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  • Mithila Malaviya

Not A True New Yorker

Updated: May 1

“Look, we have one big grocery store in every corner in India, along with the vegetable sellers who come in with fresh stuff in the mornings and evenings right underneath your building. In Paris, there were stores, pharmacies, and bakeries. All the stores always had vegetables and the pharmacies and bakeries did not carry each other's inventory. So by this logic, I should have found some in the Delis or the all-inclusive Duane Reades or the multiple Targets.” This was me explaining myself to my roommate that just wanted a few tomatoes. For the life of me, I did not happen upon them! “Why would the Deli have tomatoes? Why would Duane Reade ever have tomatoes? Targets have them. Did you go to the right one?” Is what my roommate replied. In my defence, I saw some Delis that carried milk and onions along with the most random bunch of kitchen items put together. How would I know tomatoes are not “Deli worthy”? Also, why would a Duane Reade not have them? They have a pharmacy in there and they carry everything else under the sun, plus the sunblock! Moreover, what kind of Target is the “right kind of Target”?

The big Target is the right kind, in case you were wondering.

It has been almost a year since I have been in New York and this incident took place when I was a three-month-old newbie. I still have no clue what places carry tomatoes if you quiz me I will fail. But, I did find two places next to home that does carry them. My roommate would always say these things to me, like the annoying friend who just jumped on "this new trend” that started two days ago and acts as she invented it. “You don’t know about Troga? It’s like yoga but you have to do it on the treadmill.” Thanks, Karen, feel superior yet? When I was moving to New York, oh I had my fantasies. Just like Meghan Daum had her’s, I had my perfect New York. I say this with backed up research, similar to Daum’s research. I had seen my “Ideal New York” multiple times through the magical window in my room. It glitched during the rains, but it informed me about how it was going to be in New York. New York is a wonderful place, it would say. My time in Paris right before my move to NYC also made some alterations in my expectations.

When I found my roommate (who is a perfect roommate by the way, but a questionable friend) I dreamt of having the Monica and Rachel apartment from F.R.I.E.N.D.S., or the Joey and Chandler one, where both were seconds away from a, presumably affordable, coffee place. I thought of the adventures I would have, that was promised to me in How I Met Your Mother. I would have Marshal’s perfect burger joint that I would randomly stumble upon and would be impossible for me to find again as New York is ever-changing. Lily’s perfect fire escape area to paint in. Robin’s success at finding jobs and working non-stop! Ted’s access to a beautiful rooftop that I would take my dates to (Mila Kunis promised me the same in Friends with Benefits, along with flash mobs that happen in Times Square a lot apparently). Finally, I thought I would end up believing in Barney’s idea of New York being the best city in the world too. Castle advised me about the sketchy people and serial killers in New York, noted to be aware. Brooklyn Nine-Nine made sure I knew the Police were not as harsh as they seem (which is absolutely true). Bride Wars filled me in on the perfect wedding which happens in June, in New York, at The Plaza. Chris Evans informed me about how NYC is open 24/7 in Before We Go and showed me how Grand Central Station looked like. He also enlightened me about the friendly-ness of people in New York. Furthermore documentaries like, You’ve Got Mail showed me how beautiful Central Park is, not that I did not know that already, I saw the aerial shots provided by F.R.I.E.N.D.S.. The MASK gave me a pretty big dream I still would like to conquer of singing and dancing like Jim Carey on Cuban Pete in front of police officers! There were many more like How Harry Met Sally, Just My Luck, YOU, White Collar, Friends From College and Definitely, Maybe along with the list above, that told me how New York was exactly going to be.

It was finally my time to see all this in action. I was in New York. I was ready to do “New York” things. Do not ask me what this means as to this day I do not know. It is as if people are in on a big fake joke where you make it look like it means something but it really does not. I knew what I had to do to become a “New Yorker”, there was a list in How I Met Your Mother that I made a note of. One, steal a cab from someone who needs it more. Two, see the local area celebrity (they mentioned Woody Allen). Three, cry on the subway and do not care what people think. Lastly, four, kill a cockroach with your bare hands. Now, this was an odd list because I have done all of these in Bombay already, on a daily basis if I may add. So I forgot about it and started enjoying my time in New York. It was not like I thought it would be. Nothing was like it was supposed to be. The apartment was weird, the coffee shop was too expensive, Central Park was not as autumnal romantic, I did not have a fire escape, no rooftop, Grand Central Station smelled a little like pee, no flash mobs, Bombay had way better burgers and I am sorry, but who thinks New York is the greatest city in the world? Have you been out in the world? The only true thing about New York that stayed up to the mark was the fact that, yes, it was open 24/7.

Bombay has all of this and then some more. But, I felt I was being too harsh, so I gave NYC a few more months. I did feel right at home as it was very much like Bombay. People did not know their neighbours, there were no nosy Nellys, people let you be you and your full weird true self, if you talk to them they would tell you how they have traveled far and long to be here and accomplish their dreams but, people in Bombay had one difference, they do not look down upon you for not being “Mumbaikars” (New Yorkers).

It is possible that my roommate was making it hard for me to enjoy New York as I was constantly expected to do things like a “New Yorker” according to her. If you would like to know what a perfect New Yorker is, the article in Culture Trip by Taylor Haacke called “How to be a New Yorker in 10 simple steps” is the exact New Yorker my roommate is and expected me to be. There are many more articles that tell you how to be a New Yorker but honestly, I couldn’t care less. A place that intimidates you to spend more than you earn, forces you to become from that place, believes that if you do not make it there you have somehow been chewed up by the city and thrown out or that you are not tough enough to now make it anywhere else is not somewhere I want to be. Though NYC preaches you to be “You” unapologetically. I also read an article about how I may not be a New Yorker, by this article’s logic, I am not cut out to be a New Yorker.

Bombay has all these struggles but it still sympathises with the Mumbaikars as one understands how hard they work along with envying the non-Mumbaikars as they have a calm and serene life. Besides, Paris also is a cultural melting pot that works and parties equally as hard as New York does. However, Paris does not have to live up to the standards that have been faked by some people trying to feel superior. I used these cities as examples and in comparison, as not only have I been and lived in these cities (and speak with personal experience) but these too are world cities and Tony Judt in My endless New York would agree. I honestly believe in Nick Greene’s article when he talks about how the most “Only in New York” things are false. Though I must say, the days I do not think about being a New Yorker or get reminded to be one, I have a beautiful time in New York. New York is a wonderful place that has forced outlooks by the initial few people who did have to work too hard, fight their way too hard and build their skin of steel to be a part of the horrible unaccepting world. However, one's experience cannot be forced on someone else. New York is here to accept you, make you feel powerful, free, and give you a hug at the end of a hard day. Forcing ideas of being “A Real New Yorker” makes it look like the horrible boss that needs you to be as tough as you can be when it isn’t required.


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