Tag Archives: manhattan

BRIEF HISTORY OF NEW YORK

Copyright@shravancharitymission

    New York is the world’s first megacity. Most people know New York. Nevertheless let me tell you a few interesting facts about it.

    New York has always been a city of superlatives and first—the richest, most populated, most diverse, most innovative, home to the world’s longest bridge, tallest skyscraper, largest public park, most elaborate subway system, the first to have electricity, telephones, potato chips, pneumatic railway, teddy bears, credit cards, air-conditioning, Silicon Valley and Scrabble, among other things. It has attracted business people and artists, rich and poor, and privileged and persecuted. Today, let’s look at the journey of this vibrant city.

BORN FROM A SHEET OF ICE!

    New York originated when a massive sheet of ice started melting, some 12,000 years ago. Pine trees and grasses grew as the climate became warmer. Woolly mammoths, bison, bears and other large land mammals, as well as hunter-gatherers appeared. As many as 3,000 years later, those animals and humans vanished. The melting ice caused oceans to rise, turning valleys into estuaries and forming new islands and peninsulas. Soon, a new generation of human beings who called themselves “Lenape” arrived. Initially, they lived off deer, fish, nuts, berries and fruits. And about 1,000 years ago, they started growing their own food.

    In the 16th Century, Italian navigator Giovanni da Verazzano set out to find a shorter route to India and China. His quest was unsuccessful but it motivated other explorations, many of which ended up in Lenape-hoking. (Lenape-hoking is a term for the lands historically inhabited by the Native American people known as the Lenape in what is now the Mid-Atlantic United States), where the explorers started selling furs from Canada and Russia, as well as kettles, blankets, hoes, knives, etc., to the Lenape. In 1609, Henry Hudson, an English sailor, claimed an area up the North River (now the Hudson) for the Dutch East India Company. This area, was named New Amsterdam, and became a Dutch trading post in 1624.

    BOUGHT WITH GLASS BEADS

    In 1626, Dutch colonial governor Peter Minuit purchased New Amsterdam from the Lenape tribe, allegedly for glass beads worth $24. New Amsterdam’s population was just 1,500 people then, and included Dutch, Belgians, French and English. Dutch farmers built the earliest settlements. Jews and African slaves soon arrived, and by the 18th Century, it was an upmarket address. The Dutch eventually lost New Amsterdam to the British, who renamed it New York in honour of the Duke of York.

    In 1700, New York’s population was just 5,000 but it was growing rapidly. It multiplied 12 times within a century, and New York became an important trading hub with a slave-labour-driven economy. In 1785—almost 10 years after a failed attempt at achieving freedom from the British, and 13 years after the Great Fire of New York—President George Washington declared New York the largest city in the US, the capital of free America. (The capital shifted to Philadelphia later that year.) The Bank of New York was founded in 1784 and the New York Stock Exchange, in 1792.

    By 1810, New York was a major cotton trading port, and by 1817, thanks to the completion of the Erie Canal from Hudson river to Lake Erie, it was the undisputed trading capital with a population approaching 1,23,000. In the manner of rapidly growing urban spaces, the city’s growth was haphazard. To combat that, the governor appointed a commission to plan the layout of the city. In 1811, the “Commissioner’s Plan” proposed a neat, grid-like arrangement of streets and avenues for the entire city, including Manhattan. By the 1830s, the population swelled to 3,12,000 and efforts were initiated to provide clean water. The New York Police Department was established in 1844.

    THE 10-MILLION MARK

    Between 1892 and 1924, more than 12 million immigrants, arrived from Ireland, Germany, Europe, Asia and other places, and passed through New York and “settled” in the U.S.—forming communities, starting businesses and building places of worship. It was relatively recent, in the 20th century, that New York City took its present shape. Geographically, the city is situated on one of the world’s largest natural harbours and is composed of five boroughs—Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, The Bronx and Staten Island. Each borough is a county in the State of New York. In 1895, the citizens of all five counties unanimously voted to merge with Manhattan to form Greater New York. Before the counties united, New York’s population was roughly two million people. After the merger, it increased to three million. By the 1920s, it had overtaken London, and by the 1930s, it had crossed the 10-million mark to become the first megacity in the world.

