Tanvi Misra is a staff writer for CityLab covering immigrant communities, housing, economic inequality, and culture. She also authors Navigator, a weekly newsletter for urban explorers (subscribe here). Her work also appears in The Atlantic, NPR, and BBC.
Hello, and welcome to a special Saturday edition of Navigator!
It’s the end of 2017—the year of news alerts. The world has changed in profound ways; and the more uncertain it becomes, the more I find myself searching for comfort in memories of home. But like I mentioned in the last edition of this newsletter, it’s jarring to then come back and realize that home is no longer as you remember it.
My fondest memories are of Delhi’s famously crisp winters: Diwali, steaming pots of chai, high beams cutting through the fog, and my mom carrying a kanger under her shawl at Kashmiri weddings. One year, temperatures fell so low, my school decreed that girls could wear jeans instead of the drab skirts that were a part of our school uniforms. We felt so American—so individual.
But now, the Delhi winter is dead—replaced by a gloomy, temperate smog. And as with other big and small injustices in India, this city’s poisoned air is becoming normalized.
I’m not going to end 2017 on that depressing note, though. Below are two readers with more positive thoughts on their hometowns. First up, Deepti Adlakha, who is originally from Chennai:
Age-old rituals of “kolam” (also called rangoli in some parts of India) where front yards of homes are decorated with [colored] chalk powder every morning, small shrines of Hindu deities to ward of evil at dead-ends and street intersections, the soothing waters of Marina beach, and the familiarity of older neighborhoods like Mylapore, dotted with heritage buildings and homes from colonial times—these are some examples from Chennai where one can witness its rich tradition seamlessly blending with popular culture. It is these unchanged and nostalgia-evoking aspects of Chennai that make every homecoming heartwarming for me.
And here’s Arielle Diamond on Morristown, New Jersey:
In this time of extreme inequality, in the country of the haves and the have-nots, Morristown feels exemplary of the places around the U.S. that are growing and thriving. As a born-and-raised local, I feel one part pride, and one part astonishment. In some ways, it feels like it was only chance that kept the town from crumbling—like so many other places around the U.S. But the economic boom of my hometown begs the question: Is this rising tide lifting all boats?
In 2017, cities pushed back. Here are some practical tips on getting home safe after your New Year’s Eve extravaganza. (In Tokyo, a bus will rescue you if you drunkenly pass out on public transit.) We’re gushing about NBA’s new city jerseys—and somewhat lamenting the inevitable rise of the #grammablecity. The parking garage underneath the Continental Towers on 79th Street in New York has the best holiday decorations, apparently. A church with a shrinking congregation in Brooklyn puts out a prayer box to serve its changing neighborhood. Baltimore Rising goes behind the fight to demand police accountability.
Here's what else we're reading, watching, and listening to:
Time traveling in New York’s manually-operated elevators. (The New York Times) ¤ Mapping Seattle’s most infamous intersections. (Curbed) ¤ “It’s almost as if someone got drunk while playing ‘Sim City.’” (The Washington Post) ¤ R.I.P., Guy Fieri’s Time Square restaurant. (The New York Times) ¤ Photographing Carnival Town, USA. (Narratively) ¤ Idaho > Wyoming: A numbers story. (The Washington Post) ¤ Kevin McCallister’s neighborhood in Home Alone has a really high walk score. (Apartment Therapy) ¤
To round it out, here are some essays on homes—past, present, and imaginary:
- Imran Siddiquee on growing up South Asian in Springfield, Illinois—in the shadow of Simpsons’ Apu character. (Longreads)
- “My first remembered home: a cardboard box in a bedroom high above First Avenue,”writes Geeta Kothari. (Cosmonauts Avenue)
- Nur Nasreen Ibrahim on returning to India after partition in search of her grandparents’ home. (Catapult)
- Edmaris Carazo on the “need to mourn the debris” left behind by Hurricane María. (Catapult)
- “I’d been living in Dallas, Texas, for six months when the city began to reject me like a hastily transplanted kidney,” writes Rivers Solomon. (Guernica)
- Madeline ffitch explains why “in the camps at Standing Rock, children were everywhere.” (Granta)
View from the ground:
@indygibble’s Indianapolis gram celebrates the human innovation that creates our cities, @urbanetics_ snapped this mix of Dallas’ eclectic architectural variance, @misterkchung photographed the stillness of the University of Washington campus during winter break, and @nightwingg wants to remind us that Motor City is still alive.
Show us the view from your city. Tag us on Instagram with the hashtag #citylabontheground.
Have a safe New Year’s Eve, and I’ll see you in 2018!
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