Drifting in Daylight in Central Park

Today is the official first day of summer, but the weather has taken on the airs of summer a while back. And what a summer it is shaping up to be! An imminent trip to Canada (Toronto, Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa), an invite to a summer wedding in London and an end-of-summer visit to San Francisco… not to forget the list of events happening in and around the city and there you have the perfect recipe for a perfect summer!


Central Park, a joy to visit any time of the year, is at its best in the spring-summer seasons. Add to it an incredible art show nestled among the greenery and you have one of the best summer experiences ever!


Drifting in Daylight, organised by Creative Time in partnership with Central Park Conservancy, is an eight part performance, display and participatory show running for eight weekends at various locations in Central Park.



Starting at the northern end of the park, you see S. S. Hangover, a fishing boat reimaged to look like the boat in a party scene from the mystery movie ‘Remember Last Night?’ (apparently no one does; hence the name of the boat!) sailing on the Harlem Meer. The boat carries six musicians playing a classical composition by Kjartan Sveinsson, musician and composer.



Notice how fat the Pegasus (okay, plump; we don’t want to offend the creature!) on the flag looks? According to the Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson, creator of the show, that Pegasus is a ‘symbol of the artist struggling to reach sublime heights’.



The first time I visited the show, it was sort of pouring and this was one of the two performances that went ahead despite the rain.



What is the perfect symbol of sunset in a park? An ice cream cone, of course! Spencer Finch captures this symbol with his ‘Sunset in Central Park’ ice cream truck. The truck is fully powered by solar energy and the colour of the ice cream, varying shades of the sunset, is from the pigments extracted from a painting of a sunset over Central Park. He intends each soft serve cone, free of charge, as a poetic gesture revering the sun and nature in the park.


Central Park has always been a favourite spot for movie scenes to be shot. Taking inspiration from these movies, David Levine presents the show ‘Private Moments’. Scenes from eight famous movies are placed into their original locations, actors dressed like the characters re-enacting the scene in a continuous loop.



A scene from Bullets over Broadway



Another from The Royal Tenenbaums


So now when I see a person not dressed to suit the season, the first question is, “which movie?” 🙂


Karyn Olivier’s ‘Here and Now/ Glacier, Shard, Rock’ is a pictorial representation of the life of the park, connecting the past, present and future. It is a transformational signboard in three sections, which alters your perception every time you move. The scene fluidly transforms from the blue glacial waters which formed the rocky underpinnings of the park to the present day topography and back. The scenes are knit together by a shard of blue pottery from the Seneca village which was moved from the location so that the park could be established.



Printed using the lenticular technology, the panels of the huge signboard evoke a true seamless 3-D vision.


‘Cartas al Cielo’ (Letters to Heaven, in Spanish), an artwork by Alicia Framis, presents a link between the earth and the sky or heavens, as reflected on the mirror-like surface of the sculpted form.



Viewers are encouraged to write letters on the cards provided, addressed to someone who is not on this earth anymore. The cards, dropped into the globe, are collected and at the end of the show will be symbolically forwarded. Apart from the physical cards, the sculpture is a poignant reminder of the relationship of the earth and the sky and the here and the departed.


‘And all directions, i come to you’ is a contemporary dance performance that moves through the North Woods of the park. The dancers move through the rough pathways of the woods, their audience following them.



Their presence is airy, their movements delicate, ethereal. Though choreographed, the movements seem so spontaneous and magical.



Don’t let their gazelle-like appearance deceive you; these dancers are a hardy lot! This is one of the teams that kept performing all through the rain, that too on the muddy pathways of the woods!



Presented by the conceptual artist Lauri Stallings and performed by nine artists from Glo, the experimental performance platform founded by Stallings, this is one show that you can watch for hours without the fear of getting bored ever.


Central Park is a haven for bird watchers… And Nina Katchadourian’s ‘The Lamppost Weavers’ replicates the habits of birds of using human objects for building nests. Made out of basket balls, footballs and old shoes, these points out the connection between wild life and human utilitarian items.



These pseudo birds’ nests hang from the lamp posts, but the Department of Transportation did not want the real lamp post arms used for anything other than actual lamps. So the curators of the show had to build pseudo arms to hang them from!


‘Black Joy in the Hour of Chaos’, presented by Marc Bamuthi Joseph, is an animated, energetic performance of dance, music and poetry. Inspired by present day racial politics, the performance looks back to the movements in the African-American history and the legacy of hip-hop.



