Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Selhurst and London
In a day that began with an excruciating pain on the sole of my right foot, I made my way to Victoria and from there on a Main Line train to the suburb of Selhurst to meet The Ribeiros--Dennis and Joy--an Anglo-Indian couple who agreed to be interviewed as part of my research and also graciously invited me to join them for lunch.
Selhurst is a small quiet little village and the Ribeiros live on a sleepy street called Prince Road right besides a small evangelical church. Their home is spacious, the living room stretching out to their garden door. It is filled with the kind of photographic memorabilia that is usually seen in the homes of people who have lived in the same place for a long while, have raised a family in it and now enjoy their grandchildren. They bring me a cup of coffee and a plate of biscuits (I am told that in England you never offer anyone a cup of tea or coffee without also offering at least one accompanying biscuit!)--this is what I mean when I say that the culture is so civilized!
We settle down for a chat and I find the couple fascinating. Joy is charmingly soft spoken but so articulate and thoughtful. Dennis is full of funny stories. He does so much charitable fundraising for the community in Calcutta, yet they remain touchingly modest about their contribution. When my interview is done, Dennis offers me a glass of sherry which I gratefully accept. It is a long time since I have sipped sherry and I realize how English this Anglo-Indian couple has become after fifty odd years in England.
Then, we adjourn to their dining room where Dennis has put together a fine typically Anglo-Indian meal--Rice and Chicken Curry, Cabbage Foogat studded with mustard seeds, a nice thick Masoor Dal and Pickle. There is Pistachio Ice-Cream for dessert and After Eight Mints passed around at the end. Like I said, so civilized! Everything is home cooked and delicious and I enjoy every morsel. We eat in the Anglo-Indian style with forks and tablespoons--as the Ribeiros say, they have not changed at all after 50 odd years of living in the UK. I guess the truth lies somewhere in-between my superficial perceptions: they have remained essentially Indian while yet imbibing the English lifestyle.
Then, I am on my way back to the train, hobbling along painfully on my damaged sole. I resolve to get medication and a support bandage as soon as I reach Victoria and at the Boots' there (that's a chain of British pharmacies or drug stores as we say in the US), I pick up an ankle brace. On the Tube, I make my way to NYU's campus at Bedford Square for a 6 pm screening of a film called Life is Sweet (dir. Mike Leigh) as part of Prof. Phillip Drummond's class. I see a very young Jim Broadbent (Bridget Jones' Diary, Moulin Rouge, etc.) in it and I am taken by the setting and the story.
Before the film began, I nipped again into the much larger Boots' at Tottenham Court Road and spoke to the pharmacist (in the UK this is always the first person you 'consult') named Julie. She turned out to be a wonder. Not only did she tell me that I had done the right things--worn an ankle support brace and good quality sneakers) but that I ought to buy a good Ibuprofen gel (I chose Nurofen) to apply on the painful parts. If it doesn't get better in 2-3 days, she said, please go and see a GP and when I told her that I did not know to whom I could turn as I am a foreigner in this country, she promptly gave me the business card of a GP who practices in nearby Bloomsbury Street. How efficient and how perfectly helpful! I was so delighted as I hobbled off to the film.
Back home (I did take a bus home for the first time since coming here), I found a ton of eager messages awaiting me from Chriselle and from Llew. They had some exciting family news to deliver to me which I discovered just ten minutes later after I did speak to Chriselle. One long trans-Atlantic chat later, I was whooping and sharing her excitement. But it is not for me to reveal her great news. Suffice it to say that I am so pleased for her and, though so far away, I share her joy.
Then, I made myself a dinner plate, sat in front of the telly to watch In the Valley of Elah but switched to the BBC News at Ten for the thrill of listening, for the first time in my life, to the announcement of the Man Booker Prize Winner for the year 2008: It was India's Aravind Adiga's White Tiger that went home with the 50,000 pound prize. I am doubly excited--he is from India and has won for a debut novel at the age of 33, making him the youngest of the nominees for the prize. I called Llew immediately and revealed the winner to him. We do already have the book at home in Connecticut, though neither one of us has read it...and I now have the assignment of trying to find the first British edition, first printing, tomorrow for my bibliophile husband.
On those twin happy notes (Chriselle's big announcement and the new Booker), I applied the Ibuprofen gel, bandaged my throbbing foot and went straight to bed.