Midnight in London


Have you ever been so taken in by a place that you would ditch your perfectly sound, normal life to go and live there? Would you be so in love with an era that you would do anything to be transported back to it? Right. Midnight in Paris. And the lesser known fact that I am such a person.

I am an incurable romantic. I love history. I love fantasising. Put all these together and you have a recipe for disaster. No wonder I have ended up as a dreamy eyed retard who lives in the world of fantasies.  If I count the number of hours I have spent reading up and fantasising of bygone eras, it would account for half of my lived life.

How else do I explain my constant fixation with anything that would qualify as ‘old-worldly’?! As a kid sitting in history class and listening to the lectures on times long past, a chill would creep up my spine and I would get goose bumps while I imagined the Kings, Queens, revolutionaries, wars and struggles in flesh and blood. Even after the lecture was long since over and we had gone home I would not be able to get them out of my head and I would read and re-read the text book and dream about them with my eyes wide open. My parents sensing that help was needed would buy me fact books filled with details of historical milestones and I would read them all in one go and ask for more of them. My journalism undergrad degree had a module of history in the first semester and I still remember it as one of the most fulfilling semesters. I would scrounge the University library for history books and encyclopaedias and had created extensive notes that got termed as the ‘Guidebook for 1st sem history’ aka the notes that were photocopied by all my classmates and the succeeding junior batches thrice removed. It was sure fun to watch them all try to make sense of my indecipherable handwriting that got nicknamed the ‘jalebi’ writing.

And did all those antics satisfy my thirst for romance and history? You wish! Outside of class work, I read historic romances, novels with a historic theme or anything that referred to or was set in the days that involved lamps, horses and elaborate dresses. God, this is crazy, I know! But beat this; I was so taken in with the London of Sherlock Holmes, the period dramas of the Bronte sisters and the magic created by Dickens that I quit a job, chucked everything and moved to London to write. (Thank you for the applause and I can hear the soap opera style guffaws too.) There are times when I walk the streets and think, “I wonder how this street would have looked in the 19th century” (This had happened in Delhi too, especially at the Red Fort). My friends have termed me mad, my family is perplexed and I am astonished with the lengths I will go to live my fantasies.

Another place that sends a chill up my spine- Hampi, Karnataka

And then I watched Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen’s Oscar winning movie and it rang a bell. Actually a siren went off in my head saying ‘wooooo wooooo familiar territory wooooo wooooo’. After watching the movie I am half relieved that I am not as much in love with London as that guy is with Paris to start seeing things but a bit sad that I will not be picked up in an antique car at midnight and be transported back in time to the golden ages to rub shoulders with the literary giants that I look up to. Man, I would give anything to go back in time and meet Conan Doyle, Faulkner, Dickens, Fitzgerald and the like and get my novel looked up by Hemingway! Brrrrrr. I guess from now on every time I walk a street at night I will half hope to be picked up by that ‘time machine’ car.

Midnight in London
Picture courtesy: Timeout London (I guess)

And now I can’t get the jazz out of my head. And I can’t stop looking up the Eurostar prices to Paris. I can’t stop thinking about how wonderful it would be to be transported back to Victorian London even if it was for a few hours. Looks like I will have some interesting dreams tonight. Anyway time to hit the bed and before I do that, I might just look up the schedule for the upcoming Shakespeare’s Globe festival. No missing it and yeah I might as well look up the opening time for Warwick castle too (wink wink). And meanwhile let’s sing along with Cole Porter: 🙂

Birds do it, bees do it

Even educated fleas do it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

In Spain, the best upper sets do it

Lithuanians and Letts do it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

The Dutch in old Amsterdam do it
Not to mention the Fins
Folks in Siam do it – think of Siamese twins

Some Argentines, without means, do it
People say in Boston even beans do it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

Romantic sponges, they say, do it
Oysters down in oyster bay do it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

Cold Cape Cod clams, ‘gainst their wish, do it
Even lazy jellyfish, do it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

Electric eels I might add do it
Though it shocks em I know
Why ask if shad do it – Waiter bring me
“shad roe”

In shallow shoals English soles do it
Goldfish in the privacy of bowls do it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

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Bangalore to London 2


Four months after moving to Kingston it has finally dawned on me to blog about my ‘first impressions’ in this London borough by the Thames. (Am a whatever! I know…) As the prologue has already reached my readers, (those of you who have read the post Bangalore to London would know what I am talking about) it is but natural that the story should continue. So here goes…my usual commentary with some pictures all from my first week in Kingston. 😀

 I arrived in Kingston bent with approximately 50 Kgs of luggage on a Saturday night on the 24th of September. I had never crossed the Indian border before, let alone set foot in the UK and I had no idea how I would locate the University Halls of Residence or whom I would call if I did not find it. Luckily I found a black cab at the airport, the famous taxis of London driven by know-all-the routes drivers and the cabbie after much consultation of maps and discussions with colleagues over the radio managed to put me on the doorstep of the Halls in record time and without any haggling. I was already smitten by London and the town of Kingston.

