The Lord of the Grump’s Wednesday Waffle – Part 1

Hello!
Yes, it’s your friendly neighbourhood blogger here!

Welcome back…more like, thanks for coming back!

It has been a long time…a very long time. I have been busy, you see…back to the good ol’ rat race. Many things have happened since the last blog…you might have seen all the posts on various social network outlets. So, I am not going to bore you with all that here. One mention though, I am a dad again…little Maena will be a year old soon. Since starting my new job (ok, I had to bring it up), every Wednesday, I take the public transport to commute to work. So, the new series of blogs will be based on my ‘adventures’ on the public transport.

‘The Lord of the Grump’s Wednesday Waffle’

You like it, right? Come on aboard. Read on…today’s edition of the gabble is here!

‘A mad dash…well, almost!’

Wednesday: my least favourite day of the week! The girls stay at home on Wednesdays for a bit of a girly time together (which is good…for them)…but for me, it is the dreaded ‘public transport’ day!

enhanced-buzz-19696-1375302703-4
I dragged myself out of the bed at a really ungodly hour (as opposed to just ungodly hour). Following what seemed like a mini eternity, I stumbled out of the house to catch the bus. I had 10 whole minutes before the bus shows up so, I started mooching towards the inconspicuous bus stop…turning to look back every 30 seconds or so to see whether the bus was approaching or not. It is still dark at this time of the morning (summer’s well and truly over) so, I get blinded every time a car drives past. Suddenly, I saw the bus appear… on the ‘horizon’. I looked at my watch…holy chapatis! it’s early…5 bleeding minutes early! I was about 300 or so meters from the bus stop. I, instinctively, decided to make a dash for it…I know, mad huh! Even Usain Bolt wouldn’t make it but I, somehow, thought I could. So, with Massive Attack’s 100th Window playing in my ears through my Marshall headphones, I sprinted like a colt. After what seemed like an eternity (laced with a sudden burn in my calves), I only managed about 50 meters when the bus went past. I refused to relent. I can take you on, you mean, ‘I am early so, screw you’ bus! Usain Bolt, eat your heart out! I continued for another 10 meters or so. By this time, I was sweating – like a pig that’s looking at the butcher sharpen his knife – and losing ground to the bus. The brake lights of the bus suddenly shone brilliant red and I heard a mellow screech before the bus came to a premature halt. The door opened and I eased up my canter, out of breath and sweating, got on the bus! The driver, an elderly man, after a ‘bonjour’, gave me a ‘you-couldn’t-have-made-it-so-I-stopped-to save-your-heart-from-exploding’ look. All the teenagers looked and sniggered at this forty-something man who looked like he was in a Spanish bull run. Safely seated, I caught my breath and went back to listening to the music when, a teenager with a bad breath plumped next to me!

Oh, bugger!

Advertisements

Au revoir, England! Hello, France! Part VIII

Part VIII: Right side driving, red wine, roller skates and right royal bureaucracy

***He was in his mid fifties and was lying in the water semi naked! His tanned body glistened in the brilliant sunshine and his roller skates…roller skates? What the…***

Anyway, we soon landed in the wine country and I regretted wearing so many layers of clothes. Let me explain: it was around 8 deg C when we left England and after an almost death-by-freezing experience on the BA flight ( apparently, the cabin crew can’t control the temperature on the flight!), I landed to a refreshing 25 deg C. I took my jacket off and stuffed it in an already ‘I-am-stuffed-to-the-point-of-explosion’ suitcase and hailed a cab. Bordeaux here I come!

Bordeaux! The wine capital of the world! The winemaker’s and wine drinker’s paradise! First thing the following day I went to the nearest supermarket to check out wine. To my delight (and to my wife’s utter horror) the wine prices were low, very low, very very low! For example, a certain Côtes du Rhône wine was a third of the price that I used to pay in England! Tell me you wouldn’t jump in joy at that! ‘That doesn’t mean you should drink a lot of it!’, said my dear wife. ‘Yes, indeed’, I thought to myself whilst shaking my head sideways.

