Day 114: The cold

edit: I wrote this post about a week ago but I never made it public it because I didn’t like it and it seemed incomplete. I’m posting it now because I have to either make it public or delete it otherwise it’ll just get forgotten about and lose its relevance and be as good as deleted.

Dear Bombay,

It’s been a while since I wrote anything, but since I’m way over my annual average of four posts this year this is nothing to worry about. I decided in advance that I won’t use the word “bored” in the blog post at all. If you’ve been listening to me for long enough you’ll know that I use this word too much and it’s too mild a word for what I feel at the moment. To begin with, I will tell you about the cold. It snowed yesterday and New York City looks very pretty when it snows. Snow is quite awesome. The only problem with snow is that it requires the temperature to be below zero. The cold isn’t anything more than inconvenient and I guess after spending a winter or two here you’d get used to it, but it’s pretty damn inconvenient. When I first step outside with my sweatshirt and jacket and gloves and skull cap on, it doesn’t seem so bad. Then in the next 5-15 seconds, depending on how windy it is, my clothes lose most of the heat they’re holding and I realise it’s cold. Then for the next minute or two my body tries to maintain it’s temperature even on non-vital parts and I realise that it’s fucking cold. About half way through this my eyes will water a little, again if it’s windy enough. After that, my body gives up on heating non vital parts, which are mostly on my face because every other part of me is covered up. After about 5 minutes more I won’t really feel cold anymore but my nose might run a little. After that, I’ll start slurring in my speech just like as if I was drunk because most of my face is numb. After that, it’s all the same as long as I’m on my feet. I can’t imagine what would happen if I sat down for long enough outside. It’s not really considered an option.

So you see, the cold’s an inconvenience. It makes going outside uninviting. And staying indoors for too long, I’ve already told you how that’s not good for me at all. You know how if you don’t do any physical activity for long enough you feel fat and lazy? Well, my mind feels fat and lazy right now. New York gets only around 9 hours of daylight this time of the year and I pretty much spend all of those 9 hours rotting in office. As a consequence, my mind feels fat, lazy and rotten. So much so that it might just burst out of my head.

Update: I’m kinda used to the cold now but the thing about New York is that right from the end of September it gets 5 degrees Celsius colder every two weeks or so, which is just about as long as it takes me to get used to how cold it is. But it’s 0 degrees today and I just went down for a smoke and I felt like I was wearing too much clothing. My mind doesn’t feel as rotten anymore because I spent all day playing around with the major, minor pentatonic and blues scales on the guitar. I’ve had a guitar lying around for 6 years now but I didn’t know any scale other than the minor pentatonic before this week.

Day 90: Thirteen-twenty-firsts

Dear Bombay,

You’re probably wondering what thirteen-twenty-firsts means. Yes, it means that I’m done with thirteen of twenty-one parts of my stay in New York. Now you’re probably wondering why it’s thirteen-twenty-firsts when it should be thirteen-twelfths. My stay here’s been extended. I was supposed to be back last week, but as you can see, I’m not. My flight back is now booked for the 8th of January, and that brings up the total time that I’ll stay here to 21 weeks. 147 days. To tell you the truth I’m starting to get bored again. Now that it’s sunk in that I’m not coming back anymore, there’s no separation anxiety, there’s no rush to do all those things that I wanted to do before I leave here and I find that I’m doing the same things week after week. Things like bar-hopping till 4am and 1 liter glasses of beer have lost their novelty. To add to all this, it’s getting cold. The cold isn’t really a problem once I’ve got out of the house, it just makes it harder to actually get out. And the sun sets by 4:30. Winters here can be depressing. I see now how people miss the sun and why they write songs about how sunshine on their shoulders makes them happy. You get too much sun Bombay, you can only imagine. I haven’t been out in the sun for more than half an hour at a stretch for over a week now. I also see now why they have so many holidays in the winter and put so much effort into being cheerful. You need the people to be warm and bright when the city’s dark and cold.

I’ve got myself into a routine again. I’ve been here long enough to know where I can satiate my food cravings in which parts of town and where I can go for a walk and where I can go drink on a Friday night. The problem with this is that I’ll go to the same few places for lunch and the same few places for cheesecake and the same few places to chill. Enter boredom. All this while I was living like I had only three months here and I had to fit in as much as I could in those three months and now suddenly I have two months more and I don’t know what to do with that time. I plan a lot, I usually have plans and back up plans and back ups for the back up plans. So, naturally I had planned on how to keep myself busy for three months. New York’s still a big big city and I haven’t even seen half of all that I’d be interested in seeing but I’m to lazy to find these things because I can always just do what I’ve been doing so far. You see, I’m good at finding certain things like where you’ll get the best live music and who’s playing where in New York City or where you’ll get the cheapest beer and the largest glass of beer or where you’ll find the best cheesecake but I’m not good at finding good theater shows and museums and art exhibitions and sales. I would still love to go to these things, I just won’t end up finding them. And I don’t have the privilege of having friends who can find these things and drag me there. So I’m going to ask you to do me a favour. By you I mean everyone reading this. I haven’t ever asked you for anything but now I’m asking each one of you to find me at least one thing that I should do or go see in New York because most of you will find something that I won’t. And I, will go do whatever you ask me to do and then tell you about it. Just don’t tell me to do something obvious like going to the top of the Empire State Building or something. Also try not to give me stuff that’ll cost more than $20.

