A New York state of mind

Published: May 16, 2014
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One cannot help falling in love with this impossibly grand monument to human achievement and skill.

Walking along Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, New York City, can be an exhilarating experience. Imposing architectural wonders staring down at you on all sides, the throbbing, pulsating and electrifying pace of city life can be, overwhelming to say the least. Yet one cannot help falling in love with this impossibly grand monument to human achievement and skill.

The grandeur of the city hits you even before you land on the historic JFK Airport as you get the bird’s eye view of this extremely modern city from the plane window. Once out of the plane, you encounter the thoroughly organised discipline of the airport staff and you begin to harbour an element of respect for the nation you are dealing with. Even though the immigration officer rummaged through my luggage, smiled apologetically and said ruefully,

“For that one person who blows himself up, we put decent people like you through this!”

Apology accepted and no damage sustained to the ego.

I had my reservations when I first landed in the US because there was the sadness of leaving my home, friends and family, and beloved Lahore and I was sure that nothing could ever take its place.

I was wrong, of course.

New York City has a personality of its own.

5th Avenue, Manhattan. Photo: Saira Khan

Slowly, it nestles into a corner of your heart and grows on you. You feel it and sense its presence all around you – in its boroughs, buildings, parks, museums, theatres, crowds, taxis, food, cafes and even seasons.

Photo: Saira Khan

The achingly beautiful autumn is poetic to say the least, the trees all over the city change colour becoming various shades of orange, rust, lime, red, magenta, ochre, and yellow. It enthrals and captivates you. The red ones seem to bleed from the heartache of impending winter.

Photo: Saira Khan

Central Park is the place to be during this time, as I was lucky enough to be. My workplace was very close to the south side of the park so often on my way home I’d grab a cup of coffee and a double chocolate brownie from a nearby Starbucks, and steal an hour or so of profound peace and beauty near the famous Bethesda Terrace Lake.

Photo: Saira Khan

A horse-drawn carriage ride around the park while you eat is definitely a worthwhile experience. Numerous roadside cafes and restaurants romantically tucked away into obscure corners cater to every palate and pocket, be it from any corner of the world.

Photo: Saira Khan

The racial and cultural diversity complimented by a high tolerance level is almost endearing.

When the owner of a gift shop on Seventh Avenue lets you go without charging anything (because you work in the building nearby and bought postcards worth less than the amount required for a card payment) with a sweet smile and insists,

“You can take it as a gift, Hon’!”

You are charmed.

Even when the Indian student in your class brings you Bombay Biryani, just because you are a Pakistani and shares the same culinary background as you, it brings a smile to your lips. Or how about when you are at a party, the only other guy looking for vegetarian and fruit servings apart from yourself, is your handsome colleague and upon enquiry as to why he shares this pastime with you, he replies innocently,

“Because I’m a Jew!

You are stumped.

Or when the man behind the counter at a restaurant tells you that whatever you’ve chosen is not ‘halal’ even though you never mentioned you were a Muslim (he assumed I was an Arab), you feel touched.

I think I fell in love with the city and its people there and then.

Saira Khan.

Saira Khan.

An ESL Instructor with a passion for literature and exploring and pondering truths about life. She is based in New York City with frequent visits to her hometown Lahore.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=8559594100366660134#allposts Supriya Arcot

    Once you are out of your ‘comfort zone ‘ , then life begins. …Recommend

  • TheAverageMoe

    We need a city like that in pakistan.Recommend

  • http://batman-news.com Ali

    good read, little self-centredRecommend

  • shah

    who cares about this person’s travelogue ?Recommend

  • Manhattanite

    Excellent article. Smooth and easy.Recommend

  • Heer

    NYC babe!
    Loved it!Recommend

  • Jerry Joel

    I dont think so.. have you been outside of manhattan? like in queens and brooklyn? the roads of newyork are disgusting…times square is busy as hell… but i have to agree that this city has its own charm…Recommend

  • Anonymouse

    Well it was supposed to be, it’s her experience in New York.Recommend

  • Alcatraz

    Just wasted 5 minutes by reading thisRecommend

  • ahmad

    Good reading.Recommend

  • Parvez

    ….sho you navar came Multan ?Recommend

  • Gappi

    New York has only 5th avenue, central park and times square. If you want to enjoy 21st century architecture, most modern clean the biggest and the tallest and 180 nationalities living in one city, come to dubai.Recommend

  • Zahra

    Its good to look at the brighter side of life too…we are all living in our reality and struggling at some level so what if a few words are written in praise of something. Don’t grudge others that!Recommend

  • Fahad Z

    Strange that you chose to compare the elegant NYC with gaudy Dubai. Just shows you have never been there!Recommend

  • Nemo2

    Wow, you could have achieved so much in those 5 minutes! Be careful next time.Recommend

  • Manhattanite

    It is suppose to be busy. It is a destination city. Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens,
    Long Island, Jamaica [area near Brooklyn] have their own lure. The roads
    are what they should be. When 8.3 million people are walking, driving, riding and everything in between….on them.[.er..not counting the snow].
    You very likely live in Paducah,.. KY. or some such hollow.Recommend

  • Gappi

    I have been to NYC many times and i prefer modern and clean Dubai over NYC. You have a problem with that? I have met many in NYC who dream to live in Dubai.Recommend

  • kafir

    where is that gora ?Recommend

  • Fahad Z

    True n well said!Recommend

  • Nobody

    Apparently you do enough to click on the link and write a comment. :)
    Cheers.Recommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    “self centered” ? So according to you she shud talk abt HER experience in NY and NOT about what she felt.
    /facepalmRecommend

  • Zohaib

    Interesting thoughts, enjoyed it!Recommend

  • Zohaib

    Would love to go there after reading thisRecommend

  • Fahad Z

    Well stay in your blessed Dubai then and take others who dream of it with you.Recommend

