Brooklyn Public Library, Grand Army Plaza

In winter, near Prospect Park, trees look like bristling spiny twigs, swaying naked in the wind like tough, rubbery skeletons. In the spring and summer seasons, covered with leaves, these trees are majestic, enchanting even. They seem full of life, with squirrels running up and down, birds hopping around, disappearing into the many branches from one end, only to shoot off into the air from the other side. The trees’ sizes magnify their allure. They are like giantesses whose bulk and size are exquisitely balanced, so finely proportioned, that if they ever walked, I imagine their gait to be so graceful as to put even the swaying of supple slender vines or the curl of delicate creepers on a trellis to shame.

But in winter these gentle nourishers seem to rise in anger, invoking the metallic sky to join them in some angry cosmic march.

If I walk up Garfield, turn left on 8th Avenue, and turn a right on Union Street, I come up to the Grand Army Plaza. The stones in the buildings on the way add some illusion of warmth to the scene with their earthy brown and yellow hues. Across the Grand Army Plaza is the Brooklyn Public Library. But before your eyes rest on the imposing facade of the library, you will notice the entrance to Prospect Park, and the hypnotic skeletal trees. Give in to their allure and you will be lost to Prospect Park.

Once some winters back, I was taken in by the surroundings and feeling triumphant that I had escaped the talons of Prospect Park, I dared a short walk to stretch my legs before turning back into the library. Before I knew it I was at the Brooklyn Museum, the Scylla to Prospect Park’s Charybdis.

Nowadays I know better.

Between these two cultural monsters lay the library, which is also why I do not know where I would end up when I leave for the library.

The massive gold gilded doors of the library, replete with literary motifs, separate the chaos of reality from the peace within the library.

This institution would be the most that I would miss if I moved away from New York. Of the appellation Brooklyn Public Library, it is not the Brooklyn part that I would miss, nor the library part, but the public part. The reassuring and almost defiant project built for public consumption on such a grand scale makes me happy.

Last month, in Bangalore, Neha and I were watching the Kabaddi League Finals. I was sitting on the chair and Neha on the opposite couch.

“Oye.. throw me the ball” I said, so that I can have something to fiddle with as the match progressed.

She tossed me the ball. I caught it absent-mindedly and turned back to the telly when I heard an infectious chuckle coming from between us. Sitting on the floor was Mira, her shoulders sloping one-sided, cackling away, looking at me. Tentatively I tossed the ball up and caught it. The chuckle grew merrier. I tossed the ball higher and caught it. By now Mira was chuckling and clapping in thrill. She stepped forward, took the ball and gave it to Neha. More tossing, more catching, and more giggles filled the house.

Standing there, looking up with childlike wonder at both of us in turn, eyes shining, with bursts and peals of laughter breaking out as we happily threw the ball up in the air, stood Mira.

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