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.”

The Prologue

New Girl in the city O

Every story has a beginning. Mine has one too. Oh no, not the- I was born on this particular day in this particular clinic etc! (On second thoughts the adventure of my just-to-be-born self with the doctor’s forceps would be an interesting story but I will save it for another post.)

This is a stage zero post, a docking station for the already launched ‘New girl in the city’ series. It is a prelude to the series which has been very close to my heart. If ‘New girl in the city-1‘ was a self-consolation, ‘New girl in the city-2‘ was a pat on my own back. This post is none of those; it’s a self-deprecatory rap on the knuckle.

I have whined enough about the loneliness I faced when I moved to Bangalore for work. But have I bothered to look beyond Bangalore, to the time before I started living on my own? Was I never lonely before Bangalore? The answer is yes I was. So how come I never blogged about it as this blog is pretty much my personal diary of a public nature?

Well that’s how we justify our arguments isn’t it, by telling ourselves that the other side of the argument is redundant? But covering up is another form of distortion, even if it is from one’s own self, and I have covered up enough! I had even successfully convinced myself that the loneliness was a by-product of living away from home and friends. I feared to dig deep beneath the surface and tell myself that it was not the case.

Loneliness has always been my companion. I think it’s the case with a few people. Give them all the people and opportunities to bond with, but they will still prefer to wait for ‘their kind of people’ and stay lonely in the process. True that very few of them will want to discuss it on public forums, but the fact remains that some individuals have an affinity towards loneliness.

For instance juxtapose the cases of me and my friend who were both living away from home and were buried neck deep in strangers and the strangeness of a new city. He made friends everywhere he went, never felt ‘lonely’ (or maybe did not tell me). I on the other hand, pined for ‘my type of people’ and sulked and wrote countless blogs on it. My affinity to being lonely you see.

I know it sounds hare-brained but how else do I justify that I felt lonely well before Bangalore, in college too. In college for god’s sake! That too in a place like Manipal teeming with multiple thousands of students (and I lived with family too!) When people in my college were freaking out, I preferred to bury my nose in books for lack of ‘my type of company’.  Its nuts! In the recent past I have avoided doing the burying nose in books part, I have partied till I dropped, travelled, went on countless outings but still managed to remain lonely in a room full of people. Lonely must be in my genes.

So do I discount all the hard-earned gyaan in the ‘New girl in the city’ blogs? Well not exactly, maybe it’s all relative. To what you ask? Well to the happiness of other people around you and the state of mind while writing the blogs of course. So have I found out a sure shot way of getting over the ‘loneliness’ condition? Heck no. Life is much more fun with all the idiosyncrasies you see. Loneliness deserves a chance too, if only to make us more aware of how precious the moments are to be lost in whining away about it. 🙂

Of life, revelations & kahaani mein twists

Every living soul goes through at least one life changing moment in which a revelation strikes like a thunderbolt, out of the blue, giving that moment in which the mind is suddenly crystal clear. For some great souls like Budha if the moment spells enlightenment of the greater mysteries of life, for lesser mortals like you and me it can as well be a “What am I doing in life?” kind of observation that when answered could lead to interesting kahaani me twists.

I had this “What am I doing in life?” question dawn on me exactly three years ago as I sat under a tree (No not Peepal tree) in a densely forested park near the famed Bull Temple in Bangalore. I had just graduated from Journalism school, was unemployed, was in search of my true calling and was living in a dingy PG in Bangalore to escape questions from family and friends back home.

There was no drum roll, no bolt of lightning, it just happened- a stream of bird shit dropped on me as I sat under that tree, free of responsibilities and questions. One moment I was hopping angry, the next I was asking myself what was I doing under that tree in the first place, what was I doing in life? That is when I answered it with- Nothing!

The nothing seemed so disgusting to me, I almost puked. I decided then and there that I was not going to squander away my life doing nothing. I walked back to the PG, made a few calls to friends asking them to refer any jobs in the media & communication field and made that one decision in my life that has been game changing to say the least. I have never sat doing nothing since then.The bird shit did it!

I had another one of the thunderbolt revelations a few months ago. It was bang in the middle of running hitching up my sari down a high security venue to be inaugurated by the Prez of India seconds before the Presidents convoy reached the spot. Spectators were confused, police befuddled and I hoped the earth would open up and swallow me. It is and I hope will remain my biggest goof up ever. But the point is, as my limbs were in action my brain had that moment of clarity. The “What the Fuck have I done?” observation. I answered it with “utter shit”. That’s it! I swore I will never take ANY undue risks in life and that I will think twice before moving a limb. Sigh! Hope the plan works. I do not want an encore of the Prez-wala incident. Brrrr…

So there it is folks, the secret of game changing decisions- the one moment of clarity, THE revelation. When you do get that one moment, grab it with both hands, it’s like orgasm, it’s wonderful while it lasts.

