Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Grand Island was where Nikhiles Jethu lived and he is the official host of visitors wanting to visit the Niagara Falls, for it is very close to his house. The 400 mile journey to Grand Island was covered in a mere 6 hours as we travelled in the Cadillac to upstate New York. It is a quaint, peaceful neighbourhood where they live, under the shadows of a crooked cherry tree that is always lopsided with fruit. Their speed boat lies parked on the driveway.
The first evening we were mesmerised by the beauty of the falls at night for the Canadians light it up with multicoloured neons resulting in a colour changing display that captivates. The thundering could be heard miles away and the spray could be seen far away rising up like thick volcanic ash and smoke. The Canadian side that lay just across the river glittered testimony to its tremendous economic exploitation with thousands of hotels that woo customers with Niagara view rooms. That night I didn’t sleep for Jhumpa Lahiri’s “The Namesake” had me hooked. I was up all night and got the rare opportunity to observe a beautiful sunrise and the next morning we were away visiting the Niagara Falls making the most of a bright and sunny day.
The Niagara River plunged 170 odd metres to provide one of nature’s most spectacular sights. The Maid of the Mist was the boat ride that we took first up and it took us almost into the thundering Horseshoe Falls. Even the raincoats provided to us weren’t enough to keep the spraying waters away. Nearby the gulls were squabbling and squawking over the dead fish that floated in the waters, killed by the deadly plunge. The powerful, untamed beauty of the Falls is unparalleled. We were awestruck by the gushing white waters, 675,000 litres of which flows by every second.
The Cave of the Winds was unique because after a descent through an elevator, we walked to the point right behind the Bridal Veil and American Falls. The waters were within touching distance as we walked past massive colonies of nesting gulls. The fetid smell of putrefying fish was heavy but the sheer beauty of the Falls at such close range was dizzying. Again raincoats offered little protection from the rapacious waters that assaulted us. We were drenched in ecstasy at the might of the Falls. Crisp rainbows girded the river near the Falls. The azure skies with cotton clouds made it difficult to discern where the sky ended and where the waters plunged from.
A wonderful day was capped by a lovely evening barbeque on the portico with plump drumsticks and juicy sausages. Bliss!
Next morning, we boarded the Amtrak and braced ourselves for a ten hour journey. Much like the Caltrain, it was decent but terribly boring. We reached New York’s Penn Station late in the evening. Penn Station itself was quite an architectural marvel with intricate relief and carvings. Jethu took us around New York, and we got a glimpse of Central Park and Columbus Avenue. After a quick dinner at a Lebanese restaurant, we went up to Brooklyn’s Montague Street and got breathtaking views of Manhattan across the Hudson.
Early next morning, Jethu dropped us off at the Hoboken ferry point and we took the waterway to Manhattan. The free shuttle dropped us at Battery Park. The ferry to Liberty Island was packed as usual and soon we were on the island itself, jostling for space and ducking as everyone was taking photos. The Statue of Liberty looked serene in her sea green hue oblivious to the fact that people come from far and wide to catch a glimpse of her. We also touched Ellis Island on the way back to Manhattan.
The Subway took us to the heart of Manhattan and to the Air-India office for we had to change our return tickets, before walking on to the Empire State Building where we clambered upto the 86th floor to get panoramic views of all around. It was incredibly windy and the elevator was the fastest one I had ever seen.
Shintadidi and Miguel picked me up from the ferry wharf and we went out to Iguana’s for the night and Babandidi and Rinididi joined us a bit later as did Frank, Miguel’s close friend. It was a fun night out, for Miguel was a relieved man now that he was sure that Shintadidi was, in fact, carrying a son. We came back home pretty late that night and Friday was the “bouboron” ceremony at Shameek’s parents’ Greenbelt home. A close get together as the married couple stepped in to the groom’s house for the first time with blessings from near and dear ones. We put up the night at Mintadidi’s wonderful apartment at Arlington, although getting there in the dark from Maryland was a quite an effort.


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