Sundeep Bhutoria

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Monday, September 10, 2012

A pedicab view of upscale NYC (Sent to DNA Afterhours Jaipur)


A view from Central Park
Last weekend New York weather was perfect for a stroll. I took a long walk towards the South of the Central Park and after a cup of spicy tea at the Taj Group-owned Pierra Hotel Lounge, I decided to take a pedicab ride to the Central Park – a patch of green in the heart of the city.Pedicabs, an utterly unconventional mode of transport in New York City, are a smarter version of our rickshaws and is a great way to plying through the Central Park since it is open on all sides and you get a 360 degree view around you. It has a collapsible canopy and can be used in case it rains or if the sun is too much on a given day. 
The pedicab drivers often fill in as the tour guides, and interpreters at the Central Park.
I was really lucky to get a pedicab driver who seemed very intelligent and informed.
He told me that the upper west side (UWS) of the Park was teeming with rich celebs like Madonna, LeBron James, Steven Spielberg, Demi Moore, Bruce Willis, Michael Douglas, Matt Damon, Tiger Woods, Steve Martin and others who have taken up residence.
While the upper east side (UES) of the Park, the toniest of tony areas, belong to the Rockefellers, Kennedys, Vandebilts, Astors, Whitneys and other old-monied families often linked to the great American success story with old mansions and grand pre-war houses. Once known as the Silk Stocking district, it still is one of the most affluent neighbourhoods of New York City with the most expensive real estate in the world. The famous Met (Metropolitan Museum of Arts) is located there.

From one of the corners of the Park, my guide helped me espy the famous USD 88 million penthouse which a Russian billionaire bought for his 22-year-old daughter who had come to study in New York University. 
Dmitry E Rybolovlev's 15 Central Park West penthouse condo created history as the most expensive residential deal in Manhattan last year.
I asked my guide what he did earlier. It took some more conversations and light talk before he opened up. 
He said he was a professor of English literature in Burkina Faso. Even more surprising to me was the fact that he got his green card in a lottery. 
On a pedicab
He said that the US government does conduct online lottery from time to time and if you win one you receive to approach them and get your green card. First I thought he was joking, but soon realised that he was right. The US government indeed has such an online system in place, however, one has be careful enough to avoid numerous fake sites. I enjoyed my trip immensely.
The Professor doesn't want his family or students back home to know that he is a pedicab driver. I promised him not to write his name.
We know very well what many Indians do to get a green card. Many of them do jobs which they are not comfortable telling their families and friends. During my extensive overseas travels, I have a fair idea of the sacrifices people make just to have that blue passport or green card. Many of them can be seen sitting among the 9000 benches of Central Park.

Isn't it also a fact that many village boys came to Jaipur after Independence to live a glamourous life on to end up being rickshaw walas in the city's lanes.
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