New Girl in the City-2

I write this post sitting at home in my home town, quite unlike the other posts written in the shabby rooms I rented in Bangalore. Not only are the surroundings neater and cleaner, there is no nicotine to lay my hands on. It’s 7 ‘O’ clock, not midnight and I sit across my mother as I write, not my roomie, taking care to play music that would not shock mom out of her wits. Hmm…home feels good..but back to the post.

The post New Girl in the City-1 was written out of vengeance- a “Look I made it by myself” kinda post, an attempt to console myself. It was a war cry against the loneliness that almost sucked the sanity out of me- the kind of loneliness that makes u feel as if you are alone in a room full of people. No wonder it seems so preachy when I read it now. I was trying to prove that I survived- to the people who had sidelined me. The bitterness is all but gone!

I write this post not out of vengeance, not out of bitterness, not to prove anything. I write it to tell myself it’s ok to let go. After 3 years of living in a strange city which I could not comprehend, life remains as mysterious as ever, but I have learnt to accept it’s myriad hues, to take life as it comes, to trust myself more than ever and most importantly to enjoy my own company.

Just like it’s important to love oneself to love others, I feel it’s very important to enjoy one’s own company to enjoy the company of others. Then not only are you happier in your own mind but you radiate happiness too. There I go all preachy again :D.

Life! my dear Watson, as Holmes would have said it.

The new girl in the city has learnt from life a miniscule amount of gyaan atleast. :p (allow me the writer’s freedom in stripping the sentence of it’s grammar).

P.S: Is it weird to watch a movie alone?

New Girl In The City

I know…I know…the title seems jane pehchani si…! (For your info it is from the movie Wake up Sid). But wait a moment, there is little connection between this blog of mine and Konkana Sen’s character’s column in Wake up Sid except for the fact that both are expressions of our impressions in a new city. I liked the title and I have kept it…as I have done on many occasions, after all we live in a free country!

In my case the city involved is Bangalore or Jamaluru as a publication recently called it. This series will ramble on about me coming to Bangalore-from a small town-with eyes set on big dreams-taking up an unlikely job (at least that is what I thought then)- living in a crowded PG in a nondescript neighbhourhood- the loneliness involved – making new friends – setting up a house in the city etc etc….

The main point : I will cherish this one and a half years of my independent life in the city as some of the sweetest times of my life. Looking back at how I started on this wild journey, I can still recollect the sting of the home sickness that I felt on my first night in Bangalore. Not that I had never stayed away from home till then. In fact I had lived on my own in Bangalore for several months and in other cities for varied points of time.

But this was the first time I had left home with the full knowledge that now the home where I was brought up would be limited to only occasional visits whenever time permits. It was like I had left my home for good to establish a new one in this strange, bustling city.

Sept 14, 08: I very well remember standing in the balcony of the PG which I had just joined, my eyes swollen with unshed tears, watching a Ganesha procession go by, wondering how I would go by living a life shorn of the umbilical cord connecting me to my parents! I remember praying for strength and resilience from the slowly moving Lord. Little did I realize then that my prayer that had indeed been heard was to be fulfilled very slowly; testing me all along the way.

Sept 14, 09: I was on the eve of completing one year of my living in Bangalore. Strength- check. Resilience- check. I had indeed come of age.

The one year had seen me facing many ups and downs. The worst and the most influential being a lack of companionship in Bangalore. Colleagues remained just colleagues! They were far removed in their own personal lives to take note of the loneliness of a pompous fresher in office. Those 2 who actually did left my immediate vicinity for good very soon.

Every weekend passed by with me desperate to get out of the 4 walls of my cramped room in the PG, but not being able to for lack of people to hangout with. (Yes…being in my tweens I consider ‘Hanging out’ as the ultimate fun in the world). It didn’t help matters that every Monday people came back to office with stories of where they partied, hung out or enjoyed the weekend. The frustration was frustratingly frustrating! I put in more and more hours at work. It paid off professionally but personally-I was still holed up within 4 walls!

And then it happened! My 2 long standing roommates moved out of the PG. my world came crashing down! It was then that I realized that these 2 people had been making my life livable amidst all my angst though I hadn’t realized it then. Fine they didn’t hang out with me, but they were always there, come what may, providing consistency and emotional support all throughout.

Then began my life of a lonely, temperamental, work loving shopaholic. I worked my ass off on weekdays and spent and shopped with a vengeance on weekends- alone! In the process making fewer and fewer friends.

Then came the boon, an answer to my prayers. I found friendship and camaraderie in 3 people as varied as the 3 poles of the earth. There has been no looking back since then. Moving out (or rather being half chucked out of the PG we stayed in), setting up a house by ourselves, making it a home- have all been a dream come true. Added to this was the arrival of a dear college friend in Bangalore. This is what I call the “denewala jab bhi deta deta chappad phad ke” factor.

The new girl in the city had truly arrived-adventures, fun et al. Now the wait is on for that factor in my life that will fill the other void in my soul- a soul mate for keeps. It is my belief that god has a way of granting our wishes in his own sweet time. Who knows…maybe the sun will shine down on me again very soon!