Thursday, August 27, 2009

Exchange Place

I love river-side or sea-side waterfronts. I don't know - I guess it's a Mumbai thing. Staring out at the rolling waves gushing against shore brings a calming feeling. Being at the shore allows me to collect my thoughts, think about them rationally, and nitpick my way through the pros/cons of a situation in front of me.
Exchange Place. Some people might only know this as a train station - but to me, this place is serenity defined. The NYC landscape is a stone's throw away from the waterfront - and being one step away from lower Manhattan compluses me to think if I really belong there or not.
The very first time I visited this place was years ago in November '03. It was extremely chilly out because I remember shivering a tiny bit. Can't remember exactly what it was that drew me towards the water - but the effect of this attraction-at-first-sight still remains. Ever since then, throughout my college years, this is one place that I've visited when I'm either sad, confused, or frustrated.
About three years ago, I interned at a firm located at Exchange Place. After the drag and drone of the usual workday, I automatically drifted near the waterfront and walked to my heart's content before catching the train home. I used to walk all the way to this one corner - where the pathway basically ends - and stood there gazing out, contemplating what exactly it was that I wanted from life. Months have rolled into years, and I still haven't found the answer to that question.
I visited my much loved sanity space again today, after many many months. I did my usual routine - walk it out, sit, walk to the corner where the pathway ends and stare out at the Hudson as it extends beyond the bridge in sight. The sunny evening reliquinshed itself to twilight. The crowd started thinning out a bit and so did my restlessness. The frustration melted away. The glass was half-full again.
I'm still unable to express what it is in this half a mile of stretched concrete embracing the Hudson - but trust me, it keeps me sane.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Memories, Untouchable...

When I close my eyes today and think back to my college days, I feel an ache, a longing for the times gone by. The campus. The classes & professors. The study sessions. The plaza. That one black bench on the plaza which was my favorite spot. Law Library. Yummy cappuccinos at the local mom & pop stores. Student Government meetings. Indian Association meetings. Dance practices. Holi Shows, Diwali Shows. Garbas. Aloo Tikkis and Mota Ravi's (names of sandwiches) from the 'Taj Mahal' truck. Dunkin' Donuts trips. Hoboken. The 5-hour conference calls that started at midnight :-) ... I can go on forever, I think.
The day used to start and never end without a navrapanti session (read: passing time) with 6 of my friends. We called ourselves 'The Gang'. The campus was our home and we walked on the streeets as if we owned them. We fought, we argued - but at the end of the day - we made up.
It's been two years - but I still remember the littlest of things and the smallest of incidences. A always used to have his laptop with him - and I always snatched it away wanting to either listen to music (while writing research papers) or to check email, or to read news, etc. D undoubtedly needed help with his English term papers. I miss sitting with a red pen in one hand, a cup of coffee in another and going through his paper line by line to sift for spelling errors (he made plenty of those :-) ). C always charmed my day with a teddy bear smile, B with her silliness (which drove me to my wit's end sometimes) and I remember that M kept us alive and kicking through study sessions by bringing food. And - no matter what happened, V and I always made trips to the campus store to buy 'mini cupcakes', coffees and Aloo Tikkis.
Here I am, two years later, typing out this embarrasingly emotional post and reminiscing these times gone by. What would I give up right now to be with 6 of my friends on The Plaza? I don't know. What I do know is that change happens - and it happens for the good - but why am I not in terms with this change in my life? After all, it's only been two years. Why this ache, this pang for the times gone by? Why this feeling that I've lost something very important to me?
Come to think of it, maybe I've gained something out of this loss. Maybe I've gained a collection of memories that can never be tarnished, that can never be touched. Those four years of my life were just perfect.
Heart-breakingly, achingly, perfect.