated description of my diet the last 2 semesters:

Fall 2004: Greasy Pizza-by-the-slice, from Pinnacle Deli. Occassionally supplemented with a side of Jalapeno Kettle Chips and sometimes a few garlic rolls.

Spring 2005: Onion bagels from Uris Deli with a (supposedly) vegetable cream cheese, the Chinese bun stuffed with red bean paste from Tea & Tea, Tropicana Orange Yogurt smoothie, and a bazillion cups of *really bad* free coffee from my department's coffee machine.

Before I wind up, my primary point: Let me formally acknowledge the role played by Sujata Narayanan in these culinary adventures. I state in writing that Sujata knows every good place to eat in New York City (well, almost.) And by the authority vested in me by the fact that I own this blog, I christen her The Great Almighty Finder of Restaurants, or GOFER.

Applause, please !

Monday, June 20, 2005

The Center of the Universe

Monday June 13th:

Myself, Sujata, Ashwini and Mai went to "Broadway under the Stars".

This was a free event at Bryant Park that happens only once a year, and they promised us snippets from all the smash Broadway musicals. Naive children that we were, we showed up half an hour ahead of the show ( 8:00 PM) and realized that there were already 15,000 people squeezed into Bryant Park and not one square inch of space left anywhere to park our asses. After some minutes of gawping at the crowd in sheer lack of comprehension, our old Indian street-smarts slowly awoke to life from some musty recesses of our brains ( Come on, girls! This was just 15,000 people ! There's that many people at most weddings back home :D) , and we managed to find a teeny little spot on the lawn to rest our tired backsides.

Even though I would hate to do something as mundane as remark on the weather, I could have sworn that Bryant Park was a furnace that day. Anyway, after keeping us waiting on the lawn for the lord-only-knows how long (whaddaya expect in a free show, I was asking myself), Christina Applegate came onto the stage (atleast, I think it was her. I couldnt really tell, because the stage was so far away) and said some pretty things and started the show off.

To be honest, the program wasnt that hot (even though Bryant Park was). Some guys who were, apparently (judging by the cheers from the crowd) very famous on the Broadway stage, came on and sang some songs. I was just about nodding off when the couple right next to us decided to call it a day and packed up. Thanks to them, we finally got to place more than half-a-bum each on the lawn and ended up stretching out nicely on the grass.

It was then that I really started enjoying myself. Not the show itself - that is ; but the atmosphere. I have to admit - there I was, in Bryant Park, on the lawn, on a balmy summer evening, watching a show that millions of people would only be watching on their TV sets a few weeks later, in the middle of the greatest city in the world, the city lights twinkling like jewels all around me, the midtown skyscrapers touching the sky all around, the Empire State soaring above them all,(dressed in Blue, Red and White that day), ...and I thought to myself, .."Wow. I'm really here."

..And then the last performer came on and started singing ole' Frank's evergreen classic "New York, New Yorkkkkkkkkkkkk !!!". And my cup was really full.

Nothing beats being a Noo Yawkah.

Summer's rolling, folks !

On Thursday, June 9th:

Myself, Ashwini, Mai, Gideon and Gideon's juice-bar friend went to "Shakespeare in the Park".

My predominant emotion was sheer wonder: How could so much of time passed that I was already attending my 2nd summer of Shakespeare in Central Park ? I still feel like a shiny, newly-minted New Yorker. I know this sounds trite, but it seemed like just a couple of weeks ago that we went to our very first "running play" and trooped around (making a valiant attempt not to appear shocked) when players in 17th-century costume actually made us run all over the park !!! However, to be rigorous - this is my first "Shakespeare" in Central Park, considering that last year's play was "The Feigned Courtesans" by Aphra Behn. It was funny no doubt, but also bewildering, and I well remember a bunch of us having ernest, whispered conferences over the printed abstract in the program, trying very hard to figure out what the hell was going on. (I also remember being completely bowled over by the performance, graciously donating 10 bucks to the NY Classical Theatre after the show like a great patron of the arts, going to a Mexican restaurant afterward, and realizing that those had been the last 10 bucks in my wallet. Sounds familiar, anyone ?)

Anyway, back to "As You Like It". This play is so close to my heart, because this was the exact same play we had to read over 2 years of high school. Prejudiced I may be, but for sheer poetry of language, "As You Like It" is matchless, even amongst Shakespeare's other plays. Even though I seem to have conveniently forgotten Integration by Parts & Polynomial long-division (and lots of other stuff that I really need to remember), I find it hard to forget "As You Like It".

"Oh, what passion hangs these weights upon my tongue... ?"

"Sweet are the uses of adversity..."

"All the worlds' a stage, and all its men and women, merely players.."

"So, whats the news at the new court ?..." (this one's for Ashwini !!!)

And finally, but of course, ...

"Who ever loved...that loved not at first sight ???"