Friday, October 31, 2014

The Walk!

We had a very hearty meal at an Indian restaurant in Miami last Sunday. Sujoy and me were so full with all the hogging that in the evening Sujoy suggested to take a walk in 'The Central Park'. I was amused thinking Sujoy is referring to the Central Park in New York. I still gave him the benefit of doubt thinking its the desi Kingfisher effect ;). But no my husband was completely sobre and in his senses and was talking about the Central Park in Plantation, where we stay. Till then I had not heard about this park.

So we took our car and drove to this park Sunday evening on a mission to get rid of some of the guilt associated with chicken tikka masala and buttery naan. The park is huge. Open spaces in the US still amaze me, the landscape and enormity of the parks gives me goosebumps. We enter the park and I can see 5 different fields where different types of sports are happening, a jogging track and a walking track around a lovely lake with a fountain.

The park seemed a busy place with lots of activities happening around and participants being people from all age groups. We started taking a walk around the fountain, which by the way was used by ducks too to commute. We saw an owl nesting area along our walk. 

There were multiple games happening on fields. Soccer game of girls on one field, some guys were practicing baseball and there was a group of kids practicing net ball. And I wondered to myself sports plays such a pivotal role in peoples' life here. The kids were in the best sports gear and helmets, something which you will not see back in India.

We took one round around the fountain when Sujoy decided to ditch me and go for a run on the jogging track. So here I was alone walking amongst a bunch of people doing the best I do, 'observe'.

So I listen to people's conversation who are walking alongwith me. Two women maybe in their 40s are discussing about a party they attended on Saturday and were completely disappointed with their host. Seems the host did not have enough of vegan options and how these women literally starved themselves at the party and ate after coming home. I speed up a little and decide to overtake these women.

Then I hear a girl asking her bf about what should she wear for the Halloween. She gives him 2-3 choices. The guy seemed bored (very normal I believe). Never the less he bravely picks up one choice and tells her. She makes a face and says, "I look fat in that". Guy gives a sigh. Then he picks other one. She says. "Hmmm....I can but maybe I will wear the third one". And I am thinking if she had already decided what to wear, why to go through all this drama. And the guy gave me a look as if he read my mind and was so agreeing with me. The couple disembarked from the track and went wandering on the grass.

I steadied my pace. Then I saw a group of small girls chasing the ducks. Poor ducks were running for their life into the lakes where the girls could not reach them. I thought of giving the girls a piece of my mind but controlled myself. With my bodyguard jogging somewhere far off, it was not a good idea to take up a fight with someone who are 8 in no. I ignored those girls and paced ahead.

There was this super enthusiastic exercise group. It was a mix group again. I loved the way they were enjoying their workout. Seemed so much fun. The instructor had engaged all of them with small small races and activities. The were hopping, frog jumping, stretching over the grass. There was a positive energy amidst this group.

My 2 rounds around the lake were done and still there was no sign of Sujoy. So I sat on a bench facing the fountain. And I was mitigating on something when a toddler came running to me and sat on the bench. He was followed by his mother and I made space for her also to sit. They were Spanish. But it did not matter as the toddler was still babbling and not forming words and it was immaterial if he spoke English, Spanish or Russian. It amazed me to see how two people can get connected without speaking the same language. 

I was playing with this toddler when there was a tap on my shoulder. And here at last my husband came back to me after abandoning me halfway. So we were leaving when the toddler babbled something and I heard, "Don't go". Such games your mind plays with you. But the toddler indeed did not want us to go. I came back to him and said we will meet soon.

The walk was refreshing and I was thinking we should come this park often. And as we were walking towards our car I asked Sujoy, "So what should I wear for the movie tonight?" And his face said it all and I was wondering if someone is listening to our conversation currently :)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Eternal Beauty - Niagara

The journey from NYC to Niagara Falls was done in a Grey Hound bus equipped with free wifi and a charging point at every seat. The 9 hours journey could not have been more informative for me as I spent all the time hooked to my mobile reading more about WTC attack, how the rescue functions managed and how the US secret services tracked down Osama Bin Laden. The 9/11 memorial had a huge impact on me and hence all this digging out during the travel.

