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New York summer, Bollywood and an Indian American

July 24, 2013 20:38 IST

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Aseem Chhabra

Aseem Chhabra, a Bollywood lover who has lived in New York for over 30 years, narrates how he overcame his summer woes to watch Nikhil Advani’s gangster flick D-Day in a theatre across the Hudson river in New Jersey.

It happens every year around this time in New York City.

The summers get unbearable, but my American friends think that since I am from India, I should not complain.

“You are from Delhi,” they say to me. “So you should be used to hot summers.” And my response each year is that I disliked the hot summers in Delhi as well.

Last week was the same. The temperature in the city hit over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.7 degrees centrigrade) and it was at least ten degrees warmer underground in the subway stations.

It was so hot that even the air conditioners in the subways did not feel effective. And I can never seem to understand people who will sit alone in an empty subway car with a broken air conditioner.

It did not help that my mother told me Delhi was cooler than New York -- well relatively speaking. The rains had eventually cooled down Delhi.

Then suddenly in the middle of the week, as things got out of control in New York, our friends across the pond started complaining about the heat wave in that city. 

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Image: A woman covers herself with a large hat in Times Square during a heat wave in New York. (Inset) Aseem Chhabra
Photographs: Zoran Milich/Reuters

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I learned that most homes and apartments in London are not air-conditioned and in fact many do not even have fans. A journalist from San Francisco visiting London tweeted that the entire city of London was out of fans.

Then on Friday a London friend on a visit to New York City set the record straight.

New York City, he said was in a worse condition, because of the humidity. 

Well, we may have lost out on the 2012 Olympics, but at least we beat them in some competition.

My biggest fear on extremely hot summer days is that we could lose power, just like it happened in 2003 when a substantial part of the northeast -- all the way up to Ohio -- was plunged in a blackout.

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Image: A man rests during a heat wave in Manhattan
Photographs: Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

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A few years later, I experienced the brownout of Queens when an electric transformer in Astoria caught fire and that reduced the flow of electricity to Astoria, Long Island City and to my neighbourhood in Sunnyside.

The brownout -- there was electricity on the street and even in my building lobby, but my apartment was dark -- forced me to spend two nights on a friend’s couch in Manhattan. Mercifully, unlike the apartments in London, my friend had an air conditioner in his living room.

Last week, I heard about a power outage in Brooklyn and one afternoon my Burmese laundromat owner in Sunnyside lost his electricity. But so far the Gods of summer have been kind to me.

In this week of misery in New York City, the best place for me to be was in my bedroom with the air conditioner on full blast.

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Image: A man cools down at a fountain in Columbus Circle during a heat wave in Manhattan
Photographs: Zoran Milich/Reuters

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New York summer, Bollywood and an Indian American

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There is a standard joke among New Yorkers -- especially those who do not have cars -- that going to New Jersey can be a real pain.

We are used to public transportation. We take subways and buses all the time in the city. But we go into conniptions at the thought of taking a Path train or the New Jersey transit bus or train.

Some of the fear has to do with going to the unknown and being dropped off on a highway in the middle of New Jersey and then to find a cab that will take us to our final destination. And that fear gets compounded when it is dark.

Last weekend, a Bollywood lover like me faced a challenge. I wanted to see Nikhil Advani’s D-Day. The buzz was strong and I had heard from fellow critics in India that the film was totally worth the trip to the theatre -- especially to see Rishi Kapoor’s and Irrfan Khan’s performance.

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Image: The poster of Nikhil Advani's D-Day


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But here was the problem. D-Day did not open in Manhattan. In fact, it played at only one theatre in New York -- the Bombay Cinema in Utopia, Queens. The other option was to see the film at Columbia Park 12 multiplex in North Bergen. But that meant going to New Jersey.

Two friends of mine -- an older American woman who loves Bollywood films and a younger Indian woman -- also wanted to see the film. 

But hopstop.com informed us that it would take nearly an hour-and-a-half to get the theatre in Utopia -- taking the number 7 train all the way to Main Street and then switching to a bus.

I actually took this arduous journey many years ago to see Subhash Ghai’s Pardes with my son.

All I remember is that by the time we reached the theatre we were exhausted.

And so we decided to be brave and take a bus from the Port Authority to North Bergen, just across the Lincoln Tunnel.

Our love for Bollywood won over the fear of visiting New Jersey.

I am glad to report that it was a very easy commute. And coming back, while we did stand along the highway entering the Lincoln Tunnel, we were able to get a comfortable shuttle van to Manhattan.

Now I wish the film, D-Day, had been as agreeable as our trip!

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Image: A man sleeps on chairs in Bryant Park during a heat wave in New York
Photographs: Carlo Allegri/Reuters

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