Wednesday, June 3, 2009
It has been a very very long time since I have had breakfast with anyone; so I was especially grateful to have Paul and Loulou to chat with at breakfast in their lovely bright kitchen this morning. Over cereal and coffee, we talked about my research project before Paul raced off to the airport for a trip abroad. Loulou and I went over some minor programing details and then I was off, rushing on the Tube to Wembley to keep my appointment with yet another Anglo-Indian couple. Indeed, it has been a very productive week for me and I am grateful for all the contacts I have been making recently with this ethnic minority--all of which will validate my research and give me a wider sampling to comment on as I begin to analyze my findings.
I had never been to Wembley though I have heard so much about it. Indeed, Wembley is Little India and if I did not see the red buses right in front of me, I would never have known that I was in London. South Asians (mainly Indians) have flocked to this London enclave and colonized it, as it were, bringing their piquant Indian smells to the area in the form of fragrant spices, temple flowers and Indian attar perfume. The Anglo-Indian couple with whom I had an appointment, Gerry and Coreen Gilbert, had made their home in Wembley 46 years ago, however--long before any Indians came to settle here and their dwelling has to be seen to be believed.
So, let me say, at the outset, that Gerry is an ornithologist by profession--a passionate hobby that grew into a profession and provided a successful entrepreneurial business that made him a wealthy man beyond all his wildest ambitions. I took to him and his lovely wife Coreen immediately and before we even settled down to our chat, Gerry led me out to his enormous garden to take a look at his aviary. Believe be, I felt as if I was at the London Zoo for the variety of bird life in his backyard is unlike anything I have ever seen . It still amazes me that what started as a childhood hobby for Gerry in his native India became a flourishing business in the UK that made him the sole provider of exotic birds to the superstore chain called Petsmart. The achievement of his dreams led him to retire over 15 years ago on a rambling property the likes of which is truly rare in London.
Once we did sit down to chat, I found the couple to be thoroughly engaging. Their climb up the financial ladder and the interesting stories and jokes that Gerry cracked along the way made me feel as if I ought to devote an entire chapter of my proposed next book to this couple. And what's more, they reinstated my faith in the innate hospitality of the Anglo-Indian community for I was, quite unexpectedly indeed, plied with a heavy meal of absolutely delicious Mutton Biryani with salad, fresh Alphonso mangoes (boy, did those take me straight back to Bombay!) and a plateful of Indian mithai to complete our repast. Considering that in the past couple of days I have traveled to homes in far-flung Hounslow and Osterley where I was given nothing more elaborate than a simple cup of coffee, this meal went down a treat and I was deeply grateful. What's more, the couple instantly invited me to a party at their place on a Sunday in July at which I hope to meet many more of their Anglo-Indian friends. I found them jovial and fun to be with and, like so many of the Anglo-Indians I have met, unbelievably youthful for their years.
Then, since I had a bus pass, I took a bus back to Euston (and what a journey that was!!!). I passed through parts of London I had never seen before where the ethnic demographic is so different from anything to which I am accustomed in Central London. I saw women covered from head to toe in burquas with only slits in their veils for their eyes. I saw (and smelt!) Blacks who were obviously down and out and reeking of cheap alcohol. I saw streets that were filthy with litter and, for a moment, I thought I was back in Bombay yet again! Nothing like fresh ripe mangoes and refuse to whisk you back 'home' to India!
As soon as I got home to Farringdon (I am still discovering the little bylanes of my new neighborhood), I called Tim, my friend, hoping to receive advise from him on how to get hooked to the wireless network. Within ten minutes, we were all set up and I was so grateful to him for his help and the time he devoted to me. In fact, he was all set to come right back to this flat to set me up when I made the discovery that I was, in fact, connected! I managed to contact him again on his cell phone before he had left his place to get to mine. What a weight it was off my mind when I found that I could finally work from my favorite place--my bed!
I spent the evening catching up on my email (there was loads of it!) and updating by blog as well as writing up one of the interviews I did with Owen in Kent. And then, it was time to read a bit more of Harry Potter and get it to bed.