I had been expecting to walk into a cold, drab, colourless, hateful town and I was naturally taken aback by the greenery, beauty and the order around me. I am a hardcore Indian by heart but I should admit I felt…relief! Clean and green just as I liked it and add some order to it (orderly traffic, neat roads, no haphazard parking or crammed rows of buildings) and I am sure to fall head over heels in love with any place that could boast of these three things. Maybe it’s the effect of growing up in a little, unpolluted town or maybe the effect of living in an overpopulated, chaotic city for the last three years, but the result was there to see.  I loved Kingston and I was ready to ignore the absence of rainbow colours of an Indian city. The weather did not bother me too. It was still summery in September and I felt at home.

The moment I checked in and was shown to my flat I crashed out. It was like in a Tinkle story- the traveller who arrives someplace after a tiresome journey to find a nice little room and immediately he pulls out a sheet from his bag and crashes out. Well that’s exactly what I did. I was knocked out flat flat for more than ten hours and when I opened my eyes it was nearly ten the next morning. I showered, called up family and decided to go out for breakfast and explore the town. But not in my wildest dreams was I prepared for the ‘adventure’ that day.

I met a flatmate and following her instructions walked to the bus stop nearby. If the previous night I was smitten, then that morning I was madly in love with the place. My Halls are in a campus called Kingston Hill and though I did not see any hill nearby, it did not take me long to realise that the campus was a conserved area, bordered with woods and teeming with squirrels and birds. I walked with a spring in my step to the bus stop and waited for a bus, got into a trademark red double-deck when it arrived and only then realised that I did not have change to pay. All I had were notes of 50£ denominations and just as expected the driver exclaimed ‘50 pounds?!’ when I presented it to him. I got out of the bus red-faced and decided to walk instead. I had been told the town centre was a 20-25 minute walk away and I trudged along taking in the fresh morning air. That’s when I started getting a creepy feeling down my neck. Something did not feel right. I kept walking but I was not sure if I was going the right way and that’s when it hit me. There was nobody on the street to ask directions…not one soul!! Nearly eleven on a Sunday morning and the main road in town was deserted. I almost freaked out…was there a curfew of some kind or something that had happened in the town I wondered. But I was not sure and hurried past closed storefronts and houses with no signs of inhabitation. There weren’t even any vehicles on the streets, only buses and a few bicycles.

Then I came into the town centre and finally saw some human beings… It felt like I had come out of the theatre after watching a spooky movie. 😀  I was plain stupid and had not realised that people took weekends seriously here. I found a sandwich bar and bought some coffee and breakfast and as I sat eating on a bench in the town square I saw people slowly emerging, first in ones or twos, then in crowds, women pushing buggies (prams), children skipping about, men with families… I could see the town literally ‘coming to life’. And then I heard the music, a violin playing and I went after it…following the sound around the square till I found a street musician playing in front of the mall and people stopping to listen to him… That did the magic. It all felt strange and I was still homesick but I had been won over.

Then on it has been a rollercoaster ride. There have been the lows when people have been rude to me, when I had problems catching the English accent, when I had to go through the tedious (for weird old me) process of making friends etc etc but there have also been the highs such as the pure pleasure of learning new things every day, the kick I get out of exploring London, the peace in the mornings while I wake up to the strumming of a guitar etc etc. It’s nice to be a student again and it’s nice to have all the time in the world to do what I want to do- write.

Sometimes I do ask myself whether I did the right thing in quitting a well paying job, spending a ton of money for a ‘phoren’ degree and coming to live in a strange country amid strange people. But then I remember this saying (Audrey Hepburn’s I guess) “The most important thing is to enjoy your life, to be happy, it’s all that matters.” As long as I am happy with what I am doing, I guess am doing it right and that’s all that matters while I take life one step at a time.

