Tag Archives: London

Online bookstores, it isn’t you, it’s me

8 Sep

Hatchards, London

The past few years I have bought more books on Kindle and Amazon than I have from a book store. As much as I loved the feel of a real book, when an e-book was merely a click away, it was a temptation hard to pass up.

I took care of my need to physically hold a book too by joining the legions of Flipkart and Amazon lovers and soon began to order discounted books that arrived at my doorstep in corrugated boxes the very next day. It all seemed so thrilling, almost like some book loving deity had deemed that people who liked reading finally deserved to experience instant gratification too.

As I went about adding books to my cart and book shelves, I got a little greedy along the way and began to order far too many pending reads at one click. This did not necessarily translate into me reading more but it did mean that my bookshelves began to overflow and I had to create space for my books in less decorous places such as the powder room and bathroom. Agreed the print size was less than satisfactory at times and eyes approaching middle age must value big font size over most other parameters that go into the making of a good book, but I was willing to take my chances at that price.

While I had reservations about Kindle to begin with, given how attached I was to the concept of physical books that had to be smelt and felt, I succumbed eventually because it made night-time reading possible for me. Kindle helped me to hide under the covers roshni deta bajaj ad style and engage in this offbeat style of bedside reading, because some of us are married to people with rice paper eyelids, who get disturbed by the slightest light in the room.

When I traveled outside of India and discovered new books by local authors in stores such as Waterstones, Hatchards and Kinokuniya (the latter two are book stores after my own heart) I promptly checked the local Amazon prices and triumphantly ordered them online too. This went on for a while until one day, I realized that most other people at these stores were also doing the same thing and walking away without buying hardly anything at all. It hardly felt fair that we were squatting on their carpets, leaning against their walls, sitting on their sofas and browsing through their books only to callously give business to online stores.

Hatchards

Back in Bombay, Danai, a much-loved book store in my neighbourhood had already shut shop and given way to a garish jewellery store that I resentfully turned my nose at each time I drove past it. But such developments sadly were a hallmark of our consumerist times and there was little one could do about it. As much as I was blaming the generation of snapchatters and instagrammers for not reading enough, it occurred to me that I too was complicit in the death of bookstores and maybe I could do something about this after all. Dania was gone but one had to ensure Kitab Khana and Crossword were spared a similar fate.

I write this post as a reformed woman who has been buying books at book stores both in India and abroad (ignoring the exchange rate) with full gusto. The thrill of taking a book home, one that I have just fallen in love with after reading its first page, far outmatched the thrill of receiving it at the hands of a delivery boy. Online book stores, lets part as friends, it was good while it lasted. I may still have to turn to you in moments of desperation and I need you to know you were great.

It isn’t you, it’s me.

Kitab Khana, Bombay

An English summer and the unbearable confusion of wanting to do too much

5 Jul

An English summer and the unbearable confusion of wanting to do too much

Posted by  on June 19, 2015

A setting for afternoon tea at the Ritz, London

“Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”
— Samuel Johnson

So well, it is another glorious summer here in London, the English summer that so much ink has been expended on with consummate skill by writers far more gifted than me. Flowers of every conceivable hue are enthusiastically springing forth from the earth and unexpected places. There is something about London that tugs at me from all directions leaving me wanting to do far more than I can possibly manage within my waking hours here. As always I arrive in London with an entirely different set of intentions from the ones I end up living out.

The city is hosting some of the most enticing exhibits from the world of art, fashion and history. Mc Queen’s Savage Beauty at the V&A, the new Mummies at the British Museum, Surrealism & Beyond at the Tate Modern. World-class chefs are concocting meals that my palette can hardly wait to surrender to. The lush greens are beckoning me to take a walk and enjoy the coolest breeze that summer can bring. Charming high-tea evenings in Edwardian rooms invite me each time I walk down the beautifully time-warped lanes of Mayfair. Tony bars with their decorous air call out to me for a gin and tonic and British pubs urge me to let my hair down over Pimms, batter fried cod and chips. To compound my confusion, summer sales are upon us. Given that how formidable the Pound has become,  only a fool would miss a good summer bargain. All in all, London at this time of the year is a smorgasbord of all that is exciting, epicurean, eclectic and entertaining.