    The US economy, suffering after the Great Depression in the 1930s, picked up, because of increased wartime spending during World War II, and New York became the world’s leading city. Wall Street consolidated the country’s position in the global economy.

THE CITY TODAY

    New York continues to cope successfully with the pressures of explosive growth. The increased crime rates due to job losses triggered by industrial restructuring in the 1970s and 80s were effectively controlled by the 1990s. The 24-hour rapid transport system, buses, ferries and taxis continue to support the population that needs to be constantly on the move. Streets, expressways and nearly 2,000 bridges and tunnels—many of which are internationally acclaimed engineering marvels—link the various boroughs, supporting vehicles and pedestrians. The sprawling 843-acre Central Park, the New York Botanical Gardens, lavish baseball, soccer and basketball stadiums, internationally renowned museums, cultural institutions and historic sites, as well as Broadway—the dream destination for every theatre professional—provide open spaces as well as physical and intellectual stimulation.

    New York, symbolised by the iconic Manhattan skyline, altered, after 9/11, yet continues to be the world’s financial and architectural hub. It has something for everyone.

ACTIVITY

    The Empire State Building and Times Square are iconic spots in New York.

Posted by Kamlesh Tripathi

*

https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

*

Share it if you like it

*

Shravan Charity Mission is an NGO that works for poor children suffering from life threatening diseases especially cancer. Our posts are meant for our readers that includes both children and adults and it has a huge variety in terms of content. We also accept donations for our mission. Should you wish to donate for the cause. The bank details are given below:

NAME OF ACCOUNT: SHRAVAN CHARITY MISSION

Account no: 680510110004635 (BANK OF INDIA)

IFSC code: BKID0006805

*

Our publications

GLOOM BEHIND THE SMILE

(The book is about a young cancer patient. Now archived in 7 prestigious libraries of the US, including, Harvard University and Library of Congress. It can also be accessed in MIT through Worldcat.org. Besides, it is also available for reading in Libraries and archives of Canada and Cancer Aid and Research Foundation Mumbai)  

ONE TO TANGO … RIA’S ODYSSEY

(Is a book on ‘singlehood’ about a Delhi girl now archived in Connemara Library, Chennai and Delhi Public Library, GOI, Ministry of Culture, Delhi)

AADAB LUCKNOW … FOND MEMORIES

(Is a fiction written around the great city of Nawabs—Lucknow. It describes Lucknow in great detail and also talks about its Hindu-Muslim amity. That happens to be its undying characteristic. The book was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival of 2014)

REFRACTIONS … FROM THE PRISM OF GOD

(Co-published by Cankids–Kidscan, a pan India NGO and Shravan Charity Mission, that works for Child cancer in India. The book is endorsed by Ms Preetha Reddy, MD Apollo Hospitals Group. It was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival 2016)

TYPICAL TALE OF AN INDIAN SALESMAN

(Is a story of an Indian salesman who is, humbly qualified. Yet he fights his ways through unceasing uncertainties to reach the top. A good read not only for salesmen. The book was launched on 10th February, 2018 in Gorakhpur Lit-Fest. Now available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

RHYTHM … in poems

(Published in January 2019. The book contains 50 poems. The poems describe our day to day life. The book is available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

(ALL THE ABOVE TITLES ARE AVAILABLE FOR SALE IN AMAZON, FLIPKART AND OTHER ONLINE STORES OR YOU COULD EVEN WRITE TO US FOR A COPY)

*****

 

 

 

 

BOOK CORNER: Amitav Ghosh … A CRITICAL COMPANION

Copyright@shravancharitymission

 

Khidki (Window)

–Read India Initiative—

This is only an attempt to create interest in reading. We may not get the time to read all the books in our lifetime. But such reviews, talk and synopsis will at least convey what the book is all about.

