Sunday, July 12, 2009

An Anglo-Indian Bash in Wembley

Sunday, July 12, 2009

With just one interview left to be transcribed, I awoke at 7. 30 and decided to finish it up--but that was after I read some Potter--the last novel is taking me longer to go through than the previous one. Then I was grabbing a bit of cereal and a mango, showering, dressing and taking a series of buses to Wembley Central for the summer party thrown by Gerry and Coreen--to which I was invited about two months ago. En route, I began reading Owen's book and have to say that I find it absorbing.

The party was great...loads of people present--relatives and friends. This core Anglo-Indian group that calls themselves The Gang take it in rotation to meet periodically at their homes. Gerry and Coreen have an enviable parcel of property in Wembley that allows them to throw a huge bash complete with shamianas, and a family of caterers who cook the meal on site--all surrounded by the many aviaries filled with exotic birds that forms the center of their unusual business.

This is your typical Anglo-Indian party...only scaled up to include rock and roll hits of the 50s, 60s and 70s, a really great bunch of guys who know each other well and take to the dance floor at the drop of a hat to shake a leg and let their hair down. The booze flowed and I particularly enjoyed a Gerry concoction he called Mango Fool--more like a Mango Lassi which, spiked with Bacardi, took me to the Bahamas! Needless to say, the food--all Indian, all cooked by a Pakistani woman called Farah who had the most adorable brood of kids helping her out--was great, particularly the appetisers--a variety of kebabs of which the Chicken Tikka and Lamb Chops were to die for.

I met a couple of folks, who, over the months, I have interviewed and who seemed pleased to see me again. And then I met a bunch of folks I have never seen before--in the case of so many of them, I feel terrible that it is now time for me to return Stateside for I know that they would have made great company during all the months that I was alone in this city and even greater friends. I was very happy to meet and chat with George Hillier who spearheaded the creation of the Anglo-Indian associations in the UK and was the shaping force behind the many London Anglo-Indian dances of years gone by.

I had a bit of a shock when it was revealed to me that one of the Anglo-Indian ladies that I had interviewed several months ago has passed away. Her funeral is on Tuesday and I would dearly love to attend it but I have already made plans to meet up for lunch with Prof. Alison Blunt, a fellow scholar of the Anglo-Indian diaspora, and I fear that I will be unable to change that appointment as I have only a few days left now to play around with before Llew gets here and I have to leave. I was very sad indeed to receive the news as I had been welcomed warmly by this person and her husband at their home in Lewisham and had partaken of her excellent chicken curry and had enjoyed a very interesting conversation with her. Little did I know that before I returned home, one of the folks I have interviewed would be no more. It makes me realize once again how important it is that the oral history of these lovely people be recorded for posterity before it is too late.

One of the folk I particularly enjoyed chatting with was Bash, Gerry's financial adviser, who also then offered to give me a ride home. Except that when we got into his car--the cutest little silver grey model--and began our journey, he sensed my interest and made a few detours en route to show me some of the sights that Wembley could offer--such as the iconic Stadium where ever so many sports events and entertainment shows are held and a little further afield, the famous public school, colloquially known as 'Harrow' at Harrow-on-The-Hill where Jawaharlal Nehru was once a student and from where he wrote some of the most moving letters to his father Motilal as he tried to cope with the strangeness of the country into which he had been thrust as a tender teenager!

I was struck both by the stadium's unique design--it has a rather odd semi-circular hoop that seems to stand suspended above it--and even more so by the glorious red brick buildings that comprise the prestigious school. Build in the Tudor idiom, they reveal the kind of extraordinary brickwork of which only the Tudors and the Elizabethans were capable--black brick making interesting herringbone and diamond patterns to relieve the monotony of the red walls. There are castellated tops, a grand approach comprising steps punctuated by rose bush beds and a rather lovely grey and white church with a slender spire reminiscent of the one on the chapel roof of Exeter College, Oxford. This school served as the location for Hogwarts School for Wizards in the Harry Potter films. Despite the failing light, I took a few pictures before we left the venue. Indeed, the entire little village of Harrow-on-The-Hill is prettiness personified with the heart of Old Harrow comprising a warren of narrow streets lined by bookstores, coffee shops and trendy restaurants. It never ceases to amaze me how many quaint parts of London I have yet to see and with this school visited, I can tick another item off my List of Things To Do in London--thanks to Bash and his offer to include a bit of unexpected sightseeing on my agenda.

Back at my place, Bash stayed for a cup of coffee before we said goodbye. I had a conversation with Llew before I prepared for bed and as I intend to spend the day tomorrow at the National Archives at Kew, for which I need to leave my early, I went off to bed straight away.

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