Exhibit at V&A Museum

And my children, well, they have their own agendas for the vacation that are collectively as far apart from mine as Usain Bolt is from the starting line halfway through a marathon. Z made me take her to the musical Wicked at the Apollo theatre the other day.  The husband had to travel on work unexpectedly and what was to be a bonding exercise between father and daughter turned out to be a theatre date between both my  girls and me, one that I got through only on the might of the cheap Pinot Grigio being served inside the theatre. Try sitting next to a seven-year-old and explaining a musical to them scene by scene and you will know why I needed the wine.

Besides, having exhausted my appetite for musicals a while back and irrespective of their grand production values, I cannot bear to sit through one any longer. I don’t see why somebody should have to sing along and say, “Oh my dear Galinda you are so beautiful, marry me” when the same can be stated quickly and simply without adding musical notes to it. In hindsight though, I am glad we went to the musical because those were the only two hours of our trip so far that my 12-year-old Z did not obsess over her pimples that have made a foray on her forehead.

Our younger one R wants to go to Peppa Pig world and the petting zoo and also paddle boating in Hyde Park. Call me heartless but the only thing I have managed  to accomplish with the kids so far, apart from the insufferable musical, was an edifying trip to the Science Museum. And a few trips to the sand pit in the park on their respective scooties, which incidentally is the most ingenious means of transport ever. I borrowed Z’s scooter the other day and rode is, much to her embarrassment and it was such a liberating experience. Apart from the fact that I did look like an oversized imbecile riding a child’s scooter, it was an overall pleasurable exercise. In fact I am keen to buy one for myself.

My children swear they will not acknowledge me publicly if they see me whizzing around on one. “How would you feel if nani starting riding on a scooter mom?” Z says to dissuade me from ordering one on Amazon. There are worse things that parents can embarrass their kids with than riding a scooter! I am determined to not let their inhibitions stop me from enjoying the few things my fragile joints will allow me to enjoy at my age.

Am headed to Scotland in two days. More from there.

The scooter

Flowers in bloom

A summer in London and the unbearable confusion of wanting to do too many things

19 Jun
A setting for afternoon tea at the Ritz, London

A setting for an afternoon tea at the Ritz, London

It is a glorious summer here in London, the English summer that so much ink has been expended on with consummate skill by writers

far more gifted than me. Flowers of every conceivable hue are enthusiastically springing forth from the earth and unexpected places. There is something about London that tugs at me from all directions leaving me wanting to do far more than I can possibly manage within my waking hours here. As always I arrive in London with an entirely different set of intentions from the ones I end up living out.

The city is hosting some of the most enticing exhibits from the world of art, fashion and history. Mc Queen’s Savage Beauty at the V&A, the new Mummies at the British Museum, Surrealism & Beyond at the Tate Modern. World-class chefs are concocting meals that my palette can hardly wait to surrender to. The lush greens are beckoning me to take a walk and enjoy the coolest breeze that summer can bring. Charming high-tea evenings in Edwardian rooms invite me each time I walk down the beautifully time-warped lanes of Mayfair. Tony bars with their decorous air call out to me for a gin and tonic and British pubs urge me to let my hair down over Pimms, batter fried cod and chips. To compound my confusion, summer sales are upon us. Given that how formidable the Pound has become,  only a fool would miss a good summer bargain.

Exhibit at V&A Museum

Exhibit at V&A Museum

And my children, well, they have their own agendas for the vacation that are collectively as far apart from mine as Usain Bolt is from the starting line halfway through a marathon. Z made me take her to the musical Wicked at the Apollo theatre the other day.  The husband had to travel on work unexpectedly and what was to be a bonding exercise between father and daughter turned out to be a theatre date between both my  girls and me, one that I got through only on the might of the cheap Pinot Grigio being served inside the theatre. Try sitting next to a seven-year-old and explaining a musical to them scene by scene and you will know why I needed the wine.

Besides, having exhausted my appetite for musicals a while back and irrespective of their grand production values, I cannot bear to sit through one any longer. I don’t see why somebody should have to sing along and say, “Oh my dear Galinda you are so beautiful, marry me” when the same can be stated quickly and simply without adding musical notes to it. In hindsight though, I am glad we went to the musical because those were the only two hours of our trip so far that my twelve-year-old Z did not obsess over her pimples that have made a foray on her forehead.

