From most mundane things to topics of monumental importance, I would write what I feel like writing. This blog would not be bound by any narrow definitions. More often than not, I would be playing Devil's Advocate or moaning about crappiness of weekdays. Occasionally, it would be about unexpected joys and sometimes about heavyweight world matters. But come not here for pearls of wisdom. This place is simply my canvas.
Sunday, December 25, 2011
Country Cousin in London: Part II
I stayed at
Harrow-on-the-Hill. This place is almost like a mini-India, with Indians or
those of Indian origin abounding in all hues, shapes and sizes. It is quite a
bustling area during the day, with a busy mall, plenty of bakeries, cafes,
restaurants dotting the place.
However, it is
difficult to identify it as the same place in the evenings, after dark. And I do
mean that literally. On my first day, I returned from office at around 8.30 pm –
early by my standards in India. Guess what I found. The place was almost shut
down, with only a few eateries open and I was told that even those would close
in a while. Seriously, you gotta be kidding me. And the roads were practically
deserted. The short walk to my hotel felt like an eternity. I was kind of
freaked out by how there was almost no one out and I constantly felt apprehensive,
as if someone would leap out of the shadows and mug me. Call me paranoid if you
will but in a new city if you are walking down an area at barely 8.30 in the
evening and find it deserted, I think you are entitled to feel a little
uncomfortable. I had initially thought that maybe it was a winter phenomenon
but I was told later by a friend who was there in summer that it was not.
So, you would
understand if I felt wary of returning to the area after dark by myself. So, even
when I went out for sightseeing, I tried to be back by six-ish . Maybe if I make
the next trip in summer, it wouldn’t be as bad.
Anyway, back to
all my doings in the city. Sunday was my
last day in London. I was taking the 10 o’clock flight next morning to return
Going by my
previous day’s experience I knew that I would have plenty of walking to do
today also and it would be unrealistic to think that I could cover too many
places. So, I had to plan. I could either do the Museum circuit or try the
National Gallery and Trafalgar Square or do some shopping at Oxford Street.
Well, I decided in favour of starting the day at National Gallery.
It was another
blisteringly cold day but I thought I was well covered. There was only one
small hitch. The gloves. Well, you see, I was wearing these woollen gloves,
which were great for protection from cold but made my fingers thick, clumsy and
unfamiliar. Result: I could either take photographs or I could keep my hands
This was not so
much of a problem at the National Gallery. You are not allowed to take snaps. Problem
National Gallery, London
The entry to the
Gallery is free, though visitors are encouraged to voluntary donate any amount
they want to the museum. I thought it was a very nice system and wondered why
we could not try something similar back home. The Da Vinci section, however,
required tickets and only a pre-decided number of visitors were allowed in a
single day. Unfortunately for me, the tickets were sold out for the day. Regardless,
I was fascinated by all the art that I did see. The Biblical theme was
predominant with Christ, Mary, the Apostles and Parables portrayed in so many
different moods. Bold colours, vibrant strokes somehow made even the most
austere of moments seem pagan.
And then there
were some which were unabashed in their sensuality. Delilah betraying Samson or
Venus seducing Mars. There were moments of quiet contemplation too. A perplexed
gaze looking out of a window or visions in dreams. Stern, family portraits of
royalty and nobility – the kings and princes, the ladies and their corpulent
husbands, noble children trussed up and made to sit still for the paintings. They
were all there. I wanted to sit and stare at some of them for hours but time
was a luxury that I didn’t have.
Plus, my feet were
killing me again. But there was no help, I had not even gone out to the Square
So, I walked
down first to the Gallery shop and bought postcards of beautiful paintings,
sternly lectured myself against buying something totally beautiful and
extravagant like a deck of playing cards with Van Gogh’s Sunflowers printed on
their back. I still think about them.
Christmas Tree at Trafalgar Square
Countdown to the Olympics
I walked out to
the Trafalgar Square and found that the sun which had peeked in the morning had
gone AWOL again. Yet, that didn’t quite dim my excitement. Here I was. At Trafalgar
Square. There was a huge Christmas tree, which was a gift from Norway to
Britain. A clock showing the countdown to London Olympics. Families with
squealing kids enjoying a Sunday outside. Tourists too. Like me. I wanted to
sit here and soak in the atmosphere. This famous place. And here I was.
You could also
take the Jubilee walkway from this point. It was a pathway designed to
commemorate the Queen’s silver jubilee in year 1977. I started to walk along it
but I couldn’t keep up. The cold and the fatigue were catching up with me fast
and I still wanted to visit Oxford Street.
I alighted at Oxford Circus and stepped out into an almost
enchanted place. There were lovely Christmas decorations all over the place. The
streets were bustling with revelry and shoppers. I got hailed by a random someone
who claimed to work in a fashion house and complimented my coat. Well, thank
you very much. That is all I could say even as it all felt quite surreal.
I roamed around
the streets, walked into a few shops. Looked at some very quirky and colourful
merchandise. Animal shaped clothes pegs and dish holders. Collapsible dresses
and rings the size of two fingers.
There were lights
stringed across the roads. Santa and sleigh cut-outs smiling merrily at you. All
it needed was white snowflakes drifting slowly to the ground to turn the
enchanting into magical.
When I boarded
my flight next day, I felt happy to be returning but I also left a wish behind.
To come back again. Do all that I could not do this time. And somehow I had
this feeling that I would be back. Amen.