Tag Archives: London travels


Some mornings are like walking in a fugue created by a combination of your self and the movements of the world. While returning from walking the dog in the park, a couple of currency notes came flying in the wind and fell near my feet, already restless and ready to move on, so I scooped them up quickly and looked for an owner. There was no one near me chasing it down, not even anyone in the distance, looking forlornly for something they had lost. A lady across the road with dogs razor thin, pointed and one dimensional kept staring at me, and I felt self-conscious. It wasn’t her money, it was clear to me, but it was also clear to me that she was waiting to see what I would do with it. This particular lady I had encountered already a few times before. She was one of those with a natural haughty face etched in the landscape of her nose and cheeks and mouth and forehead, like a mountain destined for disdain and looking down at others around it. Blond brown hair swept to the side of her face, red lipstick, sporty vests and those thin dogs with ears pulled away from the face, such thin bodies that they threatened their own existence.

“Give them to the shop over there,” she yelled now to me from across the road. “Maybe the owner will go ask them for it.” Since there was no owner in sight, this sounded like a ridiculous plan. “I am going to go find someone homeless,” I said rather haughtily and she gave me a dubious look in return that said clearly, “Hah! As if…” before she walked away shaking her well kempt head. So, there I was this wintry morning clutching a bunch of notes in my rapidly numbing hands looking for the homeless.

I knew there was one who sat outside the Tesco (yes, I live in one of those types of neighborhoods where the haves and have nots are well demarcated and noted) but he wasn’t there this morning. There was another man who slept near the railway station, so I set off that way. He wasn’t there either. Where are the homeless today? I tried to joke to myself still clutching on to the money, all my extremities now rebelling. The next tube stop was a little less than a mile away. There is a young girl with short hair and blue eyes who sits outside that station holding up a faded sign asking money for food.

I headed that way and was almost to the entrance of the station when two old men on a big motorbike skid to a halt at the traffic light and fell down with a huge impact of bodies, metal, glass and concrete. A few of us standing on the side walk ran towards them. Broken spectacles, a green plastic bag now torn with packaged meat and liquid detergents and few other such sundry items lay on the road. The two men sat stunned on the road next to buses and cars stopped at the light. Someone struggled to move the bike muttering to himself, I don’t know to do this. A few of us tried to lift the men up and succeeded in leading them and their belongings off the road. I can’t find my glasses, one of the old men said, his bald head shining with sweat and one of the passersby handed him a slightly broken pair that he placed quickly on his nose. The crowd had now grown a little larger and I moved away from them. I had slipped the money into my pant pockets and looked now for the homeless lady but she was not there either. I stood on the sidewalk amidst the rush of morning commuters and felt myself sink into the wall. Then I turned around and started back for home. The homeless man outside the tube stop near my home had meanwhile set up his standard blue tent and it was zipped up from inside. I felt victory in the air as I hurried towards it. ” Is anyone home?” I called out and he answered yes from inside. A zip opened, a white hand appeared, money was transferred from mine to his. I sped home looking for hand sanitizing stations on the way.

You pay attention to your life every day looking for portents and signs and there is an acerbic sense of unease in the human world today. There is all the drama we see, all the drama we are a part of and then there is also beneath it all a separate angry current, as though the tides of the natural world has finally turned against us. It is the hour of our reckoning. Will we wake fast enough to change the course?

Tube stories

On the tube a blonde woman in a brown muffler scanned the news.The headlines all in caps lock KILLER VIRUS TWO CASES IN BRITAIN.I went through stations I had  read about no actually watched in movies Paddington Notting Hill Victoria.Life in the tube has its own breath.Stale air fatigue impatience patience.Headphones books eyes on books eyes into space.We climb in and out of the netherworld and I wait always for the sky. Winter summer night or day. At a stop a young woman with kohl rimmed eyes steps off into the arms of a clean shaven man. I remember once waiting on a platform for the man I would one marry.Ten years since then and many life lessons later here we are in London leading or following our children.

