By Esha Samajpati
Ever wonder why New York City is often referred to as the “Big Apple”? The explanations are many and varied. Some sites and books claim that it’s because jazz musicians referred to the city as such.
Others say it’s because John Fitzgerald, a writer covering the races for the “New York Morning Telegraph,” used the term while referring to the New York racecourse which of course was a much coveted destination and hence often called the “Big Apple” by stablehands from New Orleans.
At the Core – Grand Central Terminal
By planning ahead, I reached the Grand Central Terminal just after the morning rush. Setting foot on the platform, I was as much fascinated by the ornate architecture of the famous station as I was by the sheer number of people around me.
With a long history of restoration, this New York City landmark is a symbol of hope and spirit. Everybody around me moved with a sense of purpose — walking, eating, drinking and talking — a flurry of activity fit for one of the busiest cities in the world – New York City.
Stepping out of the station, I wasted no time in getting a cup of coffee and a hot dog slathered in mustard and ketchup. The sidewalks were filled with people and vendors and the occasional gust of air from the subway vents.
Caught as I was in a whirlwind of brand names on Fifth Avenue, I somehow got past the designer labels and an all-consuming desire to check out each and every one of them.
Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met)
After walking a couple of miles, I saw the Central Park to my left and right after that, the Metropolitan Museum of Art came into view. I resisted the urge to explore the park first and walked into the museum to pay for my ticket. Here I might add that being a student will get you a sweet discount.
Sprawling over approximately two million square feet, the Met is the largest museum in the Western Hemisphere. Founded in 1870, it is a magnificent structure housing paintings, sculptures, photographs, relics, modern art, jewelry, artifacts, textiles and many more from all over the world, dating from the Stone Age to the present day.
At each turn I found art from a different country and sometimes from a different era. The Roman and Greek galleries, the Renaissance art, the Impressionist paintings, the medieval armors, the Asian handiwork, the African masks – they all had me wanting more.
As I am prone to do, I spent the better part of my afternoon with my favorites. First being the Egyptian section, part of which overlooks the Central Park by way of a glass wall, thereby providing the gallery with a sense of splendor.
I saw people huddling over the Temple of Dendur, a gift from Egypt, shipped in sections to the US in 1965. But I couldn’t take my eyes off the mystifying Goddess Sakhmet, whose name means “the powerful one.” She was revered as a Goddess of War and had a lion’s head on her slim shoulders.
What struck me was the similarity in religious symbolism between two countries. Far from Africa, in South Asia, a section of Indians worship a warrior Goddess called Durga who rides a Lion and slays demons.
I took some photographs without using flash as instructed by a courteous attendant, but of course, I don’t have the permission to publish them.
Also, I had to skim through some galleries pretty quickly as I didn’t have all day. Lunch was a brief affair, although there are plenty of dining options inside the Met. I just grabbed a turkey wrap and a soda at the cafeteria and readied myself for more browsing.
Having had my fair share of tombs and mummies, my next few hours were devoted to my second favorite – Impressionist art. Van Gogh, Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir and many more graced the walls. I love the oil on canvas texture, the bright colors, the cheerful subjects and the bold strokes. They remind me of all that is good and beautiful in this world.
Autumn in Central Park
All around and inside, the trees were taking on shades of orange and red and yellow. With winter round the corner, a bushy-tailed squirrel scrambled over crunchy leaves in a last-bid attempt to hoard its stash of nuts.
Walking past the busy fellow, I came across a statue of Hans Christian Anderson, the well-known writer of fairytales. At his feet stood the sculpture of a duck, from “The “Ugly Duckling” I presumed.
Next up were characters from one of my favorite books, “Alice in Wonderland.” As a child I had spent many afternoons curled up with this book so, nodding a hello to the Mad Hatter, I smiled to myself at the happy memories.
Here I must mention that my visit to the Park was largely limited to my own interests. Its six-mile perimeter extends from Central Park West to Fifth Avenue and 59th Street to 110th Street, so you can imagine all that can be fit into an area that big.
A zoo, a carousel, water bodies, bridges, arches, sculptures, playgrounds and of course, the famous Belvedere Castle to name a few. You can visit the official site at centralparknyc.org to get detailed information.
And for more information on New York, please visit iloveny.com
The Lion King on Broadway
Not long after my trip to the Park, I was walking on 42nd Street, past Grand Central Station, readying myself for an evening of song and dance. Yes, I had tickets to The Lion King on Broadway.
I walked past Times Square, on to 45th Street and into the Minskoff Theatre which has been specially adapted for this play. As is the norm with most Disney productions, this one had run to a full house.
Gliding up the escalator, I turned to see a huge lion’s mask slowly come into view, setting the stage for an evening of pure entertainment. Clutching my playbill, I turned off my phone ringer and settled down comfortably.
The story is timeless. Evil Uncle kills his own brother and banishes the heir to gain control over the kingdom. The cub grows up and returns to claim his rightful place. Same old story, retold with a touch of drama unique to a Broadway show.
The only thing marring the show were some people who insisted on taking pictures in spite of being told not to. Some of them kept trying to sneak in a click completely disregarding the hall officials.
The performers outdid themselves, each one of them. Simba’s friends, Timon and Pumbaa had most of the punch lines while Scar, the evil Uncle sneered and plotted delightfully. The play stressed leadership and courage and in spite of some tragic moments, it ended on a triumphant note.
The music was hauntingly beautiful. Orchestrated to perfection, it transformed the Minskoff Theatre into the wilderness of the African Pridelands. The songs have already been made famous by the cartoon movie, but the sound system in the theatre heightened the tunes and made them almost magical.
At the very end, I looked up on each side to see the musicians smiling and waving. You could tell from their faces the sheer joy of a show performed well. I walked out of the theatre feeling like I had stepped out of an African jungle into the cold air of Manhattan, albeit a jungle of another kind.
Well, as Timon would sing, “Hakuna Matata,” which roughly translates to “no worries for the rest of your days”. What a beautiful yet impossible thought!
Visit our Esha Samajpati Page with links to all her stories.
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