Now I’m gonna go sleep because I really haven’t slept much. Goodnight.

Day 25: Summer’s end

Dear Bombay,

Summer in New York is over. This means that the highs rarely go above 25°C and the lows have hit 14°C so far. And it’s only going to get colder. Summer’s end here means that the days get significantly shorter. The sun which used to set at 7:30 will probably set by 5 before I leave here. It means that all the short skirts and really short shorts don’t show up on the streets anymore. It means the trees actually lose their leaves. It means that winds blow hard enough to make your ears freeze. It means that waking up in the morning gets harder and getting out of a centrally heated building uninviting. It also means that alcohol will go well with the weather, it’s about time I bought a bottle of whiskey home. I haven’t done this before because I have two roommates who don’t drink.

Just today I discovered that I can search for all the concerts happening in the New York tri-state area on ticketmaster and I drove myself crazy. Flyleaf and Story Of The Year are playing on Tuesday in a town named Sayreville while Linkin Park is playing at Times Square. I still don’t know which of these I’m going for, if any. Then there’s also Nickelback, The Gorillaz, Porcupine Tree, Belle and sebastian, Disturbed, and countless more that I can’t remember off the top of my head right now. I have 2 months more here Bombay, and one month is almost done. I would like to chose this moment to tell you that I miss you. Not too much, just a little bit. I don’t miss your food, there’s plenty of good food here. I just get nostalgic when I think of the little details, like what the rain there smells like, or what it feels like to drive to Bandra on a Saturday afternoon. I don’t miss your people as a whole, I can get along with people here. I miss my people though. There’s always the internet, and there’s always cheap enough telephone calls but the difference in timezones gets in the way more that I thought it would. What I really miss is having someone’s house to go over to and do nothing when I’m bored. I don’t know anyone well enough here to do that. As I already told you, making friends is a long process.

I bought a Fender 140SCE from the Guitar Center, and it sounds really nice. I haven’t been able to make any real music with it yet. I can’t wait to get back and plug it into an amp and play it with the rest of The Cheeselings though. Tomorrow’s a Friday and what I really want to do after work is go to a coffee shop or a park or even sit in a subway train here and get some serious writing done. Lets see how it goes. Goodnight old friend.

Day 3: Honeymoon period

Hello again.

This is not going to be that much awaited long elaborate blog post with pictures and videos either. This may be just long and elaborate, but that depends entirely on how fast I write and how soon I begin feeling sleepy. It’s already 11:09pm. When I was in AIESEC , which is a student organisation that among other things sends young people on internships in other countries, we would tell those about to go on an internship all about cultural sensitivity and the culture shock they are about to face. The first few weeks on going to a new place was called the ‘Honeymoon period’, for obvious reasons. It’s after this honeymoon period that the nostalgia and culture shock begins to get to you. Now you know what the title means.

The first thing I thought as I approached the gates of the Newark Airport was, “Man, those cars are moving fast.” And if you’re coming from a place like India, you will probably think the same thing too. Because these roads are wide and organised and porthole-free and cars here can go that fast. It seems a little unreal at first, as if you’re walking into a movie or something. And not only are these cars fast, these cars are BIG. They don’t need to be small because they don’t need to fit into small parking spaces and they don’t need to maneuver skilfully between traffic and well, they’re cheap. Everybody here speaks English. This may seem trivial to you, but I can actually communicate with people here with a little more ease than people in India. Not people in Bombay of course, because I’ve lived there for too damn long and I have too many cultural similarities with everyone there. Even the watchmen and the rikshaw drivers. But take my office for example; I can talk to people here far more easily than I could with people in Thane. Mostly because the Thane people have Hindi as their first language. I can make conversations here with people more easily. There’s nobody here who’s close to my age but oh, well. Just today I had a conversation about why people here are filing for bankruptcy and why they’re doing it and what kind of people are doing it. I don’t plan to tell you about this but if you’re really curious you should google it. It was on the news today so I’m guessing it won’t be hard to find.

Next, I’m going to give you a tip for if you ever come to the US. Don’t convert dollars to rupees. Yes, it seems very simple and I never thought I would do it when everyone told me so. But honestly, you can’t help it. You want to know if you’re paying too much or too little, if you’re saving enough, if you have enough money to make it through the month and rupees are the only currency you understand. You will do this for a couple of days at the least, but you need to stop doing it before you can start enjoying this place. Just as I got to the airport, I paid $5 for a trolley at the airport and $48 for a 15 minute cab ride and $2 as a tip to the cab driver who didn’t even try to offer me my change. Did you convert that? An average meal here costs $8. A chocolate bar costs 75 cents. Again, do not convert this into rupees.

