Saturday, April 09, 2011

This New Country - Part 2: An Indian in the UK

And Falmouth is one of the most beautiful corners of this island. I arrived at night so I didn't really get to see much. But in the morning, I was bowled over. A lush green hilly countryside town, urban in some spots and serenely rural in others. And of course, there is no comparison between rural here and rural in India. I don't think I should expect anything else of course. This is a first world country after all.

But such peace, such quiet, such a stunning town. Walking past the harbour and quays, looking at the belled masts of a hundred boats tinkling in the breeze, staring up at a sky more blue than I had seen in a while, I felt I had finally made it. My life stretched ahead of me and I could almost picture myself owning a house in Falmouth, drinking coffee on the balcony while watching seagulls fight over fish 'n' chips wrappers.

Then the classes started and the gruelling MA dragged me back to reality. Homework again. What was I thinking!

But it was a dream come true after all. And slogging is the one thing dreams require. So I did. But by the time the Christmas holidays came along, I certainly needed a break.

So off I went with Shabad across the countryside, making a beeline for Scotland with little stop offs in Snowdonia and the Lake District. Niti, a fellow writer doing her MA from Trinity University, Carmarthen, was supposed to come along for our epic journey but unfortunately opted out for a very good reason, which I won't go into now. So our first stop was Carmarthen, to have a drink and a laugh with Niti. Rage Against the Machine had just won top spot on the Christmas No. 1 and there was another drink to be had for that. And another. And another.

Snowdonia is in the North of Wales and we headed off there as soon as we could the next morning, after a hearty Full English Breakfast, the one thing that makes me love and hate this country at the same time. But it certainly is good energy food.

We bid Niti and Carmarthen goodbye and wandered into the Welsh Hills. Through an astoundingly beautiful, almost Alpine town of Betws-y-Coed (where we stayed at the Swn-y-Dwr B&B. You guessed it, It means Sunny Door. :)), on to Liverpool for a wild night out and finally to Keswick, where our trip came to an unfortunate end.

Shabad and I climbed up a mountain (it really was just a hill) the next day, Christmas Day 2009, and on our way down Shabad skipped ahead with the agility of a mountain goat, while I gingerly tiptoed my way across the ice. The gingerness was apparently unnecessary as I slipped on the ice and broke my ankle in two places while simultaneously dislocating it. My first thought was something like, "Bye bye Scotland". But, in a way, as I slowly went into shock, it gave me an opportunity to look around the spectacular vista of the lake district's beauty. An astounding vision, like the snowbound Himalayas in miniature.

As we hobbled our way back to London, I learned how to crutch it the hard way while Shabad and Romit pampered me.

And once I got back to Falmouth, it wasn't long before the lift broke in my building and I started getting a regular workout going up and down five floors every day. This was when my fear of ice really took root.

I still love winter, especially snow. But solid ice gives me the shivers. I avoid it as much as I can.

My long days home-bound, stoned on painkillers and lugging around my concrete leg finally ended in March and the sun finally came out in May. I must say, after living in Indian heat my whole life, this was the first time I actually appreciated sitting in the sun...for short periods of time.

I also stumbled upon a successful recipe for butter chicken using cream of tomato soup, which has become quite popular if I do say so myself. I wouldn't have imagined in a million years that I would be able to make butter chicken by myself. But here I was, dishing it out for the locals. But I still miss the real thing with butter naan, malai kebabs and real hari chuntey.

By now I had started hanging out with my classmates more, making new friends and hanging out with the locals. I was also quite flattered to be told that my English was better than most the Britons'.

But no matter how much I spoke in English, I was still everyone's ' friend from India who speaks better English than I do'.

I ceased to be the 'angrez' and became the 'Indian'. How chuffed was I! I've spent my whole life being taunted by being called an 'angrez', an Englishman, because, it seemed, my love for the English language had killed my Hindi and Bengali speaking skills. I can still speak Hindi but, according to my friends in Delhi, it's with a bit of an accent – an accent I've never been able to perceive.

I am finally an Indian! And I had to travel out of my own country and across continents to be one.

An Indian in the UK. One among many.

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