Empire State of Mind

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For any civilization and people to rise and dominate, certain landmarks have to be constructed which serve as a constant reminder of what they have achieved and how they are dominant. This trend runs throughout History, from Pyramids to the Sphinx, Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Colossus of Rhodes, Statue of Zeus at Olympia, Lighthouse of Alexandria, Great Wall of China, Taj Mahal, Alhambra, Chichen Itza and Machu Pichu. In the last few hundred years, monuments of sprawling empires have included the Big Ben, Eiffel Tower, Red Square and Statue of Liberty. One building that truly deserves to be counted in the list is the Empire State Building. Constructed during the height of the darkest economic depression of the 21st century, it symbolized not only a proud nation but also a resilient one. Empire State building, a 102-story skyscraper located in Midtown Manhattan was completed in 1931 and held the record of the Tallest Building in the world for almost 40 years. The Empire State Building is generally thought of as an American cultural icon. It is designed in the distinctive Art Deco style and has been named as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers. The building and its street floor interior are designated landmarks of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, and confirmed by the New York City Board of Estimate. It was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1986. In 2007, it was ranked number one on the List of America’s Favorite Architecture according to the AIA.

On the morning of 2nd November, 2012, me and another fellow planned to visit Greenwich Village, reputedly the cultural hub of New York City. We reached the area early in the morning and were disappointed to find that the after-effects of Sandy still persisted in the area. Most shops were closed due to absence of electricity, a scene reminiscent of load-shedding in Pakistan. We even found a shop owner using candles to keep his store well-lit and open. We found a statue of Mahatama Gandhi there among other things. While walking towards a building that we found interesting, we found ourselves at a distance of about ten streets from the Empire State Building. There was no scheduled visit of the great building and a consensus among fellows had developed that visiting Rockefeller building was enough. We double-checked time and ran towards the building, in an attempt to visit it and then be in time for the scheduled meetings of the day. We were lucky to be among the first batch of tourists to reach the observation deck of Empire State building that day and it was a marvelous experience. It felt like standing on top of the world, with the sprawling city of New York under your feet. We took abundant pictures, from all possible angles, of the scenery underneath. I couldn’t help but repeat the lyrics of the song “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys, as my feelings at that time could be accurately predicted by that song.

Following the visit of Empire State Building, we left off for our hotel and encountered the ‘Fashion Walk of Fame’ and ‘The Garment Worker’ Statue near Times Square. We also witnessed live recording of the ABC channel morning show ‘Good Morning America’. Our first official destination that day was supposed to be the office of ‘The New York Times’. As a novice writer, I felt elated at this amazing opportunity. The New York Times, after all, is the largest local metropolitan newspaper in the United States, has won 108 Pulitzer Prizes in its history and its website is the most popular American newspaper website. A news item/Op-Ed in the NY Times means the issue is important and will become part of a larger debate. Our contact person at the NY Times was Mr. Douglas Schorzman, Assistant Foreign Editor at NYT. We got a guided tour of the News Section at the beautiful New York Times Building, designed to reflect the Open-ness practiced at the paper. After the guided tour, we settled in a room with Mr. Schorzman and peppered him with questions regarding NYT and specifically about Pakistan. It was not a one-way street and we ourselves had to answer Mr., Schorzman’s questions about things in Pakistan from our perspective. Susan Chira, assistant managing editor for news of The New York Times also joined us for almost an hour.
All the fellows thoroughly enjoyed the session and the opportunity to be part of such dialogue. While on our way out, we had a chance encounter with Mr. Nicholas Kristoff, Pulitzer-Prize winning Writer for The New York Times.

The Pulitzer Stairs

 

Our last official meeting in New York City was with two Pakistani-Americans success stories. They were Mr. Tariq Farid, Owner and CEO of ‘Edible Arrangements’ and Mr. Omar Gajjal,chief marketing office of Müller Quaker Dairy at PepsiCo. Mr. Tariq regaled us with his inspirational life story and we talked at length about his best business practices and what are the major deficiencies in Pakistan-based Businessmen. It was an informative as well as entertaining session due to the charm and anecdotes of Mr. Tariq Farid.

It was our last evening in New York City and we still had a lot of sight-seeing to do. Our next stop was Museum of Modern Art, or MoMa, located nearby. There is free entry for four hours on Friday afternoons, an opportunity that we availed. The Minimalist, post-modern art pieces that adorned the Museum were a marvel to look at. At least I did not understand more than half of them, but still, it was a worthwhile visit. The giant helicopter at the entrance and different galleries were thronged by visitors. It was quite surreal and futuristic. After a stroll through the gallery, we returned to our hotel and got ready for one of the treats of New York City that was on offer: A Broadway Show. Half of the group had decided to watch The Lion King while the other half had opted to go for “Newsies”. I was part of the “Newsies” group.

It was my first experience of witnessing a Broadway show and the memory of that would always remain with me. It felt amazing just sitting in the theatre, waiting for actors to appear on stage. We were handed the program books and asked not to take any pictures. What unraveled in front of us for the next one and a half hour was pure magic. Dialog delivery, synchronization, movement of props, acting quality, every single aspect was exceptional. It was better than watching a movie. It was a fitting end to a wonderful week spent in the great city of New York. Next morning we left for Washington, DC.

To be Continued……………

Abdul Majeed Abid

About Abdul Majeed Abid

Abdul Majeed is a doctor from Lahore, interested in writing about Religious Extremism in Pakistan, Conspiracy Theory Culture, Public Health,Doctor’s Rights and History. He was a participant at the 1st Pakistan India Social Media Summit and visited the United States as fellow of‘Emerging Youth Leaders of Pakistan’ program by South Asia Center,Atlantic Council, U.S.A.
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