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Happy New Year 2012: Live From Times Square, New York

Happy New Year 2012: Live From Times Square, New York

New York is one of my least liked places that I have visited but the presence there of a high conglomeration of friends and authentic Indian restaurants ensures that I visit it more often than I would otherwise have. It is a slightly more expensive version of Bombay – that’s my impression, after four trips to the Big Apple. So it wouldn’t be quite so hard for you to take it if I said I had little on my agenda except food and socializing on my impromptu winter vacation in the northeast. Traveling from Atlanta, I was hoping to catch some snow and was ready for a ‘white’ Christmas (as in Home Alone 1/2/3 I was told. Note to self: watch them). It ended up being annoyingly warm on most days I was there.

Do the staples while you are there – Times Square, Wall street, NYSE, Brooklyn Bridge, Ground Zero, Empire State Building, Grand Central Terminal, Lady Liberty. If you are studying English literature in New York, Central Park might inspire you and provide you with some fodder (No, not for theses on South-East Asia). Catch hold of a local to show you around; Life would be much easier as you negotiate the crowds and subway routes. And if you think you can handle more touristy stuff, get tickets to a Broadway show on Times Square.

One can either go to the top floor of the Rockefeller Plaza or the Empire State Building for spectacular views of the skyline and downtown. I timed my visit up the Rockefeller at sunset to get both day and night views. Notice the lights on empire state building. Like Google’s doodle, they change according to the occasion. If you prefer grand views for free, get out of the madness and take a quiet walk along the Hoboken waterfront in Newport. It is my way of enjoying New York City – I find the distance sweet!

I recommend spending a couple of hours at Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET); there is something for everyone in there. I personally loved their collection on Egypt – real mummies, jewelry, contents of burial chambers and portions of pyramid walls. Although I am no connoisseur of painting, I found it fascinating to see some ‘household’ names like Rembrandt, Picasso and Van Gogh crop up casually. For a more in-depth experience, take the audio tour. It is well worth the five bucks and you can cringe on your ‘donation’ to the museum.

And if you yearn for ghar-ka-khana and can’t afford a trip back to India, Edison in New Jersey would do you a lot of good. Be sure to visit the Paratha Junction on Mahatma Gandhi Avenue. It is THE Indian restaurant in the entire United States for me. Even Saravana Bhavan food and the Woodlands buffet do not come close to the ghee-drizzled aloo paratha and dhal makhani at this place. Oh god, as I write this, I am imagining the food on my lips and am tearing up! I remember buying enough parathas to last me a week during my summer trip. For a quiet meal at home, order food online and ask for it to be delivered. On a side note, have you eaten at the chain ‘Jus parathas’ in India? I used to like them just as much but the usual jaunt from my school days seems to have closed and I haven’t seen another one in Chennai.

Apart from the paratha goodness, burrito bowls from Chipotle and lettuce wraps from pf Changs and caramel turtle cheesecakes from the Cheesecake factory and falafel sandwiches from Central Park carts also happened. Although they were delicious too, I am not thrilled enough to write about them here. Another restaurant that impressed me, not because of their food but for the dining experience, was the Melting Pot. It is a popular chain on the East coast that offers a not-so-humble cheese and chocolate fondue on its menu. The pyrotechnics of the lit rum on the chocolate fondue was a surprise to me, and I would have clicked some pictures had I been prepared. If I visit this place again, it would only be for the novelty factor.

Also, generally people throng to Times Square on New Years’ eve for the famous ‘ball drop’. But for some of us, getting drunk was more happening than that!