Amitabh Bachchan with Shashi Kapoor in the film Deewar

“Hey, Hindu!”, said the drunk guy. He looked Arabic so I was a little surprised that he was drunk at 7pm! I ignored him. He tried to get my attention and repeated it, louder. I couldn’t resist this time around so, I turned and looked at him. He gave me a broad smile and said, “India? Pakistan? Bangladesh? Sri Lanka?”. “India and England”, I replied. He moved to sit next to me but the bus was turning a corner at the same time so he slipped but held on. “Aha, I gotcha”, he said, and climbed next to me. “Do you know Amitab Bachchan?”, he asked. It is a lame question because Amitab is the most famous Indian after Gandhi (maybe not in the real sense but at least that is what I think). So, if anyone comes up to me and say whether I know (of) Amitab, I just presume that their general knowledge is quite good. “Not personally, but yes, I know of him. He is a famous guy”, I said, without making any eye contact. At this stage he got a little agitated and to emphasise his knowledge of Bollywood, he threw another name in the ring. “Hey Hindu, do you know Shashi Kapoor?”, he said with a smirk. I was surprised because Shashi is not as famous as Amitab and if someone knows of Shashi and his films, that means that person is a real Bollywood connoisseur! Le monsieur started singing a Bollywood song! “…paan bana raswalla…”, in near perfect Hindi! I looked at him in stunned silence! I wanted to shrivel like a prune in winter but my instinct said otherwise! The songs came fluently, one after the other..”mere aange ne main tumhara kya kaam hain…?”. I could feel the sweat on my brow! It turned out that this guy was born in Algeria and his dad used to bring Indian film videos every night from the video shop. His sister is obsessed with them and she fantasises about being a Bollywood star. “She is sixteen! “, he declared! I was never so impressed with a drunken stranger in my life! It goes to show that the medium such as films have an enormous impact on our culture! Vive les films!

5091067925_86c22fac96_m

Never? Never say never?

I started cycling with my little girl on the bike seat. I quickly got used to the life in the right lane. There are cycle paths everywhere in Bordeaux. Cycle paths used by roller skaters! The last time I saw people on roller skates was in mid-90s and I was heavily into MJ. Anyway, I saw a mum roller skating and pushing the baby in a push chair at the same time! Impressive?! I saw a lot of kids going crazy on their skates! What ever happened to skate boarding?! Anyway, on a really hot day my girls and I went to the water mirror on the riverside. I wasn’t prepared for what I saw. He was in his mid fifties and was lying in the water semi naked! His tanned body glistened in the brilliant sunshine and his roller skates…roller skates? What the…a grandad on roller skates! That was a sight and a half. I didn’t know whether to congratulate or ridicule him on his bravado! I hope I am not gonna be a grandad on skates! Never! Or…

Let’s move swiftly onto my favourite grump: Bureaucracy. The French invented bureaucracy for only one purpose! To annoy the rest of the world. Why would you need everything in triplicates printed and translated into French? Because they love their printed paper! I guess the bureaucracy is singlehandedly responsible for the disappearance of half of the Amazon rainforest! In this digital age where the Internet is a way of life, the French demand good old paperwork. I was asked to get my Doctorate degree certificate translated (in triplicate) into French because they refuse to read what was written on it! I had forgotten how to write a cheque to someone until a woman at the indoor play area asked me to write a cheque for the membership! Of course, I couldn’t because I don’t have a cheque book! The last time I used a cheque in England, I got an email from my bank saying that they are phasing out cheque books and they advised me not to use any in the future. That was 2009!What is even more ridiculous is the fact that one of the mobile phone companies demanded a mobile telephone number to be able to get a mobile telephone. Here is the conversation with the guy in the boutique, recounted in English.

Me: ‘I need a SIM card’.

