Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Beginnings And All That Sentimental Crap

What better way to end the year for two blogger-friends still in their pajamas on New Year’s Eve, eagerly awaiting an evening of junk food and romantic comedies, than to share with you some soppy sentiments of our past year together. Here are a few snippets of our 2013, we hope it was as magical for you as it was for us.


2013 has been an eventful year, to say the least. I completed my undergrad degree (without shaming myself) from Malaysia, Travelled across the globe, to grey ol' London, to do my Masters in a subject I’d never seen myself doing, got to be room mates with one of my closest friends, AND managed to get a job! Looking back now brings up mixed emotions. No matter how much I try, I can't get myself to write a coherent reflection of 2013.  So here are spurts of the year that was: 

2013 was the year of losing faith in myself and working hard to reclaim it. It was marred with huge periods of self-doubt and fear of losing. Starting with my final year project. Looking back, I don’t know how I managed to hand in a 12,000 word project without going crazy (Well, I did go a little mental). Handing in the project was one of the most fulfilling things I've ever done. It was a reminder for myself that I can do anything I set my mind on, if I put my complete trust in God and give it my best shot. Alhamdulillah.

2013 was the year of exciting beginnings. I will remember this year as the one where I dived into something so new that it unsettled me to the core. Starting a degree in a new subject (in a new place) is a little scary, especially if you aren't sure about the choice you made. But it was also the year that I learned to stop trying to control every aspect of my life and make peace with the choices I have made so far. It has been a bumpy ride with lots of twists and turns. And yet, it has only made me stronger AND earned me a few friends in the process!

2013 was the year I got my first job. Had a REAL interview,held my breath, bit my nails and made it through! It’s the year I began trusting myself to stand on my own. Yes, living on your own is tough but it’s equally exhilarating! I am a little high on this freedom, hope it never wears down!

2013 was the year I finally realized how grateful I should be (and am) for my family- My parents and brothers. I have been my daddy’s little girl and my brothers’ annoying elder sister. This year, found out that I have a soul sister too- My mother. My parents are probably the first ones who will read this post. So let me be sentimental for a minute and let this out: You guys are the best gift Allah has given me. With every atom in my body I thank you for being the amazing people you are. Thank you for believing in me. For enabling me to find my own feet. Nothing I say or do can even come close to repaying you, So I will spend the rest of my life trying to be the daughter you two deserve. I love you.

Finally, 2013 taught me to cope with loss. It showed me that life takes its own course no matter how badly you want to stay in that moment. I lost my uncle a few weeks back and still haven’t come to terms with it. What it has led to, though, is a greater appreciation for the people I have in my life right now. Life has led me to so many different places and brought in so many wonderful people in the course. I am thankful to God for each one of them. For those reading this, I don’t know what role I play(ed?) in your life, but you have been kind enough to let me in. So, Thank you! Meanwhile, I hope I was able to bring in some goodness, a little bit of laughter and maybe a dash of joy into your life! I don’t know how long I’ll be around (before I die or you kick me out), but while I am here, I hope that at some point I have been the reason behind your smile.

Now as we leave behind this year and step into a new one, let us take a moment out, from all our resolutions and celebrations, to be grateful for everything gained and lost. As the wearied 2013 slips out of the window and we wait with bated breath to let the new year in, let's pause to give the past its due in making us who we are. For bringing us to this moment. Now. 
Here's to a more exciting year filled with love, joy and laughter! 


Keeping with the tradition of reflecting back on the past year, I cannot deny that 2013 has been life changing. But reflecting back for me doesn’t necessarily take me back to the beginning of this year, but rather three years ago, when I first entered university and this journey actually started. I was nineteen, naïve and new. And in the blink of an eye, here I am in 2013. 

I am so thankful to all the things I was able to see this year. I’ve had to say goodbye to Malaysia which I miss deeply- to speak of homesickness now is not just to speak of Sri Lanka, but Malaysia as well. I graduated with all my best friends and embarked on a new journey in LSE which was a dream come true, and here I will continue to cherish the wonderful memories and experiences I have been given. I am so blessed to have been amongst so many wonderful people in the past year who have taught me so many lessons about love, ambition and forgiveness. Your life is only as good as the people you are with, and I am thankful to all of you that have been a part of my life this year, especially my parents and my friends, both old and new. 