Our younger one R wants to go to Peppa Pig world and the petting zoo and also paddle boating in Hyde Park. Call me heartless but the only thing I have managed  to accomplish with the kids so far, apart from the insufferable musical, was an edifying trip to the Science Museum. And a few trips to the sand pit in the park on their respective scooties, which incidentally is the most ingenious means of transport ever. I borrowed Z’s scooter the other day and rode is, much to her embarrassment and it was such a liberating experience. Apart from the fact that I did look like an oversized imbecile riding a child’s scooter, it was an overall pleasurable exercise. In fact I am keen to buy one for myself.

My children swear they will not acknowledge me publicly if they see me whizzing around on one. “How would you feel if nani starting riding on a scooter mom?” Z says to dissuade me from ordering one on Amazon. There are worse things that parents can embarrass their kids with than riding a scooter! I am determined to not let their inhibitions stop me from enjoying the few things my fragile joints will allow me to enjoy at my age.

Am headed to Scotland in two days. More from there.

The scooter

The scooter

Flowers in bloom

Flowers in bloom

Winter in London and other happy things

28 Dec

london5

My love affair with London continues. We are in the thick of winter, cold winds beat against the window of our room at night and it rains intermittently during the day adding a piercing chill to the air. Still my love for this city, if one can call it that, only grows. I hesitate from referring to London as a city because calling it a city somewhat diminishes its greatness, for London is a lot more than a city. You could say it is a confluence of many cities. Historically speaking too London is made up of two cities, the City of Westminster and City of London so I am not that off the mark.

So as I was saying there is no season in London that can reduce my love and admiration for it. This season, with all its festive atmosphere and spectacular Christmas decorations is no exception.  If anything, London is even more charming in winter what with its Christmas markets, ice skating rinks and poetically bare trees.

Winter in London

Winter in London

Hyde Park is freezing this time of the year, but it is not without cheer. One corner of the Park is hosting the annual winter wonderland. The Christmas market inside the wonderland has chalet style stalls that serve hot chocolate with marshmallows, chips with vinegar, bratwurst and crepes. There are shops selling handmade jewelry, jams and other Christmas fare and bars selling beer and mulled wine. Outside of the park, the  Christmas lights on Oxford Street, Regents Street and Bond Street would bedazzle even the most jaded among us.  What’s not to love about winter if it can be like this?

London1

I have never understood why people make a fuss about the English weather. I find their weather enticing. What an exciting past time it is to go to the weather app and look up the weather for the following day and then discuss it with your family to chalk out plans accordingly. You might argue that winter is winter is winter. But there is a 5 degree Celsius that feels like 5 degrees and there is one that feels like a minus 3 degrees. Then there is 2 degrees with sleet and there is 2 degrees with sunshine. But the best part is that none of them feel the same in England.

Much as I like winter, generally speaking, the one disadvantage it has over other seasons is that it takes me an hour to dress up the kids and myself and then another hour to find myself beneath all those clothes. Putting on and removing so many layers, several times a day is a cardiovascular exercise in itself. These dressing up rituals are routine for a person from Delhi but to a person from Bombay, it remains a challenge. What is even more inconvenient is that in many parts of the world, say Mongolia, one would get away with dressing in frumpy clothes underneath, but in London one feels the need to look presentable in the very least, if not fashionable when one is done removing the outer layers once inside a café, shop or restaurant. I can finally say that not having central heating in most parts of North India might not have been such a bad idea after all. You could be in your jammies under all those layers and nobody would have to know.

In spite of our best efforts to appear presentable, we have had our fashion police worthy moments during this trip. Just this evening the husband and I walked towards a restaurant at Notting Hill looking fairly ridiculous. Him in his Russian cossack hat looking like an oligarch and me looking like a Hamas recruit with my head and face covered up to my eyes in black.

On another note, you know what they say about weather doing strange things to people? I have realized that it is indeed true. While this cold December weather has turned me into a homebody of sorts, it has transmogrified the husband into a bonafide shopaholic. Over the past week that I have spent with him, he has amassed such an extensive winter wardrobe that one would think he is embarking on an Arctic expedition with Kate Moss no less.

Yesterday the kids and I watched him in action at Ellis Brigham, a specialized store that deals in ski and outdoor clothing. He wasn’t content with merely shopping a bag full of clothes at the store, I caught him browsing their website later in the night as well as a form of bedside reading.

Today he took the girls for an outing on the condition that they would be patient while he shopped at Barbour, another winter store. I excused myself and spent several hours browsing books at Waterstones thankfully because in my opinion, waiting while the woman shops is a man’s privilege and vice versa does not apply. The girls cribbed a great deal about how long their father took to pick his jackets at the store and how awfully bored they were sitting there waiting for him to find the right colour and the right fit.