  • Nemo2

    No place in the world is perfect man! She is only praising some parts why are you so worked up about it!Recommend

  • FakirK

    True and well said!Recommend

  • Sophiya

    Interesting . Love the pictures!Recommend

  • Zahra

    Interesting! Enjoyed itRecommend

  • Anonymous

    Absolutely amazing! Its so personal and it makes you feel as if you’re actually there and you’re experiencing all of it yourself. Recommend

  • Zahra K

    True…well said!Recommend

  • Fahad Z

    Well you can stay in your beloved Dubai and take all who dream of it with you for all I care…and you seem to have a problem with everything not me.Recommend

  • Jeffrey

    How strange to say NY only has 5th Ave, Central Park and Times Sq. Just shows your ignorance!Recommend

  • Zara Malik

    I’m pretty sure this article was about NYC not the state of New YorkRecommend

  • unbelievable

    Nice blog. I think that people who come from large cities tend to love NYC and those who come from smaller ones find it a bit overwhelming.Recommend

  • RamonP

    Interesting and well written!Recommend

  • Fahad Z

    Strange preference indeed…your name says it all.Recommend

  • Fahad Z

    True and well saidRecommend

  • Zaynab

    Interesting and well written.Recommend

  • Dante

    It appears that you haven’t seen any city other than Lahore and New York.

    That’s a pity. Wait until you explore the wonders within the heart of Europe or East Asia (Tokyo, Seoul). Or event west coast of America.Recommend

  • Gappi

    Whenever you come out of your strangedom do visit Dubai. Only Dubai Mall seems bigger and more exciting than Manhattan.Recommend

  • Anushe Noor Faheem

    Nice expression!! Well let’s all dream to be in New York City!! Recommend

  • Anushe Noor Faheem

    Well this article became a relief from the daily issues and troubles!!Recommend

  • Anushe Noor Faheem

    Well dreamers do!!! Hahaha…..Recommend

  • Gappi

    Oh yes it has 19 century Empire State Bldg as well which is no way close to grandeur of 21 century Burj KhalifaRecommend

  • Gappi

    I am going to New York next month as my in laws live there but i love to live in Dubai, the cleanest and most modern city. Last time i stayed in Marriot in Long Island and the swimming pool water was so dirty.Recommend

  • Fahad Z

    No please dont go to NY now that you have been so nasty about it, stay in your precious Dubai forever and praise it till you run out of words,Recommend

  • Nemo2

    dont know about the writer but I’ve been to a lot of places and Tokyo and Seoul are nothing much to write about…yes Italy and Spain sure are.Recommend

  • Sherry J

    Dubai is too nouveau riche and ostentatious. They have copied ideas from everywhere and just spent more money on everything…it lacks the character of old ageing cities with history and culture. I guess you are over obsessed with Dubai you should broaden your vision about the world. Recommend

  • Zoha Q

    A charming piece, welcome change from the usual stuff.Recommend

  • Jehan

    Just because someone writes about her experiences of a city doesn’t necessarily mean she hasn’t been anywhere else. She just chooses to write about something she felt deeply about. Some people don’t like to brag like you.Recommend

  • Dr Osman

    Dubai is ostentatious and so nouveau riche, a lot of money spent on a lot of buildings doesn’t give them the charm and grace of old cities with culture and history. You need to broaden your vision of what is worthy.Recommend

  • Zeba

    Burj Khalifa has structure and view but not grandeur certainly.Recommend

  • SuperSurfer

    Ha! what nonsense, Dubai Mall seems more exciting to you?? Grow up, man!Recommend

  • Cindy

    Yeah grow up!Recommend

  • Laren

    OMG what a shame…you should have screamed in pain and run back to dear old CLEAN Dubai…hahahaRecommend

  • Gappi

    I have to go once during my daughters summer vacation. I am bored to see those 18 century old haunted buildings of Manhattan once again. Only times square is a lively place over there.Recommend

  • Jenny

    Someone who is just impressed with Dubai and its malls just shows lack of taste…Recommend

  • Gappi

    In Dubai i feel like “Alice in wonderland”, everything so brand new and shining and changing with time as compared to same old damped, cramped Manhattan. To get a tooth brush i had to drive miles and miles in Long Island.Recommend

  • Louis

    You assume that she hasn’t. Maybe she doesn’t want to write about others. Why don’t you write something creative for a change instead of just bragging!Recommend

  • Gappi

    As a matter of fact all you guys are JEALOUS and frightened with the progress and prosperity of Dubai/ UAE.

    “it lacks the character of old ageing cities with history and culture”

    What an illiterate logic. New York was also NEW at some point of History. Today it is Dubai. Would you prefer to live in old building or new?Recommend

  • Ayesha shabbir

    Beautifully written just loved it….Recommend

  • maryam

    Good work, enjoyed it.Recommend

  • sana

    A pleasant change from the usual political whinings.Recommend

  • truthful

    Why don’t you write an equally good piece about the ‘wonders within the heart of Europe or East Asia’ instead of complaining for a change…Recommend

  • truthful

    You are so boring!Recommend

  • truthful

    illiterate is the one who doesn’t understand or appreciate art, history and culture…you seem to have come from a really impoverished village to be so impressed with the “new” buildings of Dubai…Recommend

  • truthful

    Instead of complaining about what she has written, why don’t you write an equally good piece about these ‘wonders within the heart of Europe’ we’d love to read about them too.Recommend

  • Alia

    Once YOU are out of your negativity, then life would begin!Recommend

  • sohail

    What an irrelevant comment…guess you just like being mean!Recommend

  • Zahra

    Loved this and love NYC!Recommend