Its been quite sometime when I was last here. But I am back having travelled thousands of kilometres, across oceans and continents, across nations and state lines. So many stories to tell...from the banks of Ganges in the erstwhile Patliputra to the LOC (line of Control)in Chakan Da Bagh in Poonch, J&K. I will reminisce it all here, but will start with my present place of residence and the obvious differences I have observed in the last couple of weeks. Needless to say these are my opinions solely and I am one of those annoying people who 'must' have an opinion on everything :)
TIME PERIOD: FROM DAY 1 TO DAY 15
LOCATION: THE CITY OF LONDON
CONTEXT: A FUN COMPARISON BETWEEN SUBURBAN AMERICA AND A BOROUGH OF LONDON
1. The English are definitely a very, very, good looking race (no offense to the Americans who are definitely much more friendlier). P.S I am yet to see the other European races at close quarters so it can be a very retricted point of view.
2. This is fashion country I say. I am yet to see someone, anyone (exceptions are the FOBs....Fresh off the Boat Asians like me and maybe East Europeans). I am yet to see any woman in sweatshirt and sweatpants, which was the staple dress code for suburban American Mommies. I for one like to dress up BUT only sometimes and all this high end fashion is painful. I had of course been duly warned that London is atleast 1.5 years ahead of NYC in terms of fashion!!! And now I witness the truth behind the statement.
3. I see a lot of Somalians or maybe some are Sudanese. I am yet to get my facts on this right,but they are definitely from somewhere in North Africa and they are beautiful! I love their fancy, pleated burqas and head scarves. These women and children have a lovely warm, brown color, and striking features. They are tall and statesque. Exotic I say.
4. I was so happy to know that schools had uniforms here till I saw young teenage and pre pubescent school girls in skirts so short it gave me a headache. I am flabbergasted at how they manage to do anything in those skirts, least of all study at school, without risking exposing themselves. To my mind it feeds to a certain stereotype and that is surely troubling. I also concede that I am old school and feel that such blatant display of skin is totally unnecessary and conflicting to the task at hand, which is by the way, getting an education. Maybe that is where lies the cultural difference. Maybe it does nothing to the English man to see such semi nakedness and it also does not lead to a pre-mature and inappropriate sense of sexuality for the young children. Yet again maybe its just the woman, the mother and the small town Indian girl in me speaking. Take your pick.
5. Religion does play a big part here. It is definitely not a secular nation in the sense it celebrates religion and at least on paper encourages religious practice be it of any faith. Admittedly this could be a severly limited perspective and it comes from reading the School Admissons Lietrature. The Catholic and Church of England Schools have listed being religiously active(in any faith) as one of the criterias of preference for admisson. Religious studies too seems to be part of school curriculum.
6. Surprisingly the English society insists on knowing wether you are married divorced, living with a partner etc. Is it a Mrs. or Miss or Ms. is an importnat piece of information here, unlike US where it is a non intrusive Ms. or Mr....Period. I have chanced upon the source of our famous 'Sarkari'work culture. Things get done way much slower. From landline and broadband connection to name being added on the credit card it is a long drawn process. If something closes at 5 and one calls at 4:30, you are told its too late and should come tomorrow. The Amricans will do business anytime of the day as opposed to this. Money makes that nation run and to be honest their work culture rocks.
7.Undoubtedly the accent is cool. Though I proudly intend to retain my Indian accent despite insistence of doing otherwise.I am secretly annoyed at people who acquire a foriegn accent within days of being in a new country or even after a trip to the International Airport. If Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek can sound doubly sexy thanks to their thick accents why do we become any less because of ours?
8. The weather. Its all about the weather my friend. It is cold and grey and mostly overcaste and rarely sunny. I am being reassured that it gets hot in July and August. But on the other hand I have also been forewarned that there are only 28 days of sunshine in a year in this small island country. Now I know why the English are obsessed with the weather. I know the secret behind the famously pale English complexion. The probable reason behind the certain coldness and stilted emotions famously known as the stiff upper lip. This weather can make the most warm blooded Mediterranean a wee bit frozen. Again this could be hot blooded Indian in me talking who needs the rays to burn me through and through ..ocassionally at least.
9. Coming to food. It is way much better than the genetically modified and unnaturally huge and shiny vegetables found in the US. One had to pay more to get what nature intended man to eat...pay more for Organic which is naturally nay man's right. Anyways the veggies found here look natural and start wilting away withing a few days as they should, unlike thier American counterparts which refuse to even after days and days which makes you wonder what have they been injected with. The ice creams taste better. The yogurt is better. And don't get me started about the breads. They are something I could talk about for a long time.
10. All my extremely aware and conscious friends from LSR and my activist friends from TISS would be delighted to know that this is a society way more greener than the one I was living in before. They not only encourage but are actually practicing a greener lifestyle. Less wastage all around. Way Thumbs up for this.
And yes compared to the big old US of A everything seems smaller. The houses, the stores, the cars ,the roads and even the size of a milk can. It is as if the States were the Land of Gulliver and UK the Land of the Lilliputs.
Disclaimer: This in no way reflects adversely on any society, American, British or Indian. This post stems from a lonely, homesick mind and heart coming to grips with new surroundings, shaking off the hold of the previous one, and preparing for assimilation into a new way of life.