My first trip to the most talked about city in the world left me with an indelible impression of bad taste, that a week after the trip, I’m still pretty sick because of it.
It goes deeper than just the aesthetic and the form. So what horrified me more than the overwhelmingly cheesy Christmas-themed decorations everywhere was the observation that the people seemed to truly enjoy them, or even embrace them. The city does not understand subtlety and low-key: everything is blown up to such a degree that it assaults you because otherwise it will not be noticed. The result is a cacophony of lights, shapes, colours and objects vying for attention, suffocating the observer.
So are the people there – in order to get attention they are either abusive or aggressively flattering to the extent they appear to be phoney. Showiness is an absolute quality for survival, or one will not get the respect that one would normally get in a society less gaudy in every way. And what is a more blatant way to say ‘I am rich’ than tipping profusely, everywhere, so as to receive the obsequious treatment that appeals to the chronically insecure?
But despite the rat-infested subway, the overblown prices, the unstoppable materialism, the generally poor quality of things, the rudeness of population and the blatant hypocrisy – despite all this, the place never fails to draw dreamers to brave the hostility there, even when after a few years of struggling they become disillusioned, to settle down, and to continue to dream. What is the draw? I am yet to find out.