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Thursday, June 3, 2010

American Life 3

New York City: My Daughter’s Hometown

So here I am back again in the city that never sleeps. The airline has a limo waiting to take me to Gramercy, where my gorgeous daughter has an apartment. Her timing was perfect. By 6 pm, when I got to her place, she pulled up in a cab right behind me and helped me lug my bag upstairs to her apartment. What happened in between was a huge hug and kisses and the limo guy looked on indulgently

I’m back in Manhattan to spend the weekend with my very clued-in daughter. The weekend was a rediscovery of the Lower East Side with its great bars and amazing restaurants. She spent the time showing me her life in this wannabe piece of real estate in Lower Manhattan, where most people, especially twenty-somethings like her, would give their right arm to live. She lives there and knows it in a way that appeals to my sense of hedonism and aesthetics.

Can you be jealous of your own daughter? Difficult question: but I have no hesitation in saying I am envious of her lifestyle. Plus she is so Manhattan; she buys milk with no hormones, grass-fed meat, nuts, berries, dates and also cheese, wine, figs, dates, strawberries and the occasional champagne.

I’ve been visiting Manhattan since the early 1970s. I had a friend who introduced me to the genteel pleasures of the Upper East Side. I also came into the city for work and lived in fabulous hotels like The Plaza. But knowing the city through my daughter’s eyes is completely different. Clearly, she belongs there and makes me feel I too belong. And I can’t even begin to say how good it feels to have New York City as a second home.

So what is it about New York City, especially the Lower East Side that attracts bright young kids from all over the world to stay there? Chicago, where I virtually grew up, is a superb city. Its downtown Lakefront is seminally brilliant. Yet my daughter’s Lower East Side has character that is part gentrified but nevertheless is a neighborhood with ethnic diversity and post-modern slick.

I spent several weekends with her in the very recent past and she always managed to amaze me. We walked all over the place, went to great bars and ate in superb restaurants. When I was with her and drinking all these great cocktails and eating all this fabulous food, I thought to myself: my baby daughter is a New York girl: king of the hill; top of the pops.

Can a father be jealous of his daughter? No. I wish her well as one of the most fortunate members of the human race: not just to live in Manhattan but in the happening Lower East Side. I always tell my wife: if I ever had the chance to live and work there, I may have never relocated to India. In the event, nearly two decades since I moved to Delhi from the US, I have never regretted the relocation. But if I had been the suave sophisticate that my daughter is, India would never have featured in my life.

So I spent time with her in the city, walking the streets and in small parks that are things of beauty with gorgeous spring flowers; eating in wonderful restaurants and generally luxuriating in the ultimate urban experience. Between my warm and lovable daughter and the adventurous pleasure of Lower Manhattan, I was in heaven.

On the Monday, I took the flight to Chicago, comforted in the knowledge that I would be back within the week. I used always to spend more time in my hometown Chicago, than anywhere else in the US. For the past seven years, I seem to be spending more time in New York City, thanks to my daughter.

Manhattan may not be about blue skies and trees of green; it’s my daughter’s favorite song: Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.” Truly, it is a wonderful world she lives in.

Copyright Rajiv Desai 2010