Sunday, 18 September 2005

Back to London

Came back yesterday evening from London. I was curious to see if the bombs have changed the city. Yes, almost everyone I asked, agreed that the city has changed, but I couldn't see the changes.

They said, there is no night life, nobody goes out in central London. Perhaps, Hammersmith is too far away from the centre but at 10 PM the restaurants seemed full, people were there in the bar inspite of the typical English rain. Even the tube was full as usual. But the train and tube services seemed to have worsened. Stansted express was a scandal. The publicity is hyperbolic as usual but the train seemed like a local train in Mumbai. Stopped every five minutes. The whole tube system seems to be coming apart at the seams. Bomb scares, maintainance, staff shortage, all the possible problems seem to plague it.

Yet outside on the streets, people were rushing around as usual. Tourists speaking different languges with their cameras clicking furiously seemed unchanged. I walked in the Banks area, and it seemed much nicer than when I was there 10 years ago. There were flowers every where. Sparkling new buildings with strange shapes, futuristic pubs in glasswalled structures, it looked wonderful.

I always stay in the same place. Must have stayed in that hotel for fifty times at least. The old staff knows me very well. It seems to have worsened too. Must be cutting costs. The breakfast is a pale shadow of its past and the timings are restricted. In the room, the hair dryer and pants-pressing machine are both out of order. The telephone does not work too. May be someone else would buy that hotel and improve it? It changes names and owners, the prices increase and services improve, then slowly, every thing comes down. Perhaps, its location is not good so that it does not get enough clients?

I remember the time there when they had found an IRA terrorist staying in that hotel. I had woken up during the night after a noise and switching on the light, I had looked out of the window. The hotel was surrounded by police with guns in their hands. They must have looked at me with amazement, nude with just wearing my undies, standing near the window, lighted from behind! My heart thumping, I had switched off the light and crawled back into the bed, waiting for the guns to start shooting.

Or the time when a car allarm had gone off around 11 PM and gone on and on for 4 hours, till its battery had exhausted. Couldn't believe that in London, there was no police or someone to trace the owner of a car to make it shut up and it had continued to make terrible noise in a thickly populated residential area for four head-aching hours. Worse than all the jagratas combined in Delhi.

This time, there was a fight. It must have been from one of the houses at the back of the hotel. Woke up in the morning listening to the women shouting, "Leave the house, leave, ....leave". Seemed like an old record stuck on the word "leave". At first couldn't hear the man. Then slowly the fight heated. 'Fuck offs' and 'sons of bitches' flew around till the woman started shouting, "Get off me, let me go. I don't want you. Leave me. Let me go now." Then suddenly there was silence. Probably he had strangled her. Or may be, he had picked his things and left. Who knows. Or, may be she had hit his head with a broom. I hope they don't call me as a witness.

My last image of London is that of a banner at the airport. It was the publicity of a bank. "24 hours service. Real people from UK answer you." Means, no Indian call centre here!


1 comment:

  1. I surely agree that the place has changed after the blasts. The blasts not only shook London but the whole UK, I suppose. Even in places as far away as Newcastle, the immediate effect was increase in racism. As BBC reported in the news and if I remember it right, the spike was 600%..yes.."2 zeroes after 6" percent increase in racism.
    I was a victim of a foul mouthed racist "gentleman's" curses when he raced past in his car in the opposite direction. I just wished Indians looked different from the actual terrorist freaks...I know sounds selfish, but thats precisely the thought which occured to me at that instant.
    I hope everything gets back to normal in UK, London specifically.


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