One thing that I have been accepting lately is that real life happens in-between the big plans we make. Big plans like at the end of next year I will have my first job, at the end of next month I will have a dissertation topic, at the end of this day I will have a carefully edited article on my blog. But what about right now, tomorrow at 3 o’clock, the middle of next week, moments we don’t plan out to be the way we want them to be; these are the times we must not forget to appreciate. It is quite evident to me and those close to me that I often do not live in the moment, but find happiness in hoping for the future. This is something I will strive to change as the years go by, as I try not to believe too much in the certainty of tomorrow. Quite recently a friend of mine posted on Facebook something that has stuck with me; she misses the time when we could have the time of our lives, and not need a picture to prove it. If there is one thing I could wish for next year, is that I have such moments. Moments of unexpected joy that has not been planned or hoped for, moments of beauty that I can close my eyes and imprint in my memory, something I can tell myself, I will never forget this, THIS is my life, right now. 

At the end of 2012 I would never have dreamed that I would be where I am now. This is why I am so glad to be unaware of what 2014 will bring. Uncertainty and the anxiety of uncertainty is a good thing, it’s what makes me keep on trying. As Nazreen said to me last night, why not celebrate the old year as much as we celebrate the new year? So that is exactly what I will do, celebrate today and dream of tomorrow.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

London: an artist’s paradise

If there is one thing I have taken advantage of by living in Central London, it is experiencing the great theatre and art landscape. It must be said that being an LSE student brings its perks when needed- free theatre tickets! (which would never be a priority under a London student’s budget). Now who in their right mind would say no to that?

The first was a performance of Georg Kaiser’s “Morning to Midnight” at the National Theatre, an opportunity given to me by the LSE Drama Society (the best decision I made during the freshers’ fair). Even though I had no idea what the play was about, I was so excited to see my first play in London. The theatre was bigger than I had ever seen before. When the first scene started, I was mesmerized by the revolving set and the large screen projections of shadows and on-stage scenes. There were no blackouts between scenes- merely one scene merging into another effortlessly. The story revolved around a bank clerk who robs the till and is forced to come to terms with his sins. The script was witty, smart and had a touch of that old British humor that I had grown to love during my childhood through watching re-runs of ‘Allo ‘Allo and Fawlty Towers with my father.

My second theater visit was to watch the musical “Stephen Ward” at the Aldwych Theatre. The music was composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, who himself gave away a heap of free tickets to LSE students! The Aldwych Theatre had a more traditional vibe than the National Theatre, with side balconies that reminded me of the opera. Nazreen was eagerly sitting next to me- it was her first musical and I was so excited for her! The curtains opened and we sat and absorbed close to two hours of love, power, political scandal and lust, all brought out by a talented cast with flawless voices as they sang to Webber’s beautiful songs with a live orchestra below. On our way out, we thought we caught a glimpse of the man himself, conducting one final song while a few spectators cheered on…but we will always wonder if it was actually him!

As for the art, I have become a phantom spectator gliding in and out of the many rooms of the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery. Surprisingly it is not only the art that catch my attention. I find myself observing the spectators as much as the paintings; the French school children, the Japanese tourists, the historians and even the odd couple enjoying the silence. As taking pictures inside the galleries is frowned upon, I try to absorb these new images so that they will be etched in my memory for a long time. Some paintings draw more attention than others, and I stop and stare at the Italian landscapes with its immaculate detail and portraits so real I have to keep my face two inches from the glass to be convinced that it was created by a human being, just like the others. These are my favorite pieces, ones that make you doubt the power of art until you allow yourself to step into the artist’s world, to see the world in new ways. These “moments” I have with London’s art are truly wonderful, and I find myself walking out of the gallery knowing that I have left many sections out, just so I may return again and again to discover the things left unexplored.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The 10 phases in an International Student's Life

Did you notice time sneaking off? ‘Cause I didn’t and IT’S CHRISTMAS BREAK ALREADY! AAAAAAH!

Okay, I am being over-dramatic (just the Indian in me).  But seriously, where did the two months go? Just seems like yesterday that I (nervously) boarded a plane to get me to this land of grey skies and endless streams of tea. If there is one word to explain how it has been so far I’d say- Rollercoaster Ride. Okay that’s two words, but you’ll forgive me, won’t you?

