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LONDON - 1

My 6 month sojourn of London is finally coming to an end – about this time next week I will be at the Sahar Airport, Mumbai. Time to recap thoughts that have crossed and perceptions that have been crystallized in my mind about London as a city, UK as a country both compared to my motherland and some of the other places I saw (Swiss).



The moment you step out of the Heathrow what strikes you most is the views that loom around you - manicured lawns, roads marked with lanes, numerous flyovers and tunnels and organized boundaries. However slowly as you settle down in the city – you start noticing the cons and more subtle pros. As an 'Indian' the easiest thing to expect is that 'foreign' is a completely superlative experience to India – in that respect the biggest learning from this visit is that not everything in the west is superlative and that India has certain qualities that stand out!

Anyway – this post (probably a multi part one) is about London/UK; let me come back London. London is a superbly multicultural society – British, Americans, Caribbeans, Africans, Indians, Chinese, Japanese, East Asians, East Europeans, Russians, Australians . . . you name it and they are here.

About Indians in London I have theory, on any given weekday, if you are standing anywhere in Central London during the day, you can spot at least one Indian (looking) face in each of the four directions. The good part – an Indian will never feel lost here; the bad part – you never feel like having come to a foreign land.

Another part is that it is only on coming to London you realise the many nationalities that Indian's can come in! I am not referring to cultures – Marathis, Tamilians, Bengalis etc – no! I mean nationalities – yes … you have Kenyan Indians, South African Indians, American Indians, Singaporean Indians, Nepalese Indians, Australian Indians, ... and of course British Indians.

You meet these different nationalities of Indians everywhere in London – the shopkeepers on Tube Stations, the person beside you in the train, the colleague sitting behind you, the neighbour you meet on your way to office, and even the Taxi Driver who speaks in Gujarati as soon as you tell him you work in Mumbai :-).

Add to these the Sri Lankans, Bangladeshis, Maldevians, Nepalese and Pakistanis – and you get a city reverberating with Indian symbolisms, where Diwali felt no different than in Mumbai – crackers bursting till the wee hours of the morning; where Chicken Tikka is a regular meal; where Bollywood songs are as popular as Britney Spears ...

And what do I like most about this abundance of Indianness? Not that it's abundant – but the fact that irrespective of who it is – they love India! Yes, I have had each nationality (Indian origin or not) tell me that they adore India – some like it for Bollywood songs (no love is lost even if they don't understand Hindi), some for the people (those who have been there), some for its natural beauty (treckers, hikers), some for its religion (Hare Rama-Hare Krishna cult followers), and some for its unblemished political record.

Ummm … I seem to have drifted away from London again and this post has alreadyv become quite long … so let me do one thing … let me make another post and this time I will make it point to stick to London.

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