The guy: ‘Sure, do you have a French passport or ID?’.

Me: ‘No, but I have my British passport!’.

The guy: ‘Aha, sorry we can not accept that! It’s the law!’.

Me: ‘Okay, can my wife get a SIM card?, she is French’.

The guy: ‘Yes, of course!’.

Just before giving out the SIM card, he dropped a bombshell!

images

All I wanted was a SIM card!!!

The guy: ‘ I need a mobile telephone number to contact you!’.

Did he just say that? I would have given him my mobile telephone number to contact me if I had a mobile telephone number but the simple fact that I am buying a SIM card to have a mobile telephone number is enough evidence that I do not posses a mobile telephone for him to contact me before I bought a mobile telephone SIM card! In the end, I didn’t get a SIM card because I am not French and I don’t have a French mobile number for the network to contact me!!! This is the worst kind of catch 22 situation I have ever been in!

“You’ll get used to it, soon enough!”, said my wife. Will I? Of course not! What will I complain about?!

Au revoir, England! Hello, France! Part VII

Au revoir, England…

I was expecting a tidal wave of tears, emotions wreaking a havoc and feelings running haywire!!!

Nothing happened!

Time has come to move on…well, most of our friends moved on. Some remain. Some, well, they don’t really know.

Since the day we decided to move, I started a list of things that I would miss and things that I wouldn’t!

Cambridge stuff I will miss…

The little canal that they call the river, the cows, the punts, the colleges, the pubs I used to go to, the flat cycling roads, the posh dinners, the colleges (mostly envy here coz I never had the pleasure of becoming a fellow of a college!), the local cinema, the restaurants, the markets, the Indian shop (yes, so?), the parks, the cows (did I already say that?), the beer festival, the beers, the hippies, the international students who innocently spend their parent’s money on fashion outfits, the beggars, the beggars’ dogs, the funny big issue sellers, the Church (for its architecture), the department, the friends in the department, the lab, the lab stuff, my desk (it had a window with a view), my nespresso coffees in the morning, my nespresso coffees after lunch, my tea, my favourite mug, my big screen, my very cool switch button, my desk, my cricket team, my drinking with the cricket team, my cycle rides with Ludo and John, their Lycra, my Lycra, past friends, the drinking escapades, the strawberry fair, the midsummer fair,the swimming pool, mill road, the flat, my previous flat, beche road house, the canteen at work, the dinner ladies, the cakes, the soups, the receptionists, the banter at lunch, the banter at coffee, the banter at tea, the occasional sunshine, the occasional heat wave, the departmental bbqs, bbqs, trips to the local outdoor paddling pool, the cows (yes, I can’t get enough of them), the juice shop near the grafton, the grafton centre, the Burger King in the grafton centre, the coffee shop in the grafton centre, the riverside park, the riverside walks, the bowling place, the ‘all-you-can eat’ Indian buffet, the ‘all-you-can-eat’ Chinese buffet, the cycle shop, the fruit and veg market shop, the kitchen shop on market square, Cambridge wine merchants, the wine tastings at Cambridge wine merchants, the street performers, the artists, the Shakespeare festival, the Shakespeare plays performed on the lawns of the colleges where you are not allowed to walk, the night clubs, the house parties, the house warming parties, the upside down tree in the neighbour’s garden, my downstairs postman neighbour, his consumption of Mary-Jane and the sweet smell of Mary-Jane.

