London through my eyes

I write this post while looking out of my window at the beautiful sight of snow falling and listening to the not-so-desirable screams of over-excited girls having a snow fight. Anyway to get on with it…I am done with the snow fights and too frozen to the bones to venture outside. So here I am sitting and blogging about my dearest memories of London…

London at first sight

London is one city that blows me away. The more I try to understand, the more it beckons to me with fresh mysteries. Coming from unpredictable, impulsive India, I was first dumbstruck by the order and conformation to rules around the city. A tad bit boring I know 😀 but it’s amazing to watch the systematic flow of traffic with absence of honking and the single file columns on the tube station escalators ( strictly on the right hand side leaving space on the left for the ones in a hurry who march up/down like ants scurrying to a hole – makes me want to tap their shoulders and ask “What’s the big hurry?”).

Read on for a peek into London through my eyes…mostly photographs but you can expect some commentary side-by-side. :p

Big Ben against The London Eye

For those of you with no idea what the Big Ben and The London Eye are (I had no idea about the Eye & vague ideas about Big Ben until I moved to London) here is a crash course:- Big Ben is the nickname of the clock tower bell close to the Parliament houses and it is one of the most famous landmarks in London. If my ‘London walk’ guide is to be believed, it was nicknamed Big Ben because the bloke who was commissioned to build it was a big fella. Moving on to The London Eye, the giant Ferris wheel, one of the tallest in the world on which wide-eyed tourists take a merry ride lasting a loong time while they look at the city spread below.

Too many sculptures I say…!

I also can’t help but remark about the optimum use of historical structures and tourist destinations by the Government. It makes me bug-eyed about the potential India has if the Government decides to take it seriously. I could dare say London has some of the most well maintained historical structures and museums in the world. Add to it the fact that most of the museums and art galleries have no entry fee and you have the perfect cocktail of tourist and local footfalls.

Hampton Court Palace, dated early 1500’s, stands tall & proud till date

I am a history buff and it does not help that am a romantic too. So there you go…I have set myself the not-so-difficult task of visiting every palace/ fort in London. I have so far covered the most publicised ones and will work my way down to the not-so-popular ones over the summer. It sure is an amazingly good pastime to explore chambers where Kings & Queens lived while imagining the pomp and splendour of the olden days.

Tower of London. Let the looks not fool you…this is where the Kohinoor sits caged in a British crown

White Tower built by William The Conqueror in the Tower of London

There were times as a kid when I used to wonder if I would ever get to see the London Sherlock Holmes lived in (I had thought he was real 😀 ) or Charles Dickens’ characters relived. In a way I have but there is a mammoth difference between Dickens’ London and present day London of course. 🙂

It is one of my favourite pastimes to visit landmarks/ buildings connected to the literary characters I hold dear.

The contrast between the old and the new worlds is evident.

Street art: Fallen Telephone boxes, Kingston upon Thames

I have also taken a liking towards visiting sites where popular movies were shot. Try guessing in which movie(s) the locales in the two pictures below figure.

If you were able to guess then bingo you are a genius if not…then you are more of a human being. Ok here’s the answer, these two almost unrecognisable locales figure in different Harry Potter movies. The first picture is the entrance to The Leaky Cauldron (the blue telephone box like building entrance; it is actually an optical shop) and the second is Leadenhall market which is where Diagon Alley was shot. I know this sounds childish, but I actually went on a paid Harry Potter walk and saw the sites above and Ministry of Magic, Gringotts, Platform 9 3/4 etc…

The picture below was taken on a cold windy day from a wobbly bridge called the Millenium Bridge, close to the school where Daniel Radcliffe studied and where a Death eater attack scene of the movie was shot. (This is lame I know…!)

St Paul’s Cathedral as seen from The Millenium Bridge

Oh and I should mention about the Theatre scene in London. One term to describe it: ‘It takes my breath away’. I knew I could not go wrong with Phantom of the Opera, and sure enough, I was captivated. Then of course came the more earthly musicals like Mama Mia! 😀 (I enjoyed theatre in dear old India too but it’s so different here.)

I am not a person who is into art and architecture, but this city has some cannot-ignore buildings that leave me with a gaping mouth.

London Gherkin against St Mary Axe, the egg shaped skyscraper against an Old church. It is built on the site of a historic building destroyed in a WW bombing

The inside-out Llyods Building where every utility feature like stairs, lifts, heating etc are on the outside

Btw did I mention about the cities within London city? Guess not…so here goes…London comprises of two cities: The City of London (the ancient city with the forts etc & today the Financial district) and The City of Westminster (the present day Civil admn hotspot with the Parliament Houses and so on). The City of London is interesting for its choice of logo I thought. It still has the old (retarded looking) dragons of the days of Ye Olde Londinium. (It’s not just the Chinese who believed in dragons in those days.)

If you thought I was already too taken in with the sights and sounds of London, figure this!

Candies on sale at Winter Wonderland, the annual winter fair at Hyde Park

And this…

Mad shopping among mad crowds at Oxford street on Boxing day

And of course, I did the tried and tested ‘tourist tour’ of London aka the landmarks where tourists stand and get their pictures clicked for the benefit of their bug-eyed folks at home (and to post on FB of course…).

Parliament Houses

Horse Guards Parade

Westminster Abbey

Here’s an interesting fact. The horseman in the picture of Trafalgar Square below is Charles II, the only King in Britain’s history to be tried and executed for a tiff-off with the church (and some other politics). He was hanged in public and he supposedly wore two shirts during the hanging to not let his subjects see him shivering. His son was eventually restored to the throne and all ended well. But in the memory of this ‘sad’ event Big Ben has a black dot on its face at the minute when he was hanged. The statue in the picture below was also erected at the exact centre of London with every measurement of distance leading off from his statue (supposedly).

Trafalgar Square: Site of the Olympics countdown clock and location for large public gatherings in the city

So here’s to the end of this post (my first blog post corresponding to a travelogue). A picture of swans sleeping on the Thames. 🙂

Sleeping Beauties

and the picture of the event that made me jump around like a March hare. 😀 (Pssst…my first Snow experience.)

Enchanted forest? No…the campus woods after the first snow of the year

You may also like Back to blog Amy Winehouse style , Bangalore to London 2 and Midnight in London.


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. 🙂

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!