Dec 31, 2017

Travelogue - New York

Immigration Officer : What is Your Name ?
Boy Doesn't answer.
Officer : C'mon son.. What is your Name ?
Boy Doesn't answer.
Translating Officer : Tuo Nome ? ( Italian )
No answer..
Officer looks at the card..
Translating Officer :  Vito Andolini from Corleone
Immigration Officer :  Corleone.. Vito Corleone

Godfather Part - II,  backdrop . - A young boy, Vito , from Corleone arrives as an immigrant at Ellis Island, New York..  To countless immigrants in the earlier part of 20th century, Ellis Island was the gateway to a land of opportunities. It was an age where people immigrated to the United States through this place. While Statue of Liberty was the symbol of hope for an immigrant, Ellis island was the ultimate test.  Immigrants got screened here for a variety of diseases, went through multiple rounds of paperworks and went into the place where capitalism cut its teeth - Manhattan.

Over the last few years, one profession that I've started to admire is that of a tour guide. Thats an area where I've seen people scoring in  8 - 9 on my ten point scale of perfection. From Jess who took us through the world war and cold war ruins in Berlin to Nobu who narrated the poignant stories in Hiroshima,  Adam in New-York was just as good as them. Passionately narrating the stories behind Ellis Island and Statue of Liberty, there was never a dull moment with him.  Few videos embedded here

The modern sky-scrappers that adorn the NewYork skyline is built on the sweat and blood of immigrants who flocked here from around the world.. True to that spirit, the five Uber rides that I took here where manned by drivers from five ethnic origins . -  Sierra Leone, Ecuador, Colombia, Fiji , Jamaica.  As you walk through the iconic places like wall-street , WTC memorial, Times Square , Central Park,  you hear that cacophony of ethnicities and cultures.. You hear about bitcoins being used as ransoms, you hear about the anguish towards new immigration,  at the same time you hear people openly criticising ( or at times, abusing ) the new political order.  Yet, a common thread unites everyone - a free spirit.. A free spirit or freedom to express yourself, a don't care - come what may attitude, a firm belief that you can challenge anything - thats omnipresent.  And thats perhaps what's made NewYork what it is today, the rock-bed of free markets and trade.. Thomas Friedman's 'World is Flat' finds its essence in NewYork.

Downtown Manhattan for a tourist is perhaps one of the most densest populated parts on Earth today.  Crowded subways, sky-high hotel room rates, a series of hop-on-hop-off buses - but none serving the purpose as traffic is too crowded, impossible to get parking places,... As you cut through the bylanes near Times Square & mid-town, you wonder about what is so magnetic about the place. Madamme Tussauds as they say is better in London, Gulliver's Gate meets its match even in a city like Hamburg, Burj Khalifa is higher than Empire States building... The success of New York is its crowds..More crowd bringing in more excitement , and that works as a self reinforcing model.

As we waited in a Panera bread outlet, I saw a young Indian origin man placing his order.  I see his surname on the display board. I hear him introducing himself  (first name ) in a confident manner over the phone to some business contact... Out of curiosity, I searched for him on LinkedIn. And the his profile made me - wow!.. True to the spirit of free markets and trade,  the best of the best flock here. And that'll drive NewYork and America forward for years to come , regardless of the political order.

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