Amitav Ghosh

A CRITICAL COMPANION

Edited by Tabish Khair

    In the next twenty minutes or so I would take you through one of the finest pieces of narration. Where, one legend describes the other. Yes, when, Amitav Ghosh describes Satyajit Ray this is all one can say. Amitav Ghosh is a winner of 54th Jnanpith award and also a Padma Shri. I have pulled out this narration from a book titled ‘Amitav Ghosh … a critical companion.’ I have summarised and simplified the article for you to the best of my ability.

    Amitav in this article of his, has gone back to 1989. When he was enjoying his extended stay in the overwhelming city of New York. He had then finished writing of The Shadow Lines. The novel for some reason had a striking influence of Ray in it.

    He was then struck by a sudden wave of Ray nostalgia. And it struck to him that Ray too had once been a stranger in this city and that he too had walked the streets of Manhattan in Kolkata—bought shoes.

     One day, these pent up thoughts propelled Amitav to meet director James Ivory, who he knew to be a good friend of Ray. And later that week he went to interview Ivory, cassette recorder in hand. This is how Ivory described his first meeting with Ray, in the winter of 1960.

    “I looked him up in Calcutta,’ Ivory said. I had never met him. I had seen at that point, Pather Panchali (Song of the Road) and Aparijito (Undefeated). I knew that Apur Sansar (The World of Apu) existed and that sooner or later it would get to New York, but up till then it hadn’t come. And then some Indian friends of mine in Delhi said that apart from The Trilogy he had also made some other films in that time—the late fifties. They described Jalsaghar (The Music Room) to me and that sounded like something I would love to see. Then I made a long trip to Calcutta and went down to Puri and Bhubaneshwar and Madras. While I was in Calcutta I just decided to call him. Just to meet him, but also to ask him if it would be possible to see Jalsaghar. My friend in Delhi said he was very approachable (which he was) and I just called him up. He was in the phone book, so I just called him up and told him who I was. He said fine, he would try and arrange Jalsaghar for me. We agreed to meet in Coffee House and I went there. He was alone and we talked.

    He was immensely tall; he was probably the tallest Indian I have ever met and that seemed symbolically apt. He had a kind of straight forward majesty about him; he was obviously a king, but he was an approachable king. We were friends all his life as long as he lived. Whenever there was something he needed we tried to help. He always helped us. When there was some tremendous thing that would happen to us in the course of our own movie making in India—for instance when Utpal Dutt was put in prison (for his Maoist sympathies) while we were making ‘The Guru’ he helped to get him out. He called up or wrote to Mrs Gandhi and said this is a disgrace, this shouldn’t be allowed—things like that.”

    I asked Ivory what they talked about at that first meeting. ‘He was waiting in the coffee house.’ Ivory said, ‘while the censor was seeing Devi (the Coffee House was in the shadow of the Metro Cinema). Then somebody came from his staff and said that Devi had gone down well with the censors. He was kind of nervous about it because of the retrograde view of Hindu life at its most superstitious let’s say. He was afraid they would make him cut it. But no, it had gone down all right, and he said, would I like to come to the premiere of it, which I did, so I saw the film at the premiere and I was also introduced to Sharmila Tagore, who was very young then. And then he arranged for me to see ‘Jalsaghar’ so he went to the studio in Tollygunge where he made all his films and he sat next to me and translated for me at important moments. I thought it was a marvellous, marvellous movie and I jumped up and told him so at the end. He was surprised that I thought it was so marvellous. He said, well, he thought technically it wasn’t so good, wasn’t quite up to the mark. I said well, it didn’t strike me like that and I asked if there were any plans to show it in the west for I thought people would really like it. He said no, he didn’t have any plans. It had been shown at the Moscow Film Festival but the Russians didn’t like it because they thought it was decadent and that had discouraged him. I said, I thought he might get a different reception in the west if he pursued it. It was released here in the fall of 1963, and as you know a few years ago it was released in Paris and it was a tremendous success—ran for a year or something.’