Following the style of the second line parades of New Orleans, the performance, on the Great Hill of the park, is lively and vibrant.



Each of these shows is unique and contributes to making the whole an unforgettable experience.


Drifting in Daylight forms the center piece of Central Park Conservancy’s 35th anniversary celebrations this year. What is special about this show is the way it deviates from the typical performance or installation art. It has that element of surprise that adds to the thrill of enjoyment, as you discover each of the pieces along the meandering paths. And as you make that discovery, you also discover that each artwork fits so perfectly and naturally to its surroundings as if born right there!


21 Jun 2015

Boston – the City of Firsts

The first public park, the first public secondary school, the first public library, the first State Constitution, the first regularly issued American newspaper… the first windmill, the first chocolate factory, and the first pub in the country… it will take a while to list all the firsts that belong to Boston.
The first public anti-smoking law (that too, in 1632!) was passed in Boston… the first woman in the United States to earn a Ph.D. did so from the Boston University… the list seems unending.
Founded in 1630 by a group of Puritans, Boston is one of the oldest cities of the United States. Puritans were English colonists who arrived in the 16th and 17th centuries in America, dissatisfied with the church of England over the church’s tolerance of practices aligned with the catholic tradition. Boston played a key role in the American Revolution, being the scene of events like the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party.
In addition to being an important port and center of trade and manufacturing, Boston is well known for its educational and cultural institutions. Above all it is an architecturally beautiful city. So when I got a chance to do a quick trip to Boston one of these recent weekends, I jumped at the chance.
The first place we stopped at was the Harvard University campus. Did I tell you that it is the country’s first college? The spacious campus with brown stone buildings impart a sense of peace and calm.

The statue of John Harvard on the campus gets constant attention from visitors, particularly young ones. They are posing one after the other for photos with the statue that it is hard to get a click in without someone clinging to the statue’s foot.

Did you notice how shiny it is? It is believed that touching the statue’s foot brings good luck. And what happens there at night? Read for yourself here.

By the way, this statue is commonly called, ‘The Statue of Three Lies’, in the sense that contrary to what is said on the base of the statue, it is not John Harvard, John Harvard is not the founder of Harvard University, and Harvard University was not founded in 1638. Read all about it in the Harvard Summer Blog.

That day, the weather had some harsh treatment in store for us… it rained for the better part of the day! Despite the rain, we managed to visit some real interesting places.

Established in 1837, the garden has an area of 24 acres, with beautiful paths and formal flower beds. The lake in the garden apparently, always have two resident swans.

A 15 minute ride on the swan boats – a special attraction of Boston – takes you around the 4-acre lake in the garden for an utterly peaceful time with picturesque views.

Though we wanted to, we did not have sufficient time to visit all the stops on the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile, brick-lined route that leads through 16 historically significant sites associated with the American revolution.

The whole trail is marked by a red and gray brick path.
Any visit to Boston will not be complete without a look at the Boston Harbour, the scene of the Boston tea party, an event on December 16, 1773 where a group of patriots boarded a ship of the East India Company and threw chests of tea into the harbour, in protest against the Tea Act of May 1773. They were protesting – contrary to what many people understand today – not against taxation, but taxation without representation as the American colonies did not have a representative in the British parliament.

The dark look of the sky that day somehow suited the memories of that historical day.
Boston has so many firsts to its credit, but I want to give it a ‘best’ on my personal account. The best clam chowder – ever! It was so great I have decided to look on my bookshelves for my historic Boston cookbook, handwritten no less, to find a traditional recipe to follow.

And do you know who this is? Yes, Sam Adams, exactly like he is on the bottle! 🙂

Boston has so many things to boast of, if it wanted to, but it will never do so because then it will have to change its spelling to ‘Boaston’! Yep, that deserves all the groans that it will garner, but couldn’t help it! 😉
And much to the chagrin of Bostonians, Forbes magazine rated Boston as the 9th ‘Coolest City’ in the country! Yeah, it’s hard when you are accustomed to being first and then have to put up with being 9th!