I have been in a pensive mood today. And my deep, deeeep thought have led to this finding- An international student’s life is similar to a lunar cycle. Our feeling for the place we are in wax and wane according to how far we are into the term. Not convinced? Here’s proof then:

Phase 1: PRE-DEPARTURE-NERVOUS EXCITEMENT: This is when you are so, absolutely excited that you are actually terrified. It’s like a million butterflies- with baby butterflies in their stomachs- doing back-flips in your stomach. You have a million things running through your mind as you pack your bags for one year abroad. You are excited about meeting new people and at the same time horrified at the prospect of not making any friends at all. In my case I atleast had the stand by option of having Chalani as my room mate. Knowing someone for three years classifies them as a friend, right? ( Sorry, Chal, you were just a backup). This phase also involves endless nightmares about embarrassing yourself in your new class.

Phase 2: ON ARRIVAL- THIS IS IT! : This is when you land and realize that your months of preparation, endless editing of personal statements, and follow up emails begging for reference letters has led up to this moment. I remember feeling so incredibly blessed to have this great opportunity at hand. And boy was I hyper (and the fact that I’d demolished a large pack of m&ms in the flight did not help).

Phase 3: SETTLING IN: WHAT NOW?: I don’t know if I am the only one who feels this, but every time I am in a new place and I finish unpacking, I feel unhinged. It’s that moment when you finish making your bed, sit down and just sigh- What now? Suddenly, you are overwhelmed with homesickness which soon leads to a panic attack. All your thought are in CAPITALS. ‘WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING HERE?’ ‘OMG, WHY DID I LEAVE HOME TO COME HERE OF ALL PLACES?’ ‘I AM GOING TO FAIL MY DEGREE’ ‘IAMTAKINGTHENEXTFLIGHTHOMENOW’ (this is when you are so upset that you forget to space your thoughts). This isn’t a pretty phase and it doesn’t help one bit that when you look outside your window all you can see is grey skies and ugly brown backs of buildings (Before coming I had this huge fantasy that I’ll get a room with a huge window with a comfortable ledge where I could just sit for hours and look at the London eye or Big Ben. Fat chance).

The view I thought I'd have

Sad Reality

Phase 4: NEW BEGINNINGS: The first week here was a flurry of orientations and inductions. I also managed to collect a drawer full of pamphlets, leaflets, maps; enough to have killed a few trees. These meetings are fun because you meet new people (and people, you will later realize, you won’t meet again for the rest of the term). You feel good knowing that there are others in the same boat and you manage to get yourself excited about your course again.

Phase 5: CLASSES BEGIN: LOSING YOURSELF: I remember my first class vividly. It was a 10 am class which I was so nervous about that I was waiting outside well over an hour before it began. I was literally shivering. I went in, with 50 other students, and let panic awash me as I saw a sea of new faces. It’s funny because I’ve faced this situation a dozen times already (I’ve studied in about 10 schools!) and it never fails to overwhelm me. There is that moment when you think you will never find your feet again, but you take a deep breath and dive in anyway.

Phase 6: THAT-MOMENT-WHEN-YOU-REALIZE-YOUR-PREVIOUS-DEGREE-WAS-A-JOKE-AND YOU-ARE-IN-FACT-THE-DUMBEST-PERSON-ON-EARTH: I have a BA in Communication Studies and Literature so, naturally, I was a little under-confident about pursuing a Masters in Political Science. This feeling magnified a thousand fold and shattered my self-esteem to bits after my first seminar. It’s a wonder I didn’t cry in the class because I-WAS-LOST. I felt like a 5 year old sitting in on a conversation among adults. I had NO CLUE whatsoever about what they were talking about and all I wanted to do was wish that I could morph into an Ostrich so I could bury myself and not see any of this. This feeling will subsequently fade only to reappear mid-term when you are left anchor-less in a sea of readings which are Greek to you.

Phase 7: FINDING YOUR FEET: ‘MAYBE I CAN DO IT AFTERALL’: This is around 3 weeks into the term when you realize it’s not so tough after all. You begin to enjoy your course and what you are studying genuinely interests you. This is my favourite bit (duh!) because I feel like all this was worth the struggle. I feel this intense urge to study to know more. My friend Misha’ari recently wrote about this feeling- Philomathy: "to love learning; to seek acquisition of knowledge and facts." It’s really a wonderful thing to experience! I felt so happy and grateful that I really enjoyed what I was doing.

Phase 8: STRESS BUILD- UP AND LETTING OFF STEAM: This is something I am really embarrassed about- I get stressed easily. If I have multiple things to do I sometimes blank out and go crazy. This happened a little after mid-term when I felt so over-burdened with readings (stop rolling your eyes!) that I just broke down. I had a good crying session and an hour long conversation with my dad, telling him I can’t do this anymore. The sob session did end eventually. I think it’s a weird coping mechanism. This is how I let off steam and it does help me get back on track.

What helped me let off steam

Phase 9: EXPLORING NEW PLACES: This is one of my favourites bits. It’s after all the drama and letting-off-steam episodes when I suddenly realize that I am living in the heart of London. My hall is a stone’s throw away from Trafalgar Square and I am about 10 steps away from the Thames. So why the hell am I sweating the small stuff?!

I like taking detours from my way back from uni and just checking out random nooks and corners of London. I am big on aimless wandering, where I just walk, ignoring all maps,with no place in mind. And this is the best way to really ‘feel’ a new place because, for some weird reason, I don't like mapping places geographically and fragmenting them with streets and signs. I like to map them with what I feel when I am there. It’s difficult to explain. It’s like getting a sense of something by running your hands over its bumps, ridges and crevices instead of actually seeing it. 

My memories of places are peppered with people and obscure spots instead of landmarks. What I tend to remember is sipping on steaming coffee in a small café and listening in on an old couple’s banter, after a long walk in the cold. What I cherish more than the standard tourist picture is chancing upon cozy second hand bookstores, hidden amongst bright shops selling novelty souvenirs. And what I enjoy most here is the conversations I have with random people in the most unexpected of places. My favourite one was at the supermarket(!) when this old lady taught me how to choose fresh bread by feeling its crust. She then told me that she learnt it from her grandfather and uncle who were both bakers. I never met her again, but I’ll still remember that instance because it is a wonder, when you think about it, that two strangers, from different spheres of life, can meet and touch each others’ lives for the briefest of moments.

Phase 10:GETTING COMFORTABLE: FORMING A ROUTINE:  There’s a tendency for things to fall into place when you are not looking. You will not realize that your life has sorted itself into a semi-formed routine that you enact everyday. Wake up- Have a strong cuppa coffee- Facebook-Walk to Uni- Pretend to study- walk back- fall asleep on your readings. This happens without your knowledge. And it’s a nice feeling when you get a drift of what’s going on. You are finally comfortable. In this huge city, with its grey skies, wet roads and polite people, you have finally found a spot for yourself. It’s comfortable in the sense that it grows on you. In the sense that you forget the discomfort before you found it. And you realize that you are happy. For that moment at least. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Lady at the Hair Salon

"What do I think about London? I don't like it as much as I used to. It used to be so nice, now its just too expensive. The rates....they are just taxing the poor and giving it to the rich! Otherwise how are the poor getting poorer and the rich getting richer?"

Friday, November 15, 2013

In a Souvenir Shop...

"Where are you from"
"Sri Lanka. I am doing my PhD here."
"How long have you been here?"
"7 years in UK. 2 years in London."
"Has London changed you in any way?"
"Yes, I think so. I have been able to increase my practical knowledge. I have access to so many more resources and lecturers in my field. It wasn't the same in Sri Lanka."
"Have you ever face anything because of your ethnicity?"
"No. Never. In fact I have faced worse back home because of the war. Here I have freedom to do anything I want."

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Homer and Brigadier

"Are you from London?"
"Yes. I was born here."
"What do you think of London?"
"It's a nice city. Beautiful. But it's like a carpet, you don't see a lot of things. I am homeless and I've been on this street for 17 years. They don't give us enough. Breakfast is a piece of toast. It's not enough. But otherwise, I like this city.

On the Strand

"Are you from London?"
"What do you think about it?"
"It's nice. A lot of cultures...different people."
"What's the best thing about it?"
"The best thing? That's difficult...I think the social life is good. A lot of clubs and pubs to go.It's very active."

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Stephen on Londoners

This is Stephen. I see him everyday on my way to LSE. He's always doing these poses to get people to buy his magazines. Today I stopped to talk to him and this is what happened-

"Hi! Can I take your picture?"
"You can do anything you want darlin'. "
"Are you from London"
"No, but I've been here for long. Since 2004. "
"What do you think about the people here?"
"Stressed out. They all are stressed out. It's probably all the money. Always in a hurry. Makes them full of themselves. They don't seem contented. They could be, I don't know. Of course I know good people too, but if you take a percentage, most of them are mean. "

Monday, November 11, 2013

The real stuff

At my lowest moments here in London, I keep dreaming of Malaysia. Malaysia was bright, sunny and loud. Always. England, on the other hand, likes to keep you on the edge. Nazreen was right, the initial high of London has worn off and I feel like all I have left are a pile of readings and lecture notes with no time to daydream or take an afternoon off to do nothing. And I keep asking myself, did life suddenly get hard or was everything else before this pretty easy?

I think it’s a bit of both. My life in Malaysia was so simple; all it took to make new friends was one handshake, all it took to relieve stress was walking across the road to knock on your friend’s door. And better yet, everyone knew everyone, because somebody you know will introduce you to the new kid who then turns out to be a friend of an old acquaintance back home who went for tuition classes with your best friend’s younger sister whose boyfriend will also be joining next semester. See what I mean? (Sri Lankans can relate)

But living in London is a whole other ball game. Every time I walk into campus I see a whole sea of faces that I did not see the previous day, people I have not been introduced to, who will never know my name. And suddenly I feel like a small town girl who went from knowing her whole community to being a speck among the crowd. To put it more accurately, a small fish in a very big, scary pond.

In the past few days, in between worrying about how I am going to finish all my readings for a seminar the next day trying not to fall asleep at 8pm from feeling exhausted, I realized what was so different about my life now. As cliché as clichés get, I think I have stepped into the real world. I know this because there is no one patting me on the back and telling me what a great job I’m doing. Nobody giving me a chance to speak unless I raise my hand and demand attention. Nobody guaranteeing me that if I do what I’m told, keep moving forward, everything will fall into place.

As much as this scares me, I am also thankful. Not only for the harsh realities I have to face in this big city now, but for everything that came before it. While Malaysia introduced me to so many wonderful things in life, London is teaching me how to earn it.

And lesson number one, it’s ok to be scared.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Bursting the Bubble

I’ve been on an involuntary blogging hiatus. There are a lot of things I want to write about. What I lack is time and if there is time, I am usually in no state to string words together into a coherent form. Mostly, I've just been tired. After the initial high of living in London started wearing down, I was left with just a lot of questions that I wasn’t sure I  wanted to know the answers to.

The thing about going from a relatively small university like UNMC to a HUGE one like LSE (in terms of student population) is that you can just lose your sense of self completely if you aren’t careful enough. For three years I lived in the UNMC bubbIe. It was like a small community where everyone knew everyone else. Of course there was lots of drama, but I felt like I belonged there. Here I feel like a visitor (or a student tourist according to Chalani) most of the time. Maybe it’s the effect of the city or maybe I haven’t given myself enough time. Either way, I spent most of the time moping about how I am not fitting in and it’s just too tough to keep up with everyone else. I was really beating myself down to the point of a break down. And it did happen; at one point I just couldn’t take it anymore. It’s tough (and embarrassing)to talk about it, but I guess it is important too- If there is anyone else who is in a similar situation, maybe it’ll help them! So yes, I had a small scene. Cried myself out and worried Chalani and my parents to no end. But finally, I am back on track!

I realize I was building up a lot of it in my head. Yes, living in a huge city is intimidating. Yes, studying in a competitive environment like LSE is taxing. But this was my choice.  I chose to come here. And I need to make sure that I do justice to that choice.

It’s not all been bad of course. I’ve somehow come to a point where I’ve, more or less, formed a routine. I am waking up earlier, reading more and even cooking more! 

I know the rule- Pictures or it never happened
The 15 minute walk to LSE is my self reflection time. I take my time, walking slowly,gazing at shop displays, jay walking every once in a while, skipping puddles and navigating myself through the sea of suits. I’ve made some unexpected acquaintances too, mostly servers at restaurants. Like the guy at this wrap place (halal!) near our hall, I go there almost every other day. The last time I went he had a loyalty card ready for me without even asking. I don’t know if I should be embarrassed or proud.

