Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Interviewing an Anglo-Indian Couple in Hounslow

Monday, June 1, 2009

Settling In my Awesome New Roost:
I did not sleep badly in my new roost, all things considered: late night, new bed, etc. I awoke mid-way, at about 4. 30 am, checked to see what the time was and went promptly back to sleep to awake at 6. 45 am. Not too bad at all. I hope I can continue this pattern of sleep through the rest of my stay here.

My first priority was to try to get connected to the internet. Though I did try to use the Ethernet and the long cable that my neighbor Tim had provided, I was unable to get online—a matter of some concern as so much of my work is done at home. I called Tim to ask for his help. Meanwhile, I went about trying to unpack my boxes, find storage space for all the empty suitcases and cartons and get myself organized in my new room. I stopped in-between to get a bit of breakfast (cereal and milk) and watched the BBC Breakfast show as I did, becoming acquainted for the first time with the TV set and the new remote control. Then, it was to time to get back to work unpacking.

Tim called me in about an hour and offered to come across and see why I wasn’t able to get connected. This left me enough time for a shower and at 12 noon, he arrived. It was not long before he had me connected and online and how delighted I was—though I have to say that to have a wireless internet connection would be far better as I can then use my PC in my room. Still, I am not complaining. As long as I have access to my email and I can respond from home (and do not have to get to my office at Bloomsbury which is what I had intended to do), I’m fine.

When Tim left, I had some lunch (the remainder of the Hot and Spicy Prawn Pho that I had ordered last night at the Vietnamese place—gosh, I was so tired I don’t even remember it’s name). I opened the lovely French doors in the kitchen so that the sunlight streamed in on this golden afternoon. Placing a chair at the window, I seated myself there and took in the scenic vista spread before me. There was the brick building just ahead, built in the 1700s now a boutique hotel called The Rookery. St. John’s Street lay just ahead and below me was St. Peter’s Lane and in the distance was the white conical spire of a church whose name I have yet to discover. And I thought me myself once again, “Ah, this is England!” How idyllic this urban scene and how privileged I feel to be able to enjoy it.

And then I was off to Hounslow to interview an Anglo-Indian couple. I stopped en route at High Holborn to return my keys to my concierge Arben and do a final walkthrough of my former flat to make sure I had not left anything behind. I also took a few pictures with Arben and thanked him warmly for everything he has done for me (which was a great deal indeed).

Off to see an Anglo-Indian couple in Hounslow:
It was during the Fall semester when one of my students had taken my course on Anglo-Indians at NYU that I had become introduced to this couple through the ethnographic profile he had created. I decided to contact them for my own research and had found the gentleman quite willing to speak with me. Though we had been in telephonic contact, it was nice to finally meet them. I took a convoluted route to get to their place (using the buses as I bought myself another bus pass since the rest of my week will be spent interviewing Anglo-Indians in the far-flung suburbs). They awaited my arrival at the Tube station, then walked me over to their place where we arrived at 4. 30 pm.

I spent the rest of the afternoon talking to them and gleaning a great deal of helpful information. The gentleman warmed to me fully only at the end of the interview when he realized that I was born and raised in India and, despite my naturalized American citizenship, consider myself wholly Indian. “Oh”, he said, “from your name I thought you were Portuguese and since you say you are from New York University, I thought you were a Yankee!”

This individual, who has neither joined any one of the Anglo-Indian Associations in London nor socializes with any other members of his community in person, spends his days in cyberspace communicating with Anglo-Indians around he world online through ‘The Anglo-Indian Portal’. He was rather an interesting character who joked frequently and told me things about his experiences as an Anglo-Indian in India and in the UK that made me laugh rather heartily. His wife too joined in our conversation. These are, what my father would call "simple folk" (but as the nicest of compliments, not as an insult) because they are guileless. Their expectations are low, their contentment with their modest lot obvious, their welcome was warm and they were hospitable. As I was leaving, they implored me to "stay in touch" with them and made me promise that I would call on them again if I ever needed company.

Then, I was back on the buses and when I got home, a bit exhausted from my morning’s unpacking and my long commute, I nipped into ‘my pantry’ in my building (read M&S Simply Food) bought some milk and bread and returned upstairs to eat my dinner in front of the TV (watched a bit of old material from Britain’s Got Talent), checked my email and returned to my room to write my journal in Word with the intention of transferring it to my blog as soon as I can get online again.

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