November 26, 2012

The Empire

While watching Jab Tak Hain Jaan today I suddenly realized I have never spoken of my trip to London. And when SRK mentioned how people age but the city of London becomes younger every year, I could not help but agree.

My first visit to London allowed me to see the city at its best behaviour with the entire country slowly getting into the Olympic craze. Staying in Singapore makes me appreciate a cosmopolitan city in all its splendour but London of today is perhaps the best example of a globalized metropolis.  And we loved it.

It was a city which had fascinated me from my early childhood. I grew up in a city that loved to live in her memories, reminding herself fondly that she was once called the London of the East. Even today, the powers that be tries to make my old city an image of London while the much more fancied Delhi and Mumbai looks east and want to be Shanghai.

Anglophiles Us!

It was a city which to a boy growing up symbolized the years of the Raj when the British Royalty still wore with pride the title of “Empress of India”. It was the city which an entire generation of my ancestors had fought; most believing that victory would be theirs through the hallowed portals of non violence. It was a city where the good, the bad and the ugly, all met, not to create a Western but to melt away in a midsummer night’s dream. And now that the child is grown, you walk into the Tower of London and gaze at the koh-i-noor and it whispers back to you, asking you how her home is. And you suddenly realize how little the average Briton knows about what happened in the Empire.

It was a city whose resilience was legendary, a city which can truly call Chicken Tikka Masala its own, a city where 5 minutes from the Globe Theatre stood the Tate; the grandest meeting of the old and the new, a city where you experience Chili Paneer as the name suggests, a chilli and a Paneer (where the chilli is bigger than the paneer), a city where the Borough Market smells heavenly as it shuts down, a museum which showed the nights that London seldom slept in fear of the bombs, a city which remembers its lost princess even today after they have got a new one, a city where even McDonald’s salads taste heavenly after walking through her streets all day long.

To stand and watch a play at the Globe like the ones before us waited for Bill’s plays, to marvel at the paintings at the Tate, to wish longingly for a ticket at a West End Theatre for a musical, to catch a movie at Soho, to pick up sandwiches at Pret, to rush to Buckingham Palace to see the change of guards, to shriek in horror at the London Dugeons, to pose with celebrities and experience the fantastic 4D at Madame Tussads, to watch the crowd walking out as England beat Australia at Lord’s, to stand with complete strangers on lush green lawns on a rain soaked day and watch Federar play on grass, to get out of Baker Street to find the house of the world’s most famous detective and only to be gifted my most precious Rock and Roll Memorabilia by her, to re enact SRK and Kajol’s meeting at King’s Cross, to pose at 9 and ¾, to step in for the first time at 100 VE, London is a city that never ceases to stir your senses to a frenzy that will no longer be satisfied with any other city in the world.