    Ray was to collaborate with James Ivory and Ismail Merchant on two of their films: he wrote the music of Shakespeare-wallah and helped with the editing of ‘The Householder.’ I asked Ivory how the collaboration had come about.’ After ‘Householder’ was edited,’ he said ‘he still seemed very unwieldy, not very nicely done. I didn’t really have a very good editor—by this time I had met him (Ray) and I asked if I could bring the film to show him. He said sure come on. So Ismail (Merchant) and I climbed on the train—we took the Hindi version of it, all those cans, there must have 24 cans or something. We went from Bombay to Calcutta with all that film. He saw it and liked it—he thought there was something there to work with. I asked him whether he could give us any suggestions about the cutting and he said, yes. He would recut it, but he didn’t want me to interfere while doing that. He said let me have a go at it, I’ll do it my way, you can be in the editing room if you want to be, when we’re all done you can change it if you want to, that’s your business, but let me do what I want to do. So then, he and his editor Dulal Dutt recut the film. They took about four days, and gave it a new shape. It was he (Ray) who suggested that it go into a flashback form.

    Ray was always awfully generous with his time, always, always. I don’t know how he did it; because there was always many many people there, who wanted things done, people who just came to catch a glimpse of him and so on. How he had any kind of life of his own and how he made his movies I don’t know.

    Pather Panchali, to my mind the greatest of Ray’s films, was completed in 1955. It premiered not in Kolkata, but in New York, at the museum of Modern Art. This is how it came about: in 1954 Huston was on his way to India to scout locations for The Man Who Would Be King, when he came to hear of a young advertising-executive who was making a film on a tiny budget. By the time Huston arrived in Kolkata, the film had been stalled for several months, because of lack of money. At the time of Huston’s visit the dominant genre in India was the Bombay film. Ray’s work took Huston by surprise. It was apparent from the rushes that this film belonged in a different order of film-making. Huston was quick to recognize the genius of work. He viewed only twenty-minutes or so of the film, but recalling the occasion in 1987, he said: I’ recognised the footage as the work of a great film-maker.’ Returning to the United States, Huston’s reports of the film were instrumental in persuading the Museum of Modern Art to send Ray some money. MOMA’s advance went a long way towards the completion of Pather Panchali.

    Hollywood had long cast a binding spell on Ray: he was an ardent admirer of such American film-makers as John Ford and Billy Wilder. Although he never worked there. Hollywood came to play a peculiarly serendipitous role in his life; never more so than when one of his idols, John Huston, made it possible for him to complete Pather Panchali. And thus it happened that this most famous of contemporary Indian films premiered not in Kolkata or Mumbai, but in New York. It was first shown at the Museum of Modern Art in April 1955, to a small invited audience.

    Pather Panchali was released in the US (by Edward Harrison) in September 1958 at New York’s Fifth Avenue Theatre. The release was the occasion of Ray’s first visit to the country: he was then thirty-seven. The reception of the film was by no means uniformly enthusiastic. As Ivory describes it: ‘There was a famous review by Bosley Crowther which was meant to have been such a putdown. I read that again the other day and actually he was trying to like it. He was baffled, he made false assumptions, he didn’t really know what to say, but he had to admit that he knew or felt, somehow, dimly that there was something great there and he better not say something too bad about it. And apparently there were many people who wrote angry letters about his review.”

    Thirty one years later, in Columbia University’s Butler Library, I dug up a copy of an interview that Ray gave to Howard Thompson (of the New York Times) on the day of the release. Ray evidently made quite an impression on Thompson: ‘A strapping swarthy chap, with strong features, he (Ray) talks like a realistic poet, without the slightest foreign accent, looking fresh from the American gridiron.’

    Thompson continues: ‘On the day after his arrival he (Ray) stepped inside a fashionable hotel dining room, comfortably clad in occidental garb, and gamely stooped to let the head waiter pin on a Plaza tie. Presently, wearing a casually alert expression, the big rangy Calcuttan sat at a table, opening a package of cigarettes with long, tapering fingers. He had been up early, he said, just walking, camera in hand, an old habit of ‘an old film fam.’

    This is how Ray described the filming of Pather Panchali to Thompson: ‘We shot in and around Calcutta, then had to stop for six months because I was flat broke. I even sold part of my record collection, some old seventy-eights of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven—and part of my wife’s jewelry, not that her mother knew. All that was shown again to the same (financiers). No reaction. Then a year’s gap.’