08 Aug 2014

Beijing, the City of Skyscrapers

Never forget the time when I stepped into Beijing with the hope of exploring a foreign land and found a wondrous and modern city. So industrial-looking yet so entrenched in culture and tradition. It truly felt like a home away from home. Perhaps, due to my experience there or thanks to the many friends I made or the delicious food I got to eat while being introduced to one of my favorite dishes, the Beijing Hotpot, I don’t know what but Beijing and the Chinese culture will always remain very dear to me.



Much for my experience climbing the Great Wall of China, there were also other awe-filled moments that made me fall in love with the city. Hiking up Fragrant Hills or Xiangshan Park to see the Fall colors (even my Chinese friends envy me for this!) was one rare expedition to an exotic scenic location which is now an exquisite memory. In the awesome company of my friends, I could see the whole of Beijing city from the top of the hills. It is an “imperial garden at the foot of the Western Mountains covering 395 acres” and a natural pine-cypress forest with maple trees and other beautiful trees.


If you manage to go all the way up to the fortress on the peak, you become a hero and win a medal (from your friend!) 🙂 Nature was sure at its splendid best there! And yes! Another awe-inspiring experience was attending the Beijing Opera. It is traditional Chinese musical theatre where the actors are great performers. Donning colorful costumes of the Chinese kings and queens of yesteryears, they usually enact out legends and fables. The men wear painted masks with long beards and the women are nymphlike with painted faces. Enjoyed watching the performance at the Chang’an Grand Theatre while relaxing with a cup of green tea.


Of course, I also did the usual touristy stuff like checking out Tiananmen Square, going to the Forbidden City (an erstwhile palace!), strolling around the verdant summer palace, be treated to a spectacular acrobatics show (where the performers were as young as five years old!) hogging on the myriad varieties of dim sums, noodles, and congee, taking a ride along a Hutong (a type of residential locality that has narrow streets and courtyard houses; now more of a heritage structure), bargaining crazy at the innumerable flea markets like Hongqiao pearl market, Silk market, and gaping at the fancy malls at Wangfujing (Seriously, those are Some Fancy buildings!)


Now I yearn to return someday to re-explore the city and meet my old friends! 🙂

05 Aug 2014

High Park: Nature at its Best in Toronto

It was nice and sunny. The weather showed a maximum of 25 degree celsius for the day. The breeze floating about helped cool off the temperatures a bit. It was supposed to turn cloudy later in the day. With one eye open, I squinted towards the sky, still drowsy with sleep. Sprawled on the lush green grass, I was enjoying my afternoon siesta. The canopy of trees swaying gently above lulled my senses. At that point of time, the only thought that entered my mind was ‘Margarita! What would I not do for a margarita?!!’ 🙂



Sitting up, I viewed the large Grenadier Pond that had ducks and beautiful swans swimming by. It was truly a sight to behold! Behind me were people playing frisbee and badminton, walking, chatting, above all, relaxing in this serene atmosphere, far from the hustle and bustle of the city and yet so near. I was at High Park, a four hundred acres wooded area in downtown Toronto. The park gets its name from the previous owner, John George Howard, in 1873, who constructed his residence, the Colborne Lodge, there. Since the house was located on the highest point in that area, it came to be known as High Park along with the surrounding areas.


Developed as a natural park, it offers recreational facilities to Torontonians. Situated on a hilly terrain with steep inclines and valleys, there are also paved walking trails and tracks for those on a leisurely spree. For me, the walking tours are a major attraction of the park, organized on Sundays. The Colborne Lodge and the High Park Zoo are other things one could check out. So are the well-kept gardens that are embellishments to the raw wilderness around.



The High Park Zoo is a stretch of road with sections, enclosed by wired fences, providing habitats for many interesting animals like llamas, bisons, barbary sheeps, mouflon sheeps, reindeers, yaks, etc. The signboards hung outside the fences are humorously documented with information on the animals.


Ready for some nourishment, I glanced at my friends enquiringly. They were also up for a bite. We slowly started walking towards the parking lot. On the way, the High Park train, an open carriage for people wanting to tour the park on wheels, passed us. I mused over how much of the wonderment of the park they were able to take in as I felt that it was done best on foot. A break at the food trucks helped us hold our hunger for the time being and satisfied our childish cravings for popsicles, hotdogs, and cone ice creams.


I have heard that the blooming cherry blossoms in the spring are a spectacle worth seeing at High Park. In fact, the nature centre has a cherry blossom watch which tracks the date of peak bloom so people can plan their trip accordingly. Guess I need to get those pictures next!


24 Jun 2014