Monday, June 23, 2008

A Slice of Summer in New York City

A Cabbie's Carelessness
My first impression of New York City turned out to be a bad one. First, my American Airlines flight from Pittsburgh was delayed for an hour. And, when I arrived at LaGuardia Airport, it took me a while to find out my luggage. After coming out of the terminal, I had to queue to get into a cab.

As the ubiquitous yellow cabs lined up on the road, it soon became clear that the cabbies don't know the route and as a result the passengers have to direct them. It was my first visit to NYC; so there was no way I could direct the cabbie. I was rejected by a Bangladeshi cabbie. Finally, I got into a Pakistani's but he too did not know the route. So, I called my friend Sahadev Paudel and asked him to direct him. That also did not work and after much negotiation, he dumped me on an intersection which was located just below a train track.

I was not expecting my tryst with NYC to be this bizarre. I had to spend an hour on that area which looked like a ghetto. Policemen were hovering around, all sorts of people were coming and going. But when Sahadev showed up, I heaved a sigh of relief. We headed to his apartment in Ridgewood.

I was in town to attend SAJA convention 2008 at CUNY. On Friday, Sahadev and I left early morning for the venue. We were a bit early. So, we hung around Manhattan. At 8:30 a.m., I left him and entered CUNY building. While registering, I realized that Kashish Das Shrestha just preceded me. I had watched my former colleague Shekhar Kharel's documentary "December Blues" which featured Kashis as a lead character to portray the young and restless of Kathmandu city. So, it was easy for me to recognize him. I introduced myself and we started to hang around. There was Anup Kaphle too, our man at SAJA. He was pretty busy. I also found two Nepali students (Sneha Pradhan and Bibek Bhandari) volunteering as bloggers for the convention. As there was plenty of time and my not-so-good networking skills were not working, I was restless. Kashis noticed it and commented: "bore bhayo?"

But soon, I would discover a bunch of interesting people. One of them was Lajwanti Khemlani. She turned out to be a blogger. We exchanged some info but it was time to hear keynote address by Robert Thompson, managing editor of Wall Street Journal. He gave an excellent speech where he talked about future of South Asia and future of newspapers."Newspapers are under a digital duress," said Thompson who left Times of London six month ago and joined WSJ. He also said that a journalist should question himself, question the authorities and fulfill the objective of being objective.

When asked about his suggestions to young journalists, he said: "Read widely, know digital, be flexible, be a storyteller and increase your vocabulary." He also mentioned that almost all the regions as significant while addressing a query on lack of international coverage.

I was wondering what to attend next as there were several workshops going on. I was fascinated by Amar Bakshi, a young journalist who traveled from Asia to Latin America to probe "How the World Sees America?" Anup introduced me to him and we went together to his presentation. His was an enriching experience which he shared with the participants. But the highlight of the salon for me was my friend Umar Cheema's entry into the room. We met and soon found ourselves hanging around. Umar's friend Salman Masood, a NY Times reporter in Pakistan, turned out to be a jovial and cool person.

After talking to Sandeep Junnarkar, president of SAJA, we headed to attend Amitava Kumar's presentation on narrative writing. His was also a wonderful presentation with several examples of good writing.

An Evening at NY Times Building
When I knew that the NY Times is hosting a reception at it's new building for SAJA participants, I was excited. I had read the superb piece by Nicolai Ouroussoff, on the new building. My blogger friend Dinesh Wagle posted a blog comparing Times building to our own Kantipur Complex in Kathmandu (the analogy might seem odd, but analogy it is). Before joining the reception, Umar, Salman, Sahar and I went to the Times newsroom, met few Times staff and spent a few hours at the cafeteria.

At the reception on the 15th floor with a view of Hudson river, I sipped red wine, ate delicious samosas and listened to the speeches of and Q&A with Michael Golden, vice-chairman of NY Times and John Geddes, managing editor of the paper.


Govinda Bhattarai said...

It is in fact a wonderful piece of narration despite a few grammatical errors. The best thing in it is the picture it creates in the reader's mind. I admire your skills of feeding the information and of remembering names of people you've met.
Keep it up.
Govinda Bhattarai

Laju K. said...

Hi Deepak, glad you made it back okay. Good to meet you too. Too bad that you had a terrible first few hours in NYC. As I had mentioned during the convention, I feel safer walking down the streets of NYC than anywhere else. Better luck next time, glad your friend showed you. Regards.

clairetheloon said...

I'm sory that your introduction to New York was so uncomfortable! It seems that your opinion may have softened during your stay. I hope it did, as I beleive that New York is one of the world's great cities.

Your description of the SAJA conference was highly informative and entertaining. Thanks for sharing it!

Julie -AFPF-

Deepak said...

Hi Julie,
Thnaks for the comment. Yes, the initial bad impression morphed into a pleasant experience. I try to retain only the good aspects of a bad experience!Glad that you liked the post.