Friday, March 23, 2018

Destinations :: Niagara Falls (1998)

by Proloy Bagchi (writer), Idgah Hills, Bhopal, February 28, 2018

This is a write-up on our visit to Niagara Falls , US

On our way back home we were to catch a flight from Durham for New York. Durham is one of the three cities that constitute the Research Triangle; the other two being Raleigh and Chapel Hill. All are within the state of North Carolina. Durham, incidentally, is the seat of the famous Duke University.

We caught the train from the Penn Station in New York for Niagara Falls. The passengers just cannot go straight to the platforms. They first have to wait in a lounge until they are given access to the platform and then board the train. There is just no hustle or bustle. Absence of crowds makes a more orderly way of life possible. In our case we have far too many people and our trains stretch out to a couple of dozen coaches carrying far more numbers of passengers. For this and several other reasons confusion is what reigns on Indian railway platforms.

The train runs along the Hudson River which defines the inter state boundary of New York with New Jersey. It passes through some picturesque country and it travels through many cities with familiar names, like Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo and so on. It covers more than 450 miles in around eight hours.

Already booked into a Howard Johnson hotel the first thing we did on arrival after a long journey was to get a pot of good tea and some snacks. The Hotel being very close to the Falls we walked across to take a look. It was just awesome. I was reminded of two things. The first one is our own Chitrakoot Falls of Bastar, also known as Niagara of India. Chitrakoot Falls has a substantial drop of around 90 ft. whereas the Horseshoe Falls, one of the three falls at Niagara, the waters drop down around 190 ft. which is a massive fall. It is a massive drop and massive volumes of water go down making a big racket. The two other Falls are American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. The three together make the Niagara Falls. The Horseshoe Falls straddle the international border between the United States and Canada. We were told the Falls look far better from the Canadian side but since we didn’t have Canadian visas hence couldn’t make it.

The second thing I was reminded of was “Niagara”, the Hollywood film that I had seen in mid 1950s. It had Marilyn Munroe, Joseph Cotten and Jean Peters in the main roles. Marilyn was given top billing over and ahead of Joseph Cotten who was a leading Hollywood actor of 1940s whom I had happened to see earlier in “The Duel in the Sun” and “Portrait of Jennie”.

The Falls were a great sight to see. More overwhelming was the constant roar of the waters flowing and dropping down those precipitous cliffs. We took a ride on the Maid of the Mist – a boat tour that takes one around all the three falls and for a while crosses into Ontario in Canada. Otherwise the tour is confined to the American side as it begins and ends from there. The highlight of the tour is the fine spray that one gets when the boat nears the Horseshoe Falls.

The Rainbow Bridge over the Niagara River is an international bridge that connects New York State in the US with the province of Ontario in Canada. About 200 ft above the water level the Bridge runs for around 1000 ft. It was commissioned in 1941 after its predecessor, the Honeymoon Bridge collapsed earlier on account of ice-jam.

The hotel receptionist told us one morning that that night the lights would be switched on to illuminate the Falls. We made it point to be at the Rainbow Bridge and saw the spectacle for quite some time. I had taken a number of photographs but somehow I have mislaid them. The waters illuminated with different coloured lights are indeed a fascinating sight, something out of this world.

As we had a day to spare we walked into one of the malls. There were two of them and we visited both. Both were packed with goodies. As we were wandering inside I got the brilliant Idea to buy a couple of T-shirts. I bought them only to find later that one of them was made in Bangladesh and the other, of all the places, India.

About the Writer

Pushing 80 I was born in Gwalior in Central India to parents who were educated in Calcutta, now Kolkata. My father did his master's in English in 1916. He was a professor of English in the then only college in Gwalior. After qualifying in the exams for entry in to central civil services I served the government of India for 34 years reaching the very top of the professional cadres of the Indian Postal Service. I also acted as consultant ion behalf of the Universal Postal Union in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Swaziland.
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