Sunday, September 26, 2010


I may be over-reaching here but I do believe John Lennon knew my heart before I did. His music did, at any rate. For the longest time I carried his songs with me wherever I went and like a UN interpreter, they had the ability to translate emotional experiences into bite-sized chunks my mind could easily digest. I told no one.

I grew older & did the things I was supposed to do - scrape past the big exams, get a job, be reckless with my heart etc. When I was 28, I willed my circumstances into buying me a ticket to New York. Incredible things had happened to me on the inside. No one knew on the outside.
For some reason, even as young as 10 years old, I had hitched my hopes on New York City. As if it were the promise land. What does a 10 year old Indian girl (pre-cable television, pre-Internet) want from New York City? I really don't know. All I had was a withered, worn out air-ticket with the letters JFK etched out next to my name. When I was one my mother had carted me along when she visited her sister in the States. The ticket, which she'd allowed me to keep, had grown into a myth that I could barely contain.

New York City was everything I'd imagined and I could hardly stand it. I went numb. I would walk the streets of Manhattan everyday. Penn Station was the imaginary pole to which I tethered myself, stretching the imaginary rope as far as I could, as I wandered around. There were the crazy Doomsday roadside fatalists, the pavement artists, the musicians, the flirtatious doormen, the snobbish salesgirls, the nice salesgirls, the Bangaldeshi umbrella vendors. My crazy would have fit right in there. But I told no one.

And then one day my friend took me to Central Park West. We stood outside the Dakota Building for what felt like eternity. Wasn't that long at all, actually. I didn't really want to stand where John Lennon was shot dead. We crossed the street and entered the park. It's funny now, looking back I have to remind myself that my friend was with me. It played out so differently in my head. I walked into the park, walked down the path and came upon this:

Strawberry Fields Memorial to John Lennon: Central Park, NYC

There were a few benches around the Imagine mosaic. Not too many people - a backpacker with a tiny boombox playing Lennon's songs, a balloon vendor, a father explaining Lennon to his son, a vagrant and me. The numbness inside turned to something else and began to swell. Lennon's music had always been my permission to feel. Now I was here. He was all around. And no one knew.

I sat until sitting there lost all meaning. Until it became just another bench in just another park and it began to get dark. I guess my friend & I must've walked back to his car, we would've stopped by for dinner somewhere, then driven straight on through to his home in New Jersey. The heartswell would have settled into numbness again by the time we reached. We would've both sat on his balcony and puffed our cigarettes. Him inhaling smoke in his corner & I, exhaling, in mine.


  1. its like a fictional story,nice one,enjoyed a lot..

  2. Wonderful story Miss Aquatic, and one to which I can relate.

    I was fortunate to grow up with the Beatles - I was five when they first broke big in America. I was too young to go to one of their concerts, but my mother, in a spirit of selfless sacrifice, took me to the theater to see A Hard Day's Night and Help!, where there was also plenty of screaming.

    Everyone had their favorite Beatle. In the beginning I liked Ringo best - he looked so friendly, got the funniest bits in the movies, and besides, what little boy wouldn't enjoy beating hell out of a drum kit all day? But later I transferred my allegiance to John. He wore glasses (like me!), and songs like Strawberry Fields, A Day in the Life, and All You Need Is Love seemed to suggest areas of freedom and possibility that were like glimpses of light in a long, dark tunnel.

    Decades have passed, and the Beatles' music still works for me. I think Norman Mailer was right to call Lennon "a genius of the spirit." And this poem, by Charles Bukowski, always makes me remember Beatle John:


    To work with an art form
    does not mean to
    screw off like a tape-worm
    with his belly full,
    nor does it justify grandeur
    or greed, nor at all times
    seriousness, but I would guess
    that it calls upon the best men
    at their best times,
    and when they die
    and something else does not,
    we have seen the miracle of immortality:
    men arrived as men,
    departed as gods –
    gods we knew were here,
    gods that now let us go on
    when all else says stop.

  3. Thank you so much for dropping by & reading....and for sharing that lovely Bukowski poem. The 'something else that does not' die is what helps so many of us get from one day to the next.
    It also brings us together. The Beatles & Lennon have helped me make some great friends & acquaintances along the way.

    I was 15-16 when I first became aware of how Lennon died and I remember that precise night when it hit home. I sat on my balcony and bawled my eyes out. My sister thought I was nuts, especially since he'd been dead for 25 odd yrs.

  4. John Lennon's assassination was very hard to accept. William Shawn, long-time editor of The New Yorker, assessed the situation as well as anyone. I posted his little Talk of the Town entry here: