May 26, 2009

I'm trying to write down - right now when I'm half-awake, and half-asleep, and incapable of dissembling - what it feels like to be leaving New York, New York. And I have to say that it feels pretty damn shitty. If Karachi is the city of my birth (my passport says it is) and Lahore is the city of my heart (everyone knows it is) then NYC is the city of my soul. I love everything about it. I love the fast-paced, frenzied lifestyle where no one has time for anyone else. The dirty, grimy subways with giant black rats and sidewalks piled high with bags of trash every night. People offer you no pity here. And no matter how tough your lot in life, the guy sleeping on the subway next to you possibly has it tougher. To survive in this city you have to be tough. 


(But even then, for those moments when you just don't want to be there's always free hugs on Union Square. And milk chocolate with waffle-pops inside from Max Brenner. Or the beautiful *bling bling* of road bazaars that randomly appear every-so-now-and-then). 


New York, is the city of miracles. Where dreams come true every single day, and hope lives eternal even as the people who live here don their armor and walk out their doors prepared to battle the day and emerge triumphant. I love the 'feel' of the city. Some call it cold, some call it hard, some call it brutal - but you have to live here to see the softness underneath. I love the way the city blasphemes against stereotypes even as it reinforces them. I love how NY will welcome, with open arms, people who are different, who don't conform, who are - often - downright bizarre, just as long as they are confident in who they are. No, this city  is not for the faint-hearted, or the weak-willed, it would swallow them up and spit them out before they knew what was happening to them. But for the stronger, and more adventurous, the city gives you a place where you can be exactly who you are. This city is irreverent, independent and so-very-very-proud to be that way, showing the finger - in a deliberately obnoxious way - to anyone who thinks to change it. 


For me, there is no place like NY. And in less than a week, I prepare to leave it. Possibly forever.


Already my room is packed into three suitcases. All the pictures are off the walls along with mementoes I have collected over the past years have been neatly stacked in multiple shoeboxes and my books in cartons waiting to be shipped. And I, I feel like something inside me is being torn apart. This city feeds my soul every time I walk out of my house. It feeds my soul with the music that plays around every corner, in every subway. It feeds my soul with variety I find along every street, in people and performance both.  Grastromonically, for example, the city delights. Within ten blocks from where I live you can find all-American diners with giant-sized burgers and yummy 'french' fries , little European bistros with fabulous omellettes, Greek diners with the best salad, multiple lebanese eateries one of which has great hazelnut coffee, multiple mexican restaurants with cheesy quesadillas that melt in your mouth, and so many, many more: Ethiopian, Vietnamese, Cuban, French, Chinese, Indian. And all of this is just within ten blocks that immediately surround my house. 


For the first time in my life, I can truly say that I'm ready to call myself a New-Yorker. Except, I'm packing the sum of all  my various experiences into three miserable suitcases and preparing to leave the city behind. And it sucks. It really, really does. Everyone who knows me, knows my magpie like propensity to gravitate towards shiny things.  I don't know how I will, less than a week from now, say goodbye to the city that, for me, is the ultimate *bling-bling*. I have no idea, how I'm going to give up my life - as I know it - and once again pack up everything and head towards the known-unknown. Back to a life I used to know, but which has - as these things sometimes do - changed irrevocably to a point where I have no idea what it is I'm heading back to. I leave here with no plan, with no idea of what the future holds. But even as I prepare to say farewell and (almost desperately) hope that I'll be back, I realize that no matter where I am - geographically, socially, culturally -  I will not only survive, I will thrive. This confidence is NYC's gift to me. And I am very, very grateful. 


And yes, like every single person who travels through the subways, headphones on, determinedly ignoring the person sitting next to them - from the irritating Japanese tourist clicking away on an oversize camera, to the yuppie professional in a dapper suit heading downtown to work for a finance company he hopes will stop downsizing now, or the eager student heading up - or down - for class or the homeless person who comes up to you with a story of a tragic existence and begs for money to buy the next beer, or the musician who dreams of making it big even as he plays for coins in subway carriages - like every single one of these people (and more), I too - very, very much - heart NYC. 

14 comments:

Ubaid said...

okay everyone writes a goodbye post but your post is the best till now ... seriously nicely written...

so from New york too ??

Gaia said...

Beautiful post! you really do manage to capture the essence of NYC...

Sadaff said...

you should totally come back as a phd student:D!

I have seen the city for a single weekend two years ago but there is something about newyork that never leaves you. Gluck with moving back and all:)

brok3n said...

One day I'd like to visit before I die......One day. -nod-
Where you off to btw? ...Hope the transition goes smoother than you're think. Good luck.

ordered-chaos said...

you cant be global till you come visit me in beijing babe :)

jadedworld said...

so well written and you captured THE essential Big Apple!

You have no choice but to dive in head first into whatever is next and from what I've read, you're better prepared than most to deal with it! Wishing you the best babe! Take care

Gigi said...

Once a New yorker always a New yorker.I grew up in the NYC.I have lived in the Columbia neighborhood for five years.I recently moved to midtown near Times Square and i miss my neighborhood.Spending lazy summer in the cafes on Broadway and shopping at Apple tree Delly is nothing in comparison to where i currently live.People call Paris as the fashion capital but i disagree.No one can beat us in fashion.

After reading your post, i am feeling so proud to be a New yorker.

AD said...

ahhh NYC have heard so much about it and now read it that now i am willin to go there

Xeb said...

UB: I was living in NYC for two years, I'm on my way back to Karachi now.

Gaia: Thankyou :) And welcome to my blog!

Sadaff: When I was deciding on what school to go to someone told me that EVERYONE needs to 'live' in NYC atleast once in their lifetime! I totally agree~ :) And I have my fingers crossed for the PhD too, let's see how it goes! :)

Broken: You shall! :) I'm off to Karachi right now, and from there I have no idea... all depends on where I get a job and all...

Chaos: That be true. I shall see you in Beijing soon! :P

Jaded: Thank you! :)

Gigi: The big apple ROCKS! :) And there's something about morningside I love most! It's the perfect blend I think! But midtown is a great place to live too!


AD: You totally should! :)

Ubaid said...

Karachi.... aaaaahhhhh .... its nice ... per.... well its your home town... have fun :)

Deepak Iyer said...

Nice post.

For some reason I still haven't felt like visiting New York.

Of course, there is the risk of being thrown out of India for not having snaps of myself standing in front of the Statue of Liberty, Empire state building, whatever is the bridge near it, Niagara falls and Times Square among others.

JDèé said...

Have a safe journey back home.

Deepa said...

I could so relate to this, living in Bangalore has been, on a micro-level, pretty much the same. The city gets under your skin somehow and you have all of the world within its folds and all the same dreams and culture pot and people....nice!

Xeb said...

:)