The tourist in me has slowly begun to fade. I don't find everything alien. Now when I go to Trafalgar square I no longer take pictures, I just go there to sit and watch people (in a non-creepy way) be touristy. And I definitely find myself mocking people taking pictures inside the red telephones booths! Who does that? (Okay, I did. Once)

So at the end of the day, letting go of that bubble is painful. But I need that. I need to be propelled into reality and face life by myself. It’s difficult, but I think I’ll be okay. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Who is London?

In Trafalgar Square a crowd of hundreds buzzed around me. There were lights and music so loud that it normally would have made thinking impossible. Yet in that moment, in the heart of the city, I found my bubble. I drifted around with no aim in mind, just wanting someplace to sit down and write. And not just anywhere, but someplace which feels like home. So I found myself in an Indian restaurant for dinner. It soon became apparent that I was the only Indian in the vicinity. The waiters and chefs were Bangladeshis, the diners were Americans and Britons, all engulfed in conversation and laughter. And I- I was alone. I have heard the phrase ‘Alone in a crowd’ before,  Many times in fact, but I never thought I could experience it. Well, I did. Intensely. By day and by night London enthralls me and scares me in turns. At times it welcomes me in with both arms open and at times it shuts me out.

So I find myself overwhelmed as she sheds all pretense and reveals herself, one layer at a time. Which face do I embrace?

Is it the one in the morning as I walk to my college through the Strand? Is it the coffee holding professional hands belonging to suited bodies navigating the bustling street? Is it the shoulders which constantly bump each other as ambitious men and women walk with purpose to realize their dreams. Is London then a metonym for ambition, drive and success? Should I then just join this race and climb the proverbial ladder?

But then I am forced to look at the other face. The one which reveals itself in the unacknowledged cracks and corners of this city. Cracks which are inhabited by the homeless populace. On cold nights this face attempts to mask itself with newspapers to keep warm. Flimsy masks which hide nothing. And if you look long enough, you are forced to confront your own indifference in walking by. And as your head sinks into a warm pillow, you just feel the cold, hard floor, wondering- Is London’s famed openness and tolerance to difference just an apathy which is colour blind? Is this melting pot just a black hole which sucks in ones identity? I have liked the feeling of being lost in the crowd, of not having the pressure to stand out always. And yet at times I yearn to be recognised, to be acknowledge. To be stopped in the rush and asked who I am. 

Day after day, as I make my way through this amazingly complex city, I can’t help but wonder- Is London then just irony herself? 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Bubbles, Beatles and Matthew Valentine

Trafalgar Square, 3pm.

While casually walking along my usual route back to Northumberland avenue, I see a crowd gathered around the National Gallery. Standing in the middle of  a half circle is a tall man with messy mad-scientist-like blonde hair talking through a microphone and and making people laugh with his witty humor. And the best part, I arrive just in time to hear him announce the removal of his shirt, confidently stating "you are about to see the best specimen to walk on this earth." After much anticipation, neither me nor the crowd gathered could help laughing when finally he took of his shirt to expose a pot belly and a tattoo across his back that said "showbusiness".

Who is this strange entertainer you might wonder? He is Matthew Valentine, a street performer and one of the many acts stationed outside the Galley.But everyone knew that Matthew wasn't out merely to show off his flexibility (he stuck his whole body through a tennis racket); he was there to make people happy, and he made sure of it.

And that's the beauty of it. In a city where entertainment comes at a cost, with elaborate theaters and expensive shows, London will find a way to bring a smile to people's faces. Kids, lovers, tourists, locals- everyone is invited. A few feet away, a young musician was singing and playing covers of hit songs on his guitar. No one was gathered around him unlike the other performers, but I shyly walked over to him and dropped a few coins into his guitar case. He was in mid-song but he managed to squeeze a "thank you very much" into his verse, flashing a smile as I walked away.

Bubbles. Gigantic life sized bubbles floating in the wind and bursting into nothing. I heard a character once say in a movie that he wished he could love anything as much as kids loved bubbles. That was what I felt at that exact moment as I watched little kids (and adults) run around to catch the bubbles, being blown by a guy with a bucket of soap and a string attached to two sticks. The music, the laughter, the sun reflecting off the bubbles; all happening separately but affecting the same people as they walked from one end of the square to the other. It was a man made symphony.