After reaching Niagara Falls - ya about this, even the city where Niagara Falls is situated is known as Niagara Falls! So after reaching there we headed to the hotel and freshened up for good Indian dinner. We were famished as we ate very little during our 9 hours bus travel. Niagara Falls has an array of Indian restaurants, all placed very close to each other. We had a wide choice and went to one which served Punjabi food.

It was 9 pm, when we ventured to the Niagara Falls. We parked our vehicle. I was expecting huge roars of the waterfall as we were in the vicinity of the falls. However I never heard anything except for the babble of the people around me walking towards the falls. You walk quite a lot from the parking till you see the Falls.

The first view of the falls - I was so mesmerized and captivated looking at the enormity of these falls. No photo, no video ever seen by you will match the thrill you experience seeing the falls by your own eyes! Trust me on that.....

The falls were a huge spread of water falling down. The water on the top was gushing and pushing with full force and energy. The moment it fell down, it became steady and saint like. Nature never fails to surprise me! The same water in two different forms - at the top and at the bottom.

Canada and USA are connected by a bridge called the Rainbow bridge. The border lies exactly in between of this bridge. The Niagara Falls lie between American and Canadian border. It is divided into 3 falls, from largest to smallest - Horseshoe Falls, American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls. The Horseshoe Falls lie mostly on the Canada side, the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls lie on the American side. These falls are separated by small islands.

At night, you see the falls dancing in  the lights. The Canada side has a better view. But more than the view, I was overwhelmed with the vastness of the falls and I literally sat near the falls on the bench in a meditative mode enjoying the rhythm of the water and feeling myself very lucky to have seen this beauty alive.

We stayed around the falls for around 2 hours and then returned to our hotel, excited to see the falls again in the brightness of the day.

Niagara during the day is even more splendid than the night. The waters and the sun, play with each other to produce a dozen of rainbows. We must have experienced atleast 10 rainbows during our 5-6 hours near the falls.

The Niagara Falls State Park is where one must head to see these Falls. There are quite a few things you can do at this park - The Maid of the Mist (a boat ride which takes you into the falls), The Cave of the Winds (a staircase built at the side of the falls where the fall water comes on you), Niagara's scenic trolley (a trolley ride which takes you around the park with a guide), Aquarium, Adventure Theater (theater with regular shows on the adventures people did near the falls) Discover Centre and hiking in the Niagara gorge.

We had just one day and hence we did the Maid of the Mist, Trolley Ride, Adventure theater and the Cave of the Winds.

Maid of the Mist as I mentioned earlier is a boat ride which takes you to the heart of the falls. They give you ponchos (a raincoat which covers your entire body) to protect you from getting drenched completely in the waters. As you approach the falls, your heart starts beating fast as you are scared to go near the falls where the water is falling with full power and force. And then you reach amidst the falls. At one point the water from the falls spills so much on your face that you are blinded for sometime. And then when you get your sight back, you just look at the falls in awe. No other word - you are just awestruck!

After the Maid of the Mist, we headed towards the Cave of the Winds. The Cave of the Winds is a staircase built below the Bridal Veil falls coming within 7.6 metres from the Falls where you can experience the water from the falls lavishly falling on you. The Cave of the Winds provides you with a new set of poncho - yellow this time and these cool floaters to protect you from slipping on the staircase. There is a hurricane point on the deck where the force of the water is maximum and it feels as if you are standing below the falls.

After the Cave of the Winds, we went to the Adventure Theater to see the short film on the daring activities people did near the Niagara Falls. The film depicted stories about a woman who survived falling from the falls in a barrel with her cat, a gentleman who crossed the Niagara falls on a rope and a kid who accidentally fell from the falls from a boat however survived even after falling from that height! The short film made me have goose bumps with every adventure that unfolded.

With this our tryst with the falls came to an end. The Niagara Falls will always be one of the best places ever seen by me. The vastness of Niagara makes you feel a tiny piece in front of it thereby making you humble and grounded, its freshness makes you rejuvenated and its eternal beauty just soothes you and your belief in nature's miracles just strengthens. 

They say at the rate at which Niagara Falls is eroding, we may not have the falls in the future! And so as we returned to our hotel, my soul prayed to God for the longevity of the falls for many to experience its splendor forever. Long live the Niagara Falls!