New York, is a beautiful city. Now Bombay, don’t take offense to this. We all know that beautiful is something you’re not. Let me begin with the roads. They have sidewalks that are wide enough for 6 people to walk side by side comfortably on both sides of the road. Some of the main Avenues have special lanes for cyclists. There are short steel railing bits every now and then for people to lock their bicycles on to. Traffic is organised. Only people in the right lane make right turns, and people in the right lane make only right turns. People cross only at intersections and (mostly) only when the signals tell them to cross. Now this may not sound all that good, but it’s the only way to manage so many people in a city so big. I think I’ve heard 3 car horns per day on an average since I’ve been here. There are signs on some streets that say “No Horn Honking. $350 Fine.” Convert that. Every car waiting for a signal makes it through when the light goes green as far as I’ve seen. The roads are clean, the roads are spotless. There are garbage bins every 20 feet. The roads are straight ! This, again, may not seem like much. But now imagine, in a city where buildings are a few hundred times as tall as you to be able to look in a direction and be able to see as far as light can carry. Though the buildings here are much taller, this city is nowhere as claustrophobic as you Bombay. The buildings here, are wonderful, they’re creative, they’re unique. And of course, some of them are ugly, but some of them are brilliant. Some of them look as if the architect was out his mind when he decided to make a building so thin and tall. The air here is clean. And I mean it’s not dusty. No dust. You could spend all day outside and not be covered in a layer of grime, even if it’s a hot day. People here seem to smell of sweat more though. Why, I haven’t been able to figure out.

I’m going to sleep now, but I will complete this post tomorrow. I still have a lot to talk about. Goodnight love.

Dear Bombay

Context: I’m going to be in New York for the next 3 months. I wrote this on the flight on the way here. A lot has happened since, but for now I’m dead tired, and I really should sleep so I can get to work tomorrow morning.


Dear Bombay,

I’m leaving you for three months now and this is the longest I’ve ever been away from you. It’s true, that one must explore and not stagnate, but you’re just so damn convenient and comfortable. Besides, you’re the only city I’ve known. As I grow older I find it harder to leave your comfort, which is why I must go now. I know you understand. After all, you will be able to comprehend much more than I can imagine, being a city as big as you are. I will miss you. I will miss your people, I will miss their attitudes, I will miss your weather. Oh, how I’ll miss those rainy days. You shouldn’t miss me, you have far greater things to worry about. Or maybe you will, who knows.

There’s a map on the screen in front of my seat. The white outline of the plane moves further from the dot labeled “Mumbai” with every word I type, at almost 1000 kilometers per hour. 83% the speed of sound, the pilot says. I never liked the name Mumbai much. You will always be Bombay to me. I’m flying over Karachi right now. What I want you to know is that this is not about you, this is about me. I’ll come back different, and you’ll be just the same. Who knows, I might even like New York more. No, that cannot happen in three months, but this is only the beginning. You see, I can only live about 50 more years. In another 6 or 7, my body won’t be able to do all that it can now. This is a lot of time in my opinion. Whether you think this much time is enough depends entirely on what you think you need to do in this much time. I don’t think I need to do as much as most others. but I still have a lot to do. And to do all these things, I can’t sit around in one place. Take this letter for example; it would never be written if I was sleeping under your warm blanket tonight. Take all those songs I wrote in the recent past; they wouldn’t have been born if you weren’t at least an arm’s length away. And as much as I complain about Thane, I know that it helped me find me. And it’s also true that you would rejoice with an entire day of rainfall if you knew how much of you I found inside me.

Nobody’s as big a part of me Bombay, nobody. You’re etched under my skin, you’re a part of my heart, you’re deeper in my head than I know. If I really think about it, at the times that I’m happiest I’m always doing or seeing or feeling something that has to do with you, something that has to do with something we did when I was young, or something that has to do with what I see when I look at you. That may not have made sense to a lot of people, but I know you understand.

I have to find more of me now, I have to make more of me. I also have to make a lot of some thing that is more than me. I have to make , Bombay, I need to create. Whether it’s my own future or yours or whole other worlds. It’s all that really matters right now. What I find and what I create. I hope you know what it feels like.

And so I must go. I’ll always come back, you know. Of course you know. You’re something like the first girl I ever fell in love with, I’ll always have a place in my heart for you. You’re home. In the end we both know that I’m going to come back to you. And we always know where I can come to find myself for every time that I lose myself out there. Here’s to new things, new places and new people. Here’s to new situations, new sights, and new sounds. Here’s to Novelty. Here’s to me.

I’ll be back, 86 days from now, and oh, the stories I’ll have to tell. I know this will have its ups and downs but lets just hope that things don’t get too bad. I don’t know what I want, but can I tell you a secret? I don’t think anybody does. And the ones that think they know exactly what they want don’t even know what’s out there. The day they find out, they’ll be shocked my old friend, they’ll be awe struck. It’s very easy writing a letter to you, you know. It feels almost like I’m actually writing to a friend I’ve known for all my life. Anyway, I should probably get some sleep now. This whole thing with time zones and indirect flights isn’t easy to get the hang of, so I don’t know how much sleep I’ll be able to get. Wish me luck.

Good night.