And now as I'm seated writing on the steps facing the fountain, the musician's voice drifts through the air, even though he is now out of my sight. And to put the cherry on top of a perfect afternoon, a line from one of my favorite Beatles songs catches my ear- "come together, right now, over me."

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The student tourist

My first night at my new student residence was everything I expected it to be. After unpacking like a ninja to put away my entire luggage, my room-mate and partner in crime Nazreen suggested a stroll through the city to do some grocery shopping. Stepping out into the crisp autumn day and walking among students, tourists, workers and children felt like a scene straight from a movie. They say television hardly portrays reality and we end up believing in cliches that aren't true- but London has stereotypes and clichés at every corner. The red double deckers and telephone booths are reminders that some things never change. With the promise of discovering galleries, cafes, and book shops at every corner, getting lost is merely a guarantee of another adventure.

And now, three weeks later, London has grown on me and I find myself walking through the city with the confidence of a local and the childish amusement of a tourist. The excitement that comes with new places has not worn off, and I hope it never will. There are stories and histories everywhere. I find myself listening to strangers’ conversations while waiting for the lights to change (I always was a bit of an eavesdropper) and wondering who they really are, where they are from and what their stories are. I find myself crawling into book shops, just to pass time or keep warm when it’s raining. The best I've come across are the cozy second hand stores, with grey-haired men behind the counter and the musky smell of old books.

I am a stranger in this new city and yet there are nooks and corners that make me feel more at home than I ever thought was possible. With the unexpected smiles from strangers on the train and cashiers at supermarkets I can’t help but wonder if everything I had done up until now has lead me here.  That I wasn't completely crazy to leave the warm sunshine of my home to come all the way here in an attempt to find myself, to continue growing.

Three weeks down, a million memories to go.

London Revisited

So here I am, on a cloudy Monday, seated on an old wooden bench facing the Thames. I feel different things- excited, exhilarated, nervous, scared, happy. I am all of these now.

This is my second time in London. I came here last year, but as a tourist. This time, I am a student. And what a difference it makes! My last visit to London was experienced through the camera lens. Like any other tourist, I walked around constantly capturing anything and everything I saw. Old buildings, the iconic black taxis, the bright red telephone booths..even lamp posts! I did what a tourist in London is supposed to do- go to the millennium bridge, see the national gallery, walk through Hyde park, take pictures in front of the Big Ben and London eye. And of course wait in a crowd of hundreds to take blurry pictures of the change of guard at the Buckingham palace. I did all those things and I really enjoyed it too.
But this time, I'm FEELING London. I can feel the fast pulse of the city, I can see its colourful diversity, I can smell ambition around me. A lot of things which I didn't notice in my first visit are revealing themselves to me now.

Today morning I walked out with plans of buying some stuff for my room and then changed my mind and decided to just walk around. I didn't have any place in mind so I just..walked. If certain streets seemed interesting then I explored them. I got into random buildings, did a lot of people watching. Followed some around when I wasn't sure where I was going. Heard interesting snippets of bankers contemplating on whether to eat couscous or not…
At one point I was caught in an oncoming rush of people in suits. Smart bankers and investors in greys and blacks and blues. Women, ready to take on the world, rushing to their offices in their nikes and Adidas with the heels stuffed into their bags. Steaming coffee from Costa in one hand and sandwich in the other, they marched on to the face the gloomy Monday. And I came back to my cozy room.

I think I like this city. Maybe because I blend in here. I can be one of the many walking around, without explaining why.

How it all started...

Chalani and I have known each other for three years. We did the same course,with the same specialism AND the same language together so naturally we became thick friends over the years. It was then with heavy hearts that we approached our third year. It felt horrible knowing we might never see each other again.
But guess what, life had other plans! In our last semester in Uni we both applied to LSE and got accepted.
Long story short, we came, we saw and we became room mates.
The next step then seemed to be starting a blog together! This blog will be about our experience of London in particular and the UK in general as South Asians. Both of us are very interested in the discourse on race, immigration and identity, so, many of our posts will be about our position as 'brown people'. That said, this is not the only thing we will cover! We are both passionate foodies and can kill for a couple of gooey brownies! However, since both of us are in the throes of student poverty, we have to resort to cooking to avoid starvation. So we shall document our culinary exploits for the amusement of the general public!

So grab a cuppa tea, stick your pinky out and follow the adventures of two brown girls in this big city!