Over the last two days some gloves have also been procured when there are already some pairs lying around in his suitcase.

I sincerely hope the man will be able to put his various Merino, Cashmere, leather and microfiber inners and outerwear to good use during his expedition with Kate Moss because god knows I do not have room for unnecessary things in our house in Bombay.

As for me, I am keeping my spirits high in spite of the ebb in my desire to shop with help from mulled wine. I love the concoction and cannot get enough of it. I start my day with coffee and a pain au raisin or scones, throw in some cheese in between the next coffee followed by some more cheese and then mulled wine. Who knows if fat is piling up beneath all those coats and puffer jackets  but it does not matter because tomorrow is another day. What kind of a day will it be, however, remains a question. Maybe I should consult the weather app for that.

London

Christmas Market, Hyde Park

I am looking for Kate Moss in the mirror

20 Jun

Kate moss

And the first sightings of premature mid-life crisis have happened. I have finally succumbed to hair highlights after resisting them my whole life. This is what happens when you spend a summer with your mother in the fashionable parts of london.

My older one tells me my hair is awfully boring because I am one of the few women my age she knows who refuses to touch colour to her hair. My mother who was perfectly satisfied with my natural hair colour until now, comes to London and joins my daughter in a tirade against my virgin (to colour treatment)hair.

All this is, of course, is not something one needs to blog about but what needs to be put in ink is the fact that my mother got inspired after looking at a picture of Kate Moss and decided it was time her daughter did something to her hair. Because the only thing that is keeping me from looking like Kate Moss is my hair colour.
Mother walked me to a picture of Kate Moss at the Superdrug store and suggested with a straight face that I should get highlights like her. Armudpusttadgumph!
But mom that is Kate Moss. Look at her skin and hair colour.
So what? What’s good for Kate Moss is good for you.

Okay then. I am on my way to embracing my inner Kate Moss at a chic salon where I am sitting with my heart in my mouth and waiting for balayage (that’s what it is called these days) results to show. Highlights are passé’ it seems and in London everybody is doing Ombre’/Balayage.

I would not usually yield to someone urging me to colour my hair if I was still in my twenties. But at this juncture in my life, there is little that you can change, yes? I mean you can’t change your house or your city or your job (especially if you are jobless like me) or your husband family or even your name. So then the only thing left to change is your hair really.
And so it is, that I find myself sitting in a salon chair, sipping my coffee and counting minutes till I see Kate Moss in the mirror.

I have spent the better part of last night googling ideal hair colour highlights for Asian skin and I am only getting images of Lucy Liu and Kim Kardashian. Yes there is no escaping Kim K on Google regardless of what words you key in in the search engine. Try writing ‘typewriters’ or even ‘toilet cleaners’ and I am certain it will throw up at least a picture or two of Kim Kardashin.

The spouse has taken the girls to Peppa Pig world and the mother is shopping at Oxford Street I believe, leaving me to my fate.
My brief to Nicole, who is doing my hair as I type this, is to be conservative and do anything that will keep me from looking like an Arab (**)
She gets me. Her colleagues find my racist comment funny.
But I would rather be politically incorrect than look like an Arabian chick with kohl rimmed eyes and red/bleached tones on my head.
The truth is that it is unlikely that I can be mistaken for an Arab in London, irrespective of hair colour, because I have not arrived here in a private jet. Nor do I move around in a Bentley or Rolls.
It is only Harrods then, that I will have to stay away from if I come out looking like one of them. That I can manage because I don’t care much for Harrods anyway.

Disclaimer- **I think that Arab women are beautiful but it just isn’t my sensibility. Given my skin tone and hair colour I could easily pass off as one, hence the fear.

London Diaries

13 Jun

Hyde Park

Started my second day in London in a salubrious way with a walk in Hyde Park. I am here practically every summer and yet I have never given a morning constitutional in the park so much a consideration. After walking around the streets of London through the day and dining out every night, somehow languishing in bed the next morning always seemed like a more lucrative proposition than putting my chassis through the trouble of a drill in the park.

But this time around, things are different. For one, my mother who rises before the morning sun is with us. Second, we are staying at a cousin’s vacant flat hence no room service or housekeeping.  Of course this does not bode too well for me because it means that I have to drag my lazy body out of bed and fix the kids their breakfast.

