Continued from Part 1, named “In the Land of Opportunity“(Click to Read)
Following the cancellation of our plans for 3 days due to Sandy, something had to be done to occupy the fellows. It would’ve been cruel to restrict 15 youth leaders of Pakistan in hotel rooms doing nothing for 3 days. To compensate for this unexpected change in plans, Mr. Shuja Nawaz, an eminent scholar with respect to US-Pakistan relations, talked to us about the work Atlantic Council’s South Asia Division has been doing regarding the relations between India and Pakistan. There are some focal points, which have caused dispute since Partition, including Security, Water and Kashmir. There was an intense question-answer session following the talk and we got elaborate answers to most of our queries.
It was Monday, 29th October, and Hurricane Sandy was at its strongest. Every Television channel was showing various areas that were either in Danger or were being affected by Sandy. We had to post-pone any outdoor activities due to gales and intermittent rain. Some of us (including myself) spent that time getting over our Jet Lag and getting used to the new Sleep-Wake Cycle. Before that time, I had seen apocalyptic scenes only in Hollywood films. The empty streets of New York, with crazy winds and torrential rain was only short of a man carrying a dog to complete a scene from Post-Apocalyptic Movies. Denizens of New York were seen scurrying to their homes carrying food and water supplies in preparation of the shut down due to Sandy. We also stocked up some snacks and water, in case of emergency situation. In that torrid time, the dry fruit cache gifted by our fellow from Quetta, proved to be a blessing.
For me, the biggest tragedy due to Sandy was the closure of Central Park (and the Subway system, to some extent). I had been able to visit the scenic Park briefly, located 4 blocks from our hotel, on the first day. I did not know at that time that it was to be my only visit to Central Park. In the following days, I went there daily, to return without getting a chance to actually enter the place. It was closed for public, during and after Hurricane Sandy. Visiting Central Park evoked strong feelings of both joy and regret in me. Joy, because of the natural beauty that has been preserved in the middle of a jungle of Concrete, and regret because we don’t have anything comparable to Central Park back home. I have lived in Lahore for considerable amount of time and the public parks there are in dilapidated condition.
On Tuesday, 30th October, we had another talk session with Mr. Shuja Nawaz focusing on US-Pakistan relationship. It is a tricky topic that was handled carefully by Mr. Shuja. That session became a harbinger for our discussions in the following weeks with various policy makers. My favorite moment during that meeting was an anecdote regarding wisdom of Chinese Leadership, that was mentioned by Mr. Shuja. It is said that Zhou Enlai, China’s post-revolution Prime Minister was asked about his opinion on the French Revolution(that occurred in 1789). His reply was “It’s too early to judge”.
It was followed by a visit to Columbia University Campus, Alma Mater of both Mr. Shuja and Ms Shikha Bhatnagar. We were originally scheduled to visit NBC Studio in Rockefeller Center and Carnegie Corporation of New York. Due to congested traffic on the roads of New York, we reached Columbia by the time of Lunch. We took 3 separate Taxis and one of the Taxi drivers refused to charge any fare because he was Pakistani and we were students from Pakistan.!! It was decided to have lunch before visiting the campus.
Due to lack of multiple options, we decided to visit a Japanese Cuisine restaurant located nearby. I had never eaten at a Japanese restaurant before and I found the taste of the food to be really good. The portions were quite big though, leading to a lot of leftover food when we finished. We also crossed the “Seinfeld” restaurant that day, located near the Columbia University campus. It got dark by the time we reached Columbia University’s campus. Columbia University, is an American private Ivy League research university located in New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country’s nine Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution. The university was founded in 1754 as King’s College by royal charter of George II of Great Britain(whose statue is still present in front of the Admin Block). We also got to see one of the original versions of “The Thinker” statue at the Campus.
Our last stop was at the beautiful Gothic Church, Cathedral of St John the Divine. It is the fourth largest Christian church in the world. After a large fire on December 18, 2001, it was closed for repairs and reopened in November 2008. It remains unfinished, with construction and restoration a continuing process. We encountered a shady “guide” there who told about the history of the church mixed with an unhealthy dose of Conspiracy Theories.
To be Continued…