    Ray was able to continue filming only because of an unlikely intervention: a powerful West Bengal politician, reputed to be ‘close’ to one of Ray’s aunts, authorised a grant from the state government. He was under the impression evidently, that Pather Panchali was a documentary about community development.

    In response to a question about the future of Indian film, Ray told Thompson: ‘I don’t know if our pictures generally will ever spread to a world market, though we have two or three young directors with the right ideas. Our industry centers productionally in Bengal, Madras and Bombay, but those from Bengal are better, more serious. As for why you don’t see more of ours—well, we have our own problems and we’re not so sure Westerners care.’

    ‘The generous mouth widened slightly,’ Thompson continues. ‘Do you?’ he enquired. The penetrating brown eyes twinkled pensively.

    Looking back now, I am sure more than ever aware of the part that Ray played in shaping the imaginary universe of my childhood and youth. I see this even in such details as my interest in science and science fiction; in ghost stories and the fantastical. One of my favourite Ray films to this day, remains Paras Pathar (The Philosopher’s Stone), a neglected masterpiece that deserves a place of honour in the canon of surrealist cinema. When I saw Agantuk (The Stranger), in which the main character is an anthropologist, I began to wonder whether my interest in anthropology too, owed something, perhaps subconsciously, to Ray: I recalled suddenly that references to anthropology go back to some of his earliest work, starting with the African mask in Apur Sansar.

    Ray’s influence extended even to the material world that I inhabited in my early years; a world which he formed to a quite astonishing degree through his influence on typography and through his visual style—a style that was itself a development on a distinctive design traditions of Bengal. That he could exert such great influence was due in part to the fact that this work extended and developed the legacy of the generations preceding his. His greatness as an artist is no way diminished by the fact that he was a rivet in an unbroken chain of aesthetic and intellectual effort that stretches back to mid-nineteenth century—a chain in which I too am, I hope, a small link.

    Ray was for me, not just a great artist; he was something even rarer; an artist who had crafted his life so that it could serve as an example to others. In a world where people in the arts are often expected, even encouraged, to be mindful of those around them, he was exemplary in his dealings with people. This was, I think one of the reasons why he was able to sustain his creative energies for as long as he did: because he refused to make a fetish of himself. As a student I had heard him speak on several occasions: it always seemed to me that there was something very private about his manner. I had the sense that it was by holding the world at arm’s length that he had managed to be as productive as he had. This was a stance I respected then and respect even more today, now that I am more aware of how easy it is to be distracted by the demands of public life.

    Ray was consistent in fighting off the pressures of the wider world. After the success of Pather Panchali he was feted by Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. It was a measure of his integrity that he never allowed their praise and attention to distract him from his own projects. Unlike many other film-makers in India, Ray consciously avoided seeking government financing for his projects, preferring to raise the money from commercial sponsors. He was always deeply aware of his audience in Kolkata and gloried in the discipline they imposed on him—primarily that of keeping his work accessible. This meant that he could never permit himself the luxury of avant-gardism in the manner of his European contemporaries such as Fellini, Bergman and Godard: nor indeed did he ever want to. To the end one of his greatest strengths was his ability to resolve enormously complex plots and themes into deceptively simple narrative structures.

    My favourite Ray story is one I came upon soon after I learnt of the appalling human cost of Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo. Once, while filming an overhead shot, a falling piece of machinery gravely injured a studio-hand who was working on one of Ray’s sets. Ray never used an overhead shot again.

    In 1992 when Hollywood awarded him an Oscar for Lifetime Achievement, Ray was so ill that he received the award lying in his hospital bed. The scene was broadcast on TV and when I saw it I realized that Ray’s illness was so serious that he might not recover. I had always assumed I would meet Ray one day, but I had never made an effort to seek him out. He was such an integral part of my imaginative world that I’d fought shy of meeting him face-to-face: what can one possibly say to someone to whom one owes so great a debt? In 1989 and 1990 I had had several telephone conversations with him. In one of them he’d told me that he greatly enjoyed my first novel, The Circle of Reason. Now I saw that it was I who had been remiss in expressing my admiration and gratitude. In light of his condition this assumed a sudden urgency. I decided to write a letter to Ray, asking if I could visit him. My letter began:

    Dear Mr Ray,

    I have wanted to write to you for many years now, but have always put it off because I knew it would not be easy to say what I wanted too …

It ended:

    The Japanese have a custom which allows people to pay homage to artists they admire by standing outside their houses, alone and in silence, until they are invited in. you are the only person in the world for whom I would gladly do that …

    The letter was dated February 6, 1992. I gave it to Shri Nirmalaya Acharya, a close associate of Ray’s and himself one Kolkata’s legendary literary figures (now sadly deceased and much-missed by all who knew him). Nirmalaya-babu promised to hand it to Ray once he was well enough to read. Alas that day never came: Satyajit Ray died on April 23 1992.

    The day of Satyajit Ray’s death was like none that Kolkata had ever seen before. When the news began to spread, a pall of silence descended on the city. Next morning hundreds of thousands of people filed past his body, braving the intense heat. In the evening when his body was taken to the crematorium, the streets were thickly lined up with people standing in silent vigil. Many held up placards which referred to him as ‘The King.’ The whole city was sunk in an inexpressible sadness: everybody knew that an era had ended, and with it, Kolkata’s claim to primacy in arts. The city was orphaned: its king was gone and there was none to take his place.

    I wandered the streets for hours that night, watching the silent crowds, reading the placards. I was surprised by the depth of my own sense of loss. Yet I was conscious also of an immense sense of privilege, of gratitude, that having been born in Kolkata I had, in some small way, been endowed with a special entitlement to Ray’s universe; gratitude at having had his work to illuminate my surroundings and my past. This is what narrative arts do, at their very best: they shape the world as they relate them. To this day Ray’s work is one of the main anchors that moors me—often despite myself—to the imaginative landscape of Bengal: indeed, to the essential terrain of my own work.

Amitav Ghosh

January 17, 2002

Posted by Kamlesh Tripathi

*

https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

*

Share it if you like it

*

Shravan Charity Mission is an NGO that works for poor children suffering from life threatening diseases especially cancer. Our posts are meant for our readers that includes both children and adults and it has a huge variety in terms of content. We also accept donations for our mission. Should you wish to donate for the cause. The bank details are given below:

NAME OF ACCOUNT: SHRAVAN CHARITY MISSION

Account no: 680510110004635 (BANK OF INDIA)

IFSC code: BKID0006805

*

Our publications

GLOOM BEHIND THE SMILE

(The book is about a young cancer patient. Now archived in 7 prestigious libraries of the US, including, Harvard University and Library of Congress. It can also be accessed in MIT through Worldcat.org. Besides, it is also available for reading in Libraries and archives of Canada and Cancer Aid and Research Foundation Mumbai)  

ONE TO TANGO … RIA’S ODYSSEY

(Is a book on ‘singlehood’ about a Delhi girl now archived in Connemara Library, Chennai and Delhi Public Library, GOI, Ministry of Culture, Delhi)

AADAB LUCKNOW … FOND MEMORIES

(Is a fiction written around the great city of Nawabs—Lucknow. It describes Lucknow in great detail and also talks about its Hindu-Muslim amity. That happens to be its undying characteristic. The book was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival of 2014)

REFRACTIONS … FROM THE PRISM OF GOD

(Co-published by Cankids–Kidscan, a pan India NGO and Shravan Charity Mission, that works for Child cancer in India. The book is endorsed by Ms Preetha Reddy, MD Apollo Hospitals Group. It was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival 2016)

TYPICAL TALE OF AN INDIAN SALESMAN

(Is a story of an Indian salesman who is, humbly qualified. Yet he fights his ways through unceasing uncertainties to reach the top. A good read not only for salesmen. The book was launched on 10th February, 2018 in Gorakhpur Lit-Fest. Now available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

RHYTHM … in poems

(Published in January 2019. The book contains 50 poems. The poems describe our day to day life. The book is available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

(ALL THE ABOVE TITLES ARE AVAILABLE FOR SALE IN AMAZON, FLIPKART AND OTHER ONLINE STORES OR YOU COULD EVEN WRITE TO US FOR A COPY)

*****