Cambridge stuff I will not miss…

The chavs, that weird guy who wanted to be me (remember him? Check my previous logs), the coffee in the canteen, the tea in the canteen, awful weather, the cold mornings, the puke on the cycle bridge, the bulldog toting nationalists, the mill road foreigners, their place of worship, their stink, the broken glass on parker’s pieces, the fights outside the pub in town, the smelly and overflowing toilets in the pubs in town, the people who sell the punting tickets, the rugby assholes, the cow pat, the stepping on the cow pat, the teenage-pregnant-smoking mums, the awful buses and their equally awful drivers, the rude cyclists, the rude 4×4 drivers (mostly, as it happens, mums!), posh people who make you feel inferior to them by putting on an accent that sounds like they do a pee-pee by sitting down on the WC, the exuberant homosexuals, the rotund girls outside the pastry shop, the ugly dogs of the rotund girls outside the pastry shop, their tattoos, the obnoxious smell outside the grafton centre, the pound shop, the people in the pound shop, the soggy fish and chips, the snooker place, the carpets in our flat, the mold in the bloody bathroom of every fucking place I ever lived in, the noisy and nosy neighbours, the witchcraft practicing psycho-bitch next door, the neighbours opposite us who never said hello in the past two and a half years.

Of course, I will also miss a lot of other things from my previous expeditions in Bristol, Dundee and London! I will not miss a lot of other things. Maybe I am set in my ways, maybe the grump is overshadowing the happiness! Maybe. But over the years, I have become, well, sort of English. In fact, I am more English than some of my English friends (in their own words). I thought they were making fun of me but I didn’t say anything (stiff upper lip and all that)!

***Warning: Serious, philosophical and mature part coming up!***

“The grass is always greener on the other side”, said a friend. We decided to move not because the grass is greener on the other side. We decided to move to have a better life for the little girl. Of course, no one will be able to predict the future, even if you could the chances are that you’ll be wrong. Majority of the people get comfortable (with their mundane routines) when they reach a certain age. Not me. I need a new challenge. I need a new lifestyle. I need the unpredictability that, some 18 years ago, transformed my life. I am in no doubt that the new adventure will be a memorable one (one way or the other). I am sure I will or will not regret this decision. Hey, if you don’t have any regrets in life, that means you’ve had a boring life!

***End of the serious, philosophical and mature part***

‘So my friends, it is with a full heart of love that I leave this country. It is with fond memories that I leave this country. It is with full of anticipation I am moving to another country. For better or for worse…’, were my last thoughts at Heathrow airport an hour before my flight. I ditched the bottle of water before passing the security. I took a deep breath and looked around, for one last time…

After 18 long years, I said goodbye to my adopted homeland: England!

After 18 long years, I am on a new adventure in a new place: France!

Que sera sera…who knows where I’ll end up next?

World_Map_WSF.svg

Where will we end up next?

Part VIII: Right side driving, red wine, roller skates and right royal bureaucracy….

Au revoir, England! Hello, France! Part VI

Part VI: A confused Catholic priest, ante-natal stuff and a baby…

It was confusion at first sight. He wasn’t expecting a brown gentleman at his doorstep!!!

My wife (unofficial) had arranged a meeting with the local Catholic priest in her village in France. Over the telephone. So, not many questions were asked by the priest. “We are meeting him at 15:30, tomorrow afternoon”, she said. On my best behaviour tonight then! Two ‘Ti’punch’ and a lot of wine later, I stumbled into the bed. The hangover was the usual: a thundering pain in the head and a mouth like a dog’s arse. If stares could kill, I would have died a thousand times that morning. And here I was expecting some sympathy! Pfff. Anyway, after a heavy lunch (throughout which I apologised), we were ready to meet the priest. He was all smiley when he opened the door until he saw me. The smile was gone! As quickly as a fly from underneath the rolled up magazine! We sat in a huge room with high ceiling and antique furniture. He was gone for at least 20 min. He probably cried or something. ‘Holy Lord, why? why me? I had never seen one let alone perform a marriage of one!’, I thought he confronted The Lord. ‘Bless you, my diligent servant. This is a test. I hope you pass!’, came the reply from The Lord (I thought). After what seemed like an interrogation down at the police station (no firsthand experiences there, only the movie stuff), we were given the green signal. Oh wait, there was some small print. I can become a Catholic (the process will take 3 years and involves attending umpteen midnight masses) or I can marry as a Hindu and NOT stop my wife from teaching Catholicism to our kids! I chose the latter knowing that the last time my wife set foot in a Church was when she was baptised aged 2 yrs! The date was set. June 6, 2009. My (unofficial) father-in-law’s 50th birthday! I bet he loved it. Us, stealing his thunder! The day was planned by my (unofficial) mother-in-law but she hadn’t given any of us any details. So, my family who flew from India and the USA had no idea what was happening and neither did I. The mayor of the commune rambled on for 45 min before we signed a paper saying we are married! It’s official!

