Friday, October 10, 2008

Off to Slough to Interview Anglo-Indians

Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Slough, London

Hard to believe how much catching up one has to do after only a few days away from home. I pottered around all morning, then got down to the serious business committments ahead of me--namely, a trip to Slough to interview the first Anglo-Indian couple for my next book.

But first, I headed off to the National Gallery to plan the route for my Writing class which I will be teaching in the museum. With room locations of all the paintings I intend to present sorted out, I took the Tube to Paddington and from there I was on a mainline train headed for Redding with a first stop at Slough. Hard to believe how expensive commuting is in England! And where was Paddington Bear when you actually want to find him? Just when I began to despair, there he was. Many little clones of him in many different sizes being sold from a push cart on one of the platforms!

The ride to Slough was 22 minutes long in an express train. Lovely suburban countryside passed by my window within five mintues of leaving the platform at Paddington. I thought about those tired urban landscapes I pass on the Metro-North train into Connecticut from Grand Central. It takes a good one hour before you can see the greenery of Greenwich zip past.

Randolf Evans was awaiting me in his little silver car at Slough station right outside an outsize Tesco Extra supermarket which, he informed me, is the second largest supermarket in all of Europe. If you wander through all its aisles from Entrance to Exit, you've walked a mile and a half. Phew! That's shopping as exercise for you!

The Evanes live in a little cottage at Langley, its front garden trimmed, its interior neat as a pin. They have an Anglo-Indian dinner waiting for me, proudly cooked by Randolf "because Genny works full time, you see". The lovely Genny led me to the dining room laid out with kitchdi (that's a mush of rice and lentils), a ground meat and potato concoction that Randolf calls "jalfrezi mince" and the best pepper water I have ever tasted. There is also a bowl of papad or as they say in the UK "poppadams"--lascar slang that? (I am reading Amitav Ghosh's Sea of Poppies at the moment and am getting familiar with that twisted tongue.) It is the first full Indian meal I have eaten in a long time and I am suddenly ravenously hungry.

I have a very fruitful evening with my hosts. They are extraordinarily generous with their resources and their time, their views (though radically different rom one another and in Randolf's case, even uncovnentional) and I am making copious notes while running my tape recorder. I love their stories of their early years in the UK and examples of their endless adaptability.

It is almost 10 pm when I get up to leave. I have hurried through the last few questions. I resovle to meet my other respondents in the day time, preferably over lunch, if they are kind enough to include a meal--and most are inordinately hospitable (as most Indians are). I am happy to see that they have not lost those warming Indian ways.

I board the 10 pm train from Slough, arrive at Paddington at 10.30, board the Tube to Chancery Lane and am in my bedroom at 11 pm, deeply satisfied about a day well spent.

My research (and hopefully, another book) is on its way.

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