London return

After a exigent return from India to London due to some circumstances, I have spent the last few days in a state of fugue of anti-climax. Coming back into my body after several hours in flight between time zones and countries, I started to look at the world around me and take note. A gaggle of geese flew low over the Thames as I jogged beside the river this morning, I met a friend for lunch. I took the tube to class. A woman in a grey hijab pulled my seat down for me while I struggled with my bag, coffee mug, books and I sat down gratefully next to her. Walking to class over the London Golden Jubilee bridge, I saw the same two petitioners asking for alms. One is always bowed over as though in prayer while passersby walk by her, their feet dangerously close to her head on the ground. The seasons are turning around and the days are just a little longer, the light a little brighter. One would hope that occasionally one can say the same thing about life.

My winter of discontent

For the last couple of days the sun has come out briefly every day, yellow and gold in blue and purple skies and in the evenings the light seems to linger just a little while longer than it normally has during this long dark winter. I feel greedy for the sun, I want to swallow it up, steal it, put it in my bag or pocket and peep at it time to time to let it illuminate my face, I want to keep it jealously for myself, no I can share it as long as I am sure that it is mine and will not go back to its wintery state of unkindness.

This winter has dragged its feet in the muddy verdure of London and I have dragged my own feet too wanting an out from the gloominess of the days. I need sunlight and sunshine and sun rays and sunniness, all things sun. I need it on my skin like a lover need to be touched, I need it in my belly like food, I need it in my brain to be able to write and create, I need it in my heart to be able to love. How do people survive and live and thrive in weathers such as this? Perhaps it is my own shortcoming but why blame myself for this sunless state?

On sidewalks around London Christmas trees are still piled up in their now inglorious state. No lights on them, no decorations, tinsel or ornaments. They block your way sullen and rude as you navigate the sidewalks. They do not comprehend their current state. I see myself reflected in them. They had their glory in the ground and then they were raised to the state of almost worship, at the center of homes and palaces and living rooms, gifts poured at their feet, candles lit around their bowers, families gathered around their branches. Now banished to the sidewalks they lie unclaimed for weeks, not even a decent private burial, they must wither and die next to cemented roads, passing dogs pee on them gladly, such ignoble ends they meet on their backs and sides.

I am impatient and turn my face away from their faded greens and browns as I continue to seek my sun.


This morning I almost had a panic attack in the train. I was the last one to squeeze myself in on the Eastbound Piccadilly train and at the next stop when the doors opened on the other side of me, I realized I was effectively at the bottom of a heap of humanity. An indifferent humanity dressed in black, their ears blocked by headphones, their eyes on their screens or closed or glazed into the fatigue that commuters tend to acquire in the underground realms of travel.

I reminded myself to breathe as I stifled the urge to scream or scramble, four counts of air into my stomach, eight counts slowly out but that was too much to do, so it became three counts into my belly and six out. Rhythmic belly breathing my yoga teacher calls it and it always helps and it did. I can do one more train stop I thought and I did but I couldn’t stay at the bottom of the human pile anymore as the door to the platform at the next stop opened once again on the opposite end to me.

The girl next to whom I was wedged smiled as I squeezed myself in front of her and I was grateful for her smile. Over the duration of the next two stops, I kept inching forward like this, fitting my body and my big backpack like the pieces of a puzzle through the people who stood between me and the exit door until I arrived at it and stood there in relief. Even though I was semi blocking commuters entering the train, it was a relief to step on and off the platforms to allow them in. The illusion that we are free is an important one. When my stop finally arrived I decided to walk the rest of the way to class instead of taking the connecting train.

Early morning downtown London. The stores still closed, the pedestrians limited to the office goers and not the melee of tourists too and I breathed the air, grateful to be out. Several coffee shops tempted me and what I wanted more than anything else before my class was the good old English breakfast tea, in a cup and a pot on a tray, the way it seems only the British serve it anymore. Foyles was open. If you haven’t visited this bookstore and if you are in London, you must. This five or is it six storied bookstore opens at 9 am and not only has the choicest collections of books and paraphernalia, it has a coffeeshop on the fifth level. A sizable room with ample of light and ample of tables and chairs and space and food. At that time of the morning I had my pick and sat next to the windows facing a rooftop garden that was a home created for bees. Bees need all the help they can get, a sign read.

I got my cuppa and read a book. In front of me on the wooden table, the white pot and cup of tea gleamed silver with the light of a new day.