Reporting from New York!

BY USAMA HUSSAIN

“A poem compresses much in a small space and adds music, thus heightening its meaning. The city (New York) is like poetry: it compresses all life; all races and breeds, into a small island and adds music and the accompaniment of internal engines. The…poem whose magic is comprehensible to millions of permanent residents but whose full meaning will always remain elusive.” (E.B. White, Here is New York)

As I approach the end of this exciting January term in New York, I feel I have experienced a significant change in my approach towards New York and the role that different factors play in the modernization of a city thanks to my course instructor, my classmates and the city itself. I thought the following song about New York might give you an idea of the impression I had about New York and it will also help you to appreciate the complex phenomenon that New York is.

Although I have gained a lot of insights into this modern capital of the world, it’s important to recognize that the defining characteristic of New York is the ‘change’ that is going on all the time in its human, economic and cultural capital and still how it manages not only to survive but thrive with brighter prospects and hopes for the future. However, this never ending process of ‘change’ is not all utopia either because there is this nostalgia as well about the past whether it is related to architecture or culture or something else. The important point is that its horrific to be trapped between experiences of the past and a longing for the future and the more I have examined and analyzed life in New York, the more I feel that this phenomenon is an integral part of the whole experience that New York is.

While my research paper was still fresh in my mind, in which I examined the relationship between an individual’s identity and the crowd, I was amazed at how Ric Burns (director of the famous documentary “New York”) described his ideas, to our class, about modern New York in very similar terms. According to him, Modernism traps an individual between two remorseless directions of time (past and the future) and also that all these great structures and even the New York skyline represent the paradox that the modern city is. Its all concrete steel, overcrowded and intimidating on one hand and beautiful, cosmopolitan, inviting and full of opportunities on the other hand.

Therefore, it’s interesting to ponder this question about how modernity affects the social fabric of a city in general and individuals in particular.

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