Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Travels through the English Countryside - Part 2

Its snowing again in Brighton. The forecast is for heavy snowfall through the next couple of days. So like the last time when our little University in Falmer had become Falmer Island to my Robinson Crusoe, it looks like a re-run is on the cards. That being so, we shall continue our journey... So where was I? Yes, on the Midlands train to Nottingham, looking at a snow-white countryside, whizzing past me..Since this was not the original train that I had a reservation on, I was theoretically a squatter...sitting on someone else's seat, hoping that he had some crazy adventures of his own like me, so that he could miss his train, and I could keep the seat... ( pssst...that pic is not mine...but the train was just like this one, maybe the same leads you to where I found it from) No such luck comes my way.... Just as I opened my history textbook for the journey -An Utterly Impartial History of Britain or 2000 years of Upper Class idiots in charge - when a little dandy young man, walked upto me...and I knew exactly what was to pop out of his mouth... So even before he could say I of 'I believe you are on my seat', I did my good Indian girl act - nodded my head up and down, put out my right hand to signal 'please to be waiting, sir' and then began collecting my assorted scattered belongings...On the left hand was my coat weighing half a ton, the overnighter, my muffler and pair of gloves, the right heaved my heavy back pack onto my slender right shoulder and then I had to do a little Indian maneouvre to balance the roughly 600 pages book, in the crook of my arm.....The little dandy just stood there, not even asking for politeness' sake if he can help me with something...hmphhhhh...such is life...chivalry lies long dead and unceremoniously buried in some frigid corner of the countryside I'm travelling through... As you would have it, the train was packed...So I had to traipse through another long compartment, my poise and sophistication all blasted to shreds by my mountain of possessions, as I waddled through the narrow space...But find a seat, I did...ended up in a very inelegant heap, opposite a very OTT PDA couple ( to be read as over the top, mooching each other's head off). The girl sitting beside me, was lost in her own little world, keeping beats with some music I couldnt identify wafting through her headset...And there I was...sufficiently confident, that no one would disturb me now, I opened my book yet again.... Soon enough I was laughing my head the Englishmen to raise a joke at themselves....I'm sure if there was an Anglo-Saxon supremacist anywhere in the vicinity, I would have ended up as the target...Here I was prominently displaying the book that mockingly told centuries of English history and laughing in snorts at the description....You would too, if you were me... Here's a quick para just so that you get the drift...: Henry I: A Very Fertile King As a mere Prince, Henry had made great efforts to build bridges with the marginalised English nobility. He slept with no end of English women; his self-sacrifice in the cause of Anglo-Norman unity knew no limits. When one dispossessed English lady came to him in poverty after her husband died in prison, Henry went out of his way to help her. The first child was born nine months later. Contemporary commentators, generally monks sworn to celibacy jealously describe Henry's antics as 'chasing after whores' or 'brainlessly rutting like a mule'. Except that mules are generally sterile while Henry most definitely was not. So there, now you see, why the journey was going so well? Well, it would have gone even better if the train didnt grind to a halt at this station called Kettering on route to Leicester..guess why? Because there was a fire alarm and the driver had to rush to check out the cause of the reported fire. Well, I never got to hear about the driver's adventure, as for my arrival in Leicester was delayed by another 45 minutes... But I got there all right, and for the next two days, all I did was eat, eat and eat some more. There's something to be said for the famed Indian hospitality in a foreign country. They are so deprived for house guests, unlike back home, where the news of another round of relatives coming for a 'friendly visit' is normally treated with 'Oh No's, 'But why, she just visited two years ago', 'Why does she have to visit us always' and the likes. But here, a guest is made to feel like royalty...seriously...So every five minutes you are asked, if you want another round of tea or coffee, if you want snacks about ten minutes after the breakfast dishes were cleared...I'm sure you get what I'm getting at... So overwhelmed was I with the treatment that I started rolling out my wishlist...The first on it, since the host was a red-chillies-in-the-bloodstream garu from Andhra Pradesh, I asked for the Pesarattu.....Now, that's something only someone who has stayed in AP can truly appreciate...A hot hot pesarattu with chutney and a fiery Andhra tomato chutney - its something that makes you feel like you died, went to heaven and then were told that for your good behaviour down below, you have been allotted the master suite..that was just the beginning...the demands rolled and my lovely hosts played the genies in my bottle to the hilt...So much so that, most of what I saw of Leicester can be coded as 'during the drive before Pesarattu breakfast', ' post the tea and divine angel cake break' etc etc.... But, I'd be really not doing Leicester justice if I didn't mention that one thing that will strike anyone as soon as you reach Leicester is the brown-ness of skin here...Even the whites, far outnumbered in their county, looked far browner than their Southern cousins. Every second shop was Indian, and even shop windows seemed plucked straight out of some Indian suburbia...the only thing not at all subcontinental is Leicester's climate. The temperature according to the clock tower at Leicester Mercury - the local newspaper- showed -1 degrees for most of my stay there. So after two days of belly bloating escapades, it was time for the next stage of my journey. By the National Express bus - from Leicester to a sleepy little town called Dewsbury, in Yorkshire. We got to the bus station well on time...But some happy 'Leicester I was here' photosession later, I realised that I had only one black glove dangling from my hands. ( Pssst...look at the two pictures carefully, one with a black glove dangling, by the next one, one hand is bare.. you can deduce where I would have lost the glove) All my interest in catching the bus fled. I couldn't have the blot of losing another glove to add to my list, could I? So even as I set out, my chivalrous host promised to do the hunting for me, so that I don't miss the arrival of the bus...The bus arrived and simultaneously I saw him walk up with that naughty little black rag that dared escape my grip, dangling in his hand.... So at the end of this story...time for some additions to the checklist: One black glove: Lost and recovered Another silver earring: (From the same left ear, different from the earlier one): Lost and later retrieved ( That's why it didn't get its own paragraph...was a fizzled out adventure) Next episode:Dewsbury and good old York visited...That meant travelling from Midlands towards the North of England...through a quaint snow-covered countryside on Xmas eve.....