Bangalore to London


You only get scared of the giant wheel till you are on it, after that it’s a fun ride you will never forget

Well, well…this is evidently a long pending post that is almost four months late. But I should say it’s in time to greet the Chinese Year of the Dragon. Anyway, after much procrastination and some tough decisions (like deciding not to make my blog a travel diary) I have moved my lazy ass to sit down and write a post for ‘2012’.

First things first, I am not writing from Bangalore, the city which was my home for the last three years and which drove me so damn nuts that I created a blog diary The Color Purple (which thou art reading at the moment) to share my inner most depressed thoughts with the unsuspecting public. :p I am also not writing from my family home in the little beach town Udupi on the west coast of Karnataka where I spent the first 21 years of my life and took refuge from the madness of the world now and then. I am writing from Kingston upon Thames, a borough of London in the far away island of United Kingdom.

I am no longer a workaholic Public Relations professional or a financially independent ‘Fire-brand’. I am a student dependent on parents for pocket money. I no longer live in a cramped rented 1BHK house in Bangalore with a half crazy roommate, filling my lungs with nicotine while pounding out blogs and stories to de-stress. I am writing sitting in my own cubby hole of a study-bedroom with no way of filling my lungs with nico while I write for fear of setting off the fire alarm. I no longer write to de-stress, instead I write full time as apart of my Creative Writing course.  How life changes doesn’t it?

Flashback to January 2011. Overworked. Stressed out. Neurotic. Grumpy. Depressed. You get the drift. That’s when this great idea finally crossed my mind. I thought, “why not go back to University and complete my education? How about doing my Post-grad? I could do with a break right? I had to get that all-day-smile my friends oh so missed back on my face”. It sounded like a great plan and the research began over Kingfisher-Strong powered late night online sessions. A plan emerged, only to be cut short by the family astrologer (to whom my well meaning mother relays every event in our lives) who said I should drop any such plans. After much motherly emotional drama- which every Indian mother worth her salt would approve of- I decided to drop the plan. Well family comes first right?

February and March zipped by and I continued with the banal existence. Then the heavens opened up and sent me a divine message. It was April and I was in the middle of a lead-up meeting to the annual review session at work, sitting across my Boss and was fielding some googlies meant to see how ready I was to take on more responsibility when I was asked this oh-so-irritating question, “Where do you see yourself 10 years from now”? And guess what happened? First time in the three years in that company I was tongue-tied. I did not know what the heck I should answer. No I did not want more responsibility, not even a promotion or a raise. I wanted to be as far away from the profession as possible, I wanted to do something I had lately realised I was born to do. I wanted to write. God It was such a revelation! And that is when I changed my mind. Astrologer or no astrologer, I was going to write full time and I was going to fine tune my writing with a Post-Grad writing degree. The rest was not so easy but eventually it did fall in place. TG!

Strange are the ways of the world. The two people who propped me up through the next few months of mad applying to Universities, arranging finances, battling chicken pox and emotional meltdowns were my mum and my Dad. My Amma’s motherly love overtook beliefs in astrology and she decided to trust in God and help me through the last-minute-applying madness. So here I am, a Science group student who did an Undergrad degree in Journalism (thinking it was her true calling till she actually got into a newsroom and hated it), who stumbled upon Public Relations by chance and put in three years of her life trying to like it and finally was enlightened belatedly that all the while what she thought was a hobby was indeed her passion. WRITING, the ever-so-slippery eel of a calling that dawns on so many people so late in life. (I have a few 50+ year olds in my class and many in their post 30’s.)

So now that I know what I want to do in life am I happy? Well…let me put it this way: – I can’t complain. LOL 😀 I don’t work long hours (though I am hunting for a part-time job), I get to write whatever I want to, whenever I want to, I am writing a novel which is much loved in class, I get to meet some great people and explore a whole new culture that is Britain, I intend to travel through Europe and am getting to learn and do things that I never thought I would. (Aww my…my…that’s an awfully long sentence.) So you see I can’t complain. 😀

All said and done there is something to following your passion. (Amir Khan might have tried hard to convey this message in 3 Idiots but I don’t see any change in the ‘IT world aspiring robots’ of our country.) Following your passion can put a smile back on your face,  bring lightness to your steps, gives you a sunshine attitude that rubs off on people around you and a purpose in life. And money, you ask? Well I don’t know, but if we are happy with what we are doing we will figure out the money part somehow isn’t it? At least, that’s what I think and I want to give my belief a chance. Right or wrong, time alone can tell. After all like a wise guy once said “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”