This morning mother and I have avowed to go back to India looking skinny, sans any holiday weight in manner of the two famous Ethiopian ladies Victoria Beckham and Angelina Jolie.

Hence, together we are embarking on a healthy diet and a daily exercise routine starting today. Leaving the kids in the television’s husband’s care, we walk across to the park with a sense of purpose.

It is a gorgeous morning and there is a cool breeze blowing, the kind that encourages one to run without feeling any exhaustion. Hyde Park is at the peak of its summer’s glory and playing host to cheerful little babies in their buggies, unleashed doggies giving their owners a chase and rare birds flocking around the Serpentine Lake. Beautiful flowers in all conceivable colours are shooting forth with abandon from every little verdant corner of the expansive landscape.

The beauty of the English summer is that it is a summer in awe of itself and like no other summer anywhere else in the world. This summer’s day in the park is begging to be photographed by my Instagram lens. I am torn between maintaining my heart rate and clicking pictures with my phone while my mother is torn between walking in brisk steps and running around the park as if on rocket fuel.

I could live in the moment and admire nature’s pulchritude and instead of taking pictures with my phone but living in the moment is so last season. If you have not clicked it and preserved it for posterity, it has not happened to you. I will work out another day, I tell myself and go about clicking rare birds, dogs and flowers that cross my way and instantly uploading them on Instagram because if you have not shared it on social media it has not happened to you either.

I hear someone call my name and turn around to find a familiar face that belongs to a school mom whose name I cannot recall because of my advanced Alzheimer’s. We chat about the school and about how everybody we know is in London and promise to catch up again soon. I do not have the heart to tell her I do not even know her name as I sprint along.

Close to the Serpentine Lake cafe, I run into a friend whose irreverent wit and company induces fits of laughter, both in the mother and myself. Sadly we have no money on us to buy ourselves coffee and nor does he.

Later in the day, the children and I are digging into fish and chips at a restaurant in Bayswater while mother is sticking to her yogurt and banana diet, the benefits of which, she recently became enlightened to during a short holiday in Bhutan last month. I seek consolation in the fact that by the end of the holiday at least one of us will look emaciated.

In the evening, the husband and I stop by at Meadows, a charming cafe near the apartment, for a cup off coffee but end up having wine instead. I am espousing the benefits of a walk in the park to him and encouraging him to start getting some exercise while on holiday. He politely asks me not to get so carried away and reminds me that I have spoken about my maiden morning walk only about a dozen times since the afternoon.

We take a short walk around the tony neighbourhood of Notting Hill, which is full of eclectic shops and boutiques. I spot a records shop that sells old LPs and am reminded of Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity. There is also Chef Jamie Olivier’s organic food cafe and pattiserie and another store that specializes in cook books from around the world. It is nice to be in a hood that is not tempting me to shop and where I can actually take a walk with the spouse without annoying him by diving in and out of shops.

We have plans to step out for dinner but I have overtaken by a sudden urge to cook. The husband winces at the suggestion but I convince him with feigned confidence that I will cook him a good meal. I am clearly in the first flush of domesticity.

I begin to stir fry the vegetables with great gusto but realize a minute or two later that I ought to have parboiled the broccoli and baby corn. I then go on to retrieve the oiled veggies and par boil some of them before tossing them back into the pan. It is all quite silly really, to not be able to manage something as simple.

I keep picking broccoli florets and bite into it to see if it is cooked and before I know it a good portion of the broccoli has been thus devoured in this process. To make up for the reduced quantity, I throw in some mushrooms from the sealed tray and start to stir them in only to realize seconds later that they still have dirt on them and needed to be washed. I then go on to reclaim the oil coated mushrooms as well and wash them before putting them back in again.

This is not doing too much for my self-esteem as a domestic goddess. I am feeling more like a domestic doggess here!

 

Hyde Park

When I finally serve the kids who are half faint with hunger, they lap up the stir fried vegetables and the handmade egg pasta (handmade by Tesco, not me) that I have put together by adding some pomodoro and parmesan sauce out of a bottle.  There is cold breeze coming in from the kitchen window and for all the time that I have spent in the kitchen, I am neither sweaty nor tired or irritated.