  1. I was at university at Loughborough, just a stone's throw away from Leicester, and with its own Indian community albeit a good deal smaller of course than Leicester's which also has an Indian MP - Keith Vaz.

    Chivalry, in the UK (your dandy on the train) often appears to be on its last legs, although I personally still believe that manners maketh man.

  2. hey consider writing a novel .. a bestseller... seriously consider writing that.. you paint scenes with words really well ... keep writing girl ...

  3. Keep reading Nids..someday i might just drum up the courage to give it a shot..

    Paul,I wasn't a big champion of chivalry till I got to the UK and started enjoying the charms of chivalry. I guess its the English civility that's brought out the grumbling lady out in me..In india, if someone offered to help me till my seat, i'd wonder what vested interest he had..:)

    btw, keith vaz is still up and about, isnt he?

  4. travels of a tried or tyred traveller! made good reading. the indian hospitality in leicester was returned in equal proportion in the form of a mallu beef curry! belch.

  5. It's snowing again in freezing Essex too, Deepthy, but it,s always a little more comforting when someone new joins my small band of followers. I hope, during the coming weeks and months I can raise a smile or two Thanks for your kind comments on Paul's blog.

  6. My dear Deepthy,

    I am enjoying your travels in the countryside and wondering how grateful we should be for these blogs, where we can record our feelings, descriptions like a diary.

    Make as detailed a description as you can Deepthy. This will stand you in great stead when you write that great book of yours, we are all waiting for.

    Looking back, these will be the bones you can flesh out.

    You're reviving my survivor days at Leeds. Though 1990-93 was a bad time with Maggie breathing down your neck.

    Peace and love,
    - Joe.

  7. Hey deeps, looking at your pictures, you seem to enjoy every moment of your stay in UK. keep it up.

  8. Vivid, captivating and beautiful.