Kérity_02

The beautiful Church where we got married.

635763

The reception was held here!

It started to rain just after we finished our photos taken by an irritable photographer. ‘A quick walk to the Church from the parking lot’, I was told (in French). I was soaked when I was greeted by the priest at the entrance to the Church. Still no smile on his serene face. ‘I better get everything right’, I thought to myself hoping that I would get some brownie points (no pun intended) and a smile! It was a beautiful ceremony and very emotional. All done. I summoned my best man to come up with the rings. He handed them to me. Rings exchanged, we were asked to sign the register. I signed and so did my wife. When it came to the witnesses, I had three best men and there were only two of their names on the register! The priest wasn’t happy. But all three signed anyway! Then, it happened! A big smile from his serene self. Champagne reception and a gourmand dinner followed in the evening in an old Manoir! We partied into the wee hours of the next morning! What a night!!!

shutterstock_80482663-Railay-Beach-Krabi-Thailand

Honeymoon in Thailand.

“I never put any sun screen on coz I never get burnt! I am brown!”, I remember saying to my wife. We were in Thailand. On honeymoon. I got burnt. Roasted. It was unexpected but it did happen. I was so badly burnt that when I walked into the resort where we were staying, all the staff burst out laughing. Thanks for the sympathy! We had a great time sampling the local food, booze and animals. Animals? yes! We decided to try out some street food. It looked awesome. I can handle chillies. I love them. When I ordered a dish from the Malaysian street food shop, the cook wanted to make sure whether I knew what I had asked for. I nodded, complacently. After a second mouthful, I cried. I cried like a little baby but without the screams. It was the hottest food I had ever tasted! A little, old Malaysian woman made me cry, with her chicken curry!

Back in Cambridge. Things have gone at an amazing pace. Moved into a bigger apartment. “I am pregnant!”, she announced. Yay!

“What do we do in an ante-natal class?”, I asked. “Dunno, we’ll see!”, she said. We did see a lot of things. Things that I never wanted to see in the presence of eight other couples. There was a familiar couple amongst the eight. It all began with introductions and pleasantries. “These eight weeks might seem awkward at times but trust me, it will all make sense”, were the exact words of the organiser. Next thing I knew, I was given a plastic pelvis and a 38 week foetus doll and asked to demonstrate how the baby is delivered! What?! Forget awkward, it was terrifying! “Am I going to deliver the baby?”, I looked over. No, came the nod! Phew. ‘Then, why do I need to know?’, I thought. “That, my gentle ladies and men, is the essence of ‘being a part of’ the pregnancy. A ‘ghost pregnancy’. This means that the man will put on weight as the pregnant woman. He will go through the emotional roller coaster as the pregnant woman. He will experience the pain as the pregnant woman”, said the woman. Wow. Everything comes with a small print! During the eight week crash course, I pretty much learnt everything there is to know about pregnancy and childbirth, but not what happens after the little one shows up!Antenatal-Classes

She did show up. Three hours before midnight on the eve of my birthday. What a birthday present!!!

The pregnancy was going smoothly and my wife relegated me to the bedroom floor. I got woken by some rigourous shaking. When I finally shook back into life, ‘my waters broke’, were the words I heard. That phrase, during the 9 months, will only be used once and you have to be ready. When you hear it, just grab the bag and rush the lady to the maternity hospital. After a long, long labour and contractions and gas & air (highly recommended), the baby arrived. She was beautiful. Soon after the delivery, the mum was rushed out into the operating theatre and I was left alone with this tiny baby in my palms.

Just me and this little girl. She looked me in the eye and burped out some spit (which made a tiny bubble). Awesome. I am a dad! I am a proud dad.

My life changed, again!!!

Part VII: Au revoir, England…

Au revoir, England! Hello, France! Part V

Part V: A bus load of foreigners and me, in India…

“Thirty people have said ‘yes’ so far,” she said, excitingly! ‘Holy s**t!’, was the first thought that came to my mind. What the hell am I going to do with 30 foreigners in the non-touristy city of Hyderabad?

Rewind a bit.

So, I asked the Frenchie to marry me. We decided that it was a good idea to get married in India (non-official, religious and for bureaucratic reasons) and again in France (official, religious and for bureaucratic reasons)! So, the Indian marriage should be easy! I have been to so many, I practically know everything you need to know about them. Right? WRONG! Just because you are a frequent flyer, it doesn’t mean you can fly the bloody plane! Let the remote planning begin! A few phone calls to my mother got the ball rolling. My sis-in-law (Superwoman) began the mammoth task of organising the wedding. “Hire a bus or two for the two weeks and shuttle them around, I know a company”, said my uncle. Done. One big bus and a mini bus, booked. Now, just wait for my guests!

Sunny morning. 22 C. Warm, for the European standards but most of the locals were in their sweaters, scarves and beanies! Air France flight from Paris had landed! Our mini bus driver wasn’t prepared for the luggage! Typical! “Don’t worry Sir, they can go on the top of the minibus!”, said the driver. For a second, I thought, my guests are going to huddle up on the top of the minibus before I realised he was talking about the luggage. I herded the Frenchies into the minibus. Their luggage was tied up on the top, loosely! The first 12 KM of the route was a bit boring. Just like any other route out of a European city airport. Then, the real India kicked in! Cows on the streets (cliché, mes aims). Motorbikes, scooters, tuk-tuks, carts etc. I heard a lot of hoo-es and ha-s when the Frenchies saw 4 people on a motorbike. So common! More gasps when they saw a tuk-tuk full of chickens! Welcome to the ‘real’ India! After a 45min bumpy and spectacle filled ride, we arrived at their hotel. One of the couples from England (an English girl and a French guy) were already checked in. I knocked on their door. “How the f**k do you cross the road?”, asked the guy, rubbing his eyes! The good old jet-lag and the accompanying culture shock had well and truly kicked in! He soon found out! Two of my Celtic friends took the train from New Delhi to Hyderabad! Brave. Even I wouldn’t do that! Habitual backpackers! “A vagrant threw a stone at me”, said the girl. That’s Delhi for you! Nothing of that sort happens in Hyderabad!

“There’s no Perrier!”, remarked one of the grandmas. ‘I’ll get you the next best thing!’, I thought. A quick tuk-tuk ride and I was at the seedy ‘Wines’ shop. Soda water. Grandma, happy. The family was staying in an apartment block, 2 KM from the hotel where our friends were staying. I showed one person each from the two parties each others’ residence. Just in case they need each other. Of course, they all had my phone number. Little did I know that they were organising a cross-residence booze parties! Good on you Frenchies! Exactly halfway between the residences was a liquor shop. One of our female friends went to buy some Rum. She wasn’t served! Apparently, they don’t serve women alcohol (news to me!). The guys went and sorted out some booze and some mixers. P-A-R-T-Y? Coz they wanted to! And, they did! European style!

charminar

Gateway to Hyderabad, the beautiful Charminar

6885587586_4605c025b8_c

This is what it was supposed to be but a drought dried it up!

Took the tourists to Charminar, the gateway to Hyderabad! They were awed. They were awed becoz so many locals were staring at them! You know