I look outside the kitchen window and admiring the blueberries growing on the tree and come to the surprising realization that I am enjoying this organic, self-sufficient way of living. It is a refreshing to be able to manage on your own and for a change, I would much rather be doing this than be rushing to Zuma or Kai or Koya for a meal night after night.

The food is also a big hit with the husband and my mother who cannot stop praising my culinary skills. “I never thought you could cook but you have proven me wrong today,” she tells me. The kids are thrilled to be eating a meal cooked by their own mother.

I too am thrilled that no one can tell that the sauce was readymade or that the stir-fry tasted had packets of Maggi masala tastemaker in it.

 

An English summer and an inflamed tendon – loving and limping in London

12 Jul
London

London

I am spending the last bit of my children’s summer vacation in London.  Who does not love the English summer? I like to spend my days in London walking around aimlessly, stumbling in and out of cafes, restaurants, bars, galleries and shops.

In preparation of my profoundly purposeless existence in London, I engage the services of a local masseuse in India a day before my departure. A day later, I am walking around Mumbai, running last minute errands with a dull but absolutely bearable pain in my left leg. I diligently see a physician, hours before my departure, just to be safe in case the pain gets worse in foreign land. The doctor prescribes some muscle relaxants and advises I avoid walking around London and if at all I must, it should be done in running shoes. I tell her running shoes will make me look like an American tourist and that London will disown me.

Next day on the plane, I pass out. This undisturbed sleep has been long overdue. The children too are fast asleep and it does not occur to them to disturb me, surprisingly. When I arrive at Heathrow, I am unable to stand. There is stabbing pain in my leg each time I try to stand. The flight attendant suggests I take a wheelchair. Left with no choice I drag my body into the unfamiliar contraption and am wheeled out of the airport.

I tell the concerned driver of the cab that has been hired to receive me to take me to a pharmacy right away. Sucha Singh aka Paul, my cab driver, takes me right away to a pharmacy owned by a holistic medical practitioner. He then bargains with the doctor there by telling him that I am his cousin and that he ought to give me a good deal on a physiotherapy session followed by acupuncture. The doctor is confident he can put me out of my misery and minutes later, I am lying on the treatment bed with tiny needles stuck all over me. As the doctor busies himself with the task of releasing my sciatic nerve, he tells me Colin Firth is a regular at his clinic and so are some other famous English blokes I have never heard of.  But I can tell that this doctor is not lying. I like Colin Firth. The mention of his name takes my mind off my pain for a few seconds. I am pleased about the two degrees of separation between Colin Firth and myself but as far as English men go, Hugh Grant is more my type. I ask the doctor if he knows where Grant goes for acupuncture. He tells me he has no idea and wants to know if I am feeling any better. I tell him I am. He tells me I should take it easy and avoid walking too much if I want to recover fully.

I have never understood what doctors mean when they say one must avoid doing something “too much” for “too much” is not easy to quantify and it is subjective. I arrive at my serviced apartment at Seymour Street and spend a few minutes stretching myself. It is a beautiful day outside and even though the sharp pain in my leg is back, I decide to step out for a meal along with the girls. I am barely a two blocks away from the apartment when I begin to howl with pain and now even passers by are looking at me and asking me if I need help. I somehow manage to return to the apartment along with the children who are feeling very helpless around me. The husband is in Mumbai and I am lying in bed crying and my children are staring at each other and sometimes at me, not knowing how to make me feel better.

I ring my sister and tell her about my situation. Before I know it, everyone in London that I know even remotely is calling me up and offering to take care of me. I spend two days crying in bed for the pain is excruciating. Colin Firth’s doctor, and now mine too, I hasten to add, politely tells me I should not have walked two blocks and back given my state and prescribes strict bed rest. Even bed rest is difficult, given the nature of my pain, as my leg is hurting like somebody has put a few bullets through it.

As I lie in bed, waiting for the pain the recede I hear the sound of women hurriedly walking past my window in their stilettos. I imagine them rushing to bars and restaurants for romantic interludes or drinks with their girlfriends. I wouldn’t mind either right now. There are some chic restaurants and cafes in the neighbourhood and over the weekend I feel miserable at the sound of party revellers boogeying down the streets much after midnight. Their drunken joy heightens my sense of solitude and physical pain. I have never been big on self-pity but I am making up for it right now. I am wallowing in it like a dog in a puddle of water on a hot summer’s day.

My mother is on the phone with me whenever I am not passing out with the painkillers and tells me to be patient and that London can wait. The truth is, London is not waiting. My friends who have taken charge of my life buy me crutches and then show me around to another doctor. The doctor inspects my leg and asks me to do an Echo test right away. I am sitting with my friends at King Edward hospital London waiting to do the Echo test. The hospital looks like a set from Downton Abbey. There are no patients in sight thereby confirming the fact that I am the only ill person in London presently.

600 pounds later I find out that I have no deep vein thrombosis and that my pain goes by the name of tendonitis coupled with sciatica. The British Pound is trading at Rs. 93 to a Pound and after seeing my bill I quite naturally develop deep vein thrombosis of the heart but I refuse to spend more money to confirm it.

I need to practice walking with the crutches and so I walk to Selfridges, two blocks away from where we are staying. Along the way, I indulge in a bit of shopping for myself to cheer up my girls who have also been trapped inside with me since a few days. My leg is better but my arms are hurting from balancing my weight on the crutches. I have bruises on my sides too from holding the crutches in such a way that my sides are pressing against them. Now I sore, not only in my legs but also in my shoulders and triceps. The irony of this situation is not lost on me.

My doctor here has referred me to a specialist to get a leg brace. The specialist, who is of Gujarati origin and had goes by the name of Dr Jig (short of Jignesh) does not let me talk and is irritable for the most part. He tells me I will need an MRI scan. I tell him that I am doing better since the GP who sent me to him saw me two days ago and that I have only come to see him to get a leg brace to keep my knee and calf in place. He gets a male nurse to put the brace on, charges a hefty consultation and then sends me to a lab across the road from his clinic for an MRI that I feel I do not need. They ask me to pay them 900 GBP before going in for the MRI and I beat a hasty retreat at the sound of it. I can get myself a new leg for 900 GBP, I realize and I limp out of the MRI centre.

My friends hire a wheelchair for me to time with my husband’s arrival into London. Pushing an invalid spouse around on a wheelchair is part of the deal of marriage and the husband is doing his best to keep his part of the bargain. When I doll up for our evenings out and the husband pushes my wheelchair along the way, I can see people look at him with admiration and at me with sadness. They think I am too young to be a cripple. He tells me people must think he has married me for money. A really obese person, who is jogging past us one afternoon, catches me looking at him surreptitiously from my wheelchair. I am only trying to gauge if it is a man or a woman and feel I have been caught red handed. He looks into my eyes and smiles at me warmly. I am taken aback and then it occurs to me that I am in a wheelchair and that he probably felt sorry for me too.

London is having too many sunny afternoons suddenly and Hyde Park is throbbing with life. There are people sunbathing, children paddling away in the tiny boats, cycling, skating and Londoners picnicking all over the park. I have decided to let go of the wheelchair even though I still feel residual pain in my leg. We are having a family picnic and I long to be able to run or skate or cycle around the park but I cannot. I wistfully look at everybody walking around with healthy tendons, living their lives to the fullest. I see the beautiful African boy skateboarding while doing back flips. His calves are toned and his tendons look just fine. I notice girls in hot pants walking around with their toned legs on wedges. You know how it is when people can’t get pregnant, they only notice how the whole world, except them, has children? I am like those people right now. Except that I am not hoping to bear more children, I am just hoping my legs can bear my own weight.

I am seeing London from the eyes of a handicapped person, I realize that as a species, us humans are truly ungrateful for all that we have. We take all our blessings for granted. I know that in a few days I will be walking around just like everybody else and my situation is only temporary. I wonder about those who are on a wheelchair permanently and how they make their peace with being unable to do so many things that normal people take for granted.

A week later, I am doing much better and am not sure I need the wheelchair but am scared to let it go. I go along the sidewalks of London on my wheelchair but when I see pretty clothes in a shop I get out of it to try them on. The sales staff looks at me in wonder. My children are constantly laughing at me. My older one says she would rather stay indoors rather than be seen going to shops and cafes in a wheelchair. They say it looks rather strange that I get wheeled into stores and then I am suddenly fit enough to walk around and shop.

This morning, I returned the wheelchair. I am on my feet once again and am holding myself back from doing an Eliza Doolittle type gig on the streets of London. I am also offering gratitude to the universe for its largesse in bestowing me with healthy visceral, cardiac and skeletal muscles, 206 lovely bones, my kidneys, liver, spleen…and all other internal organs for I am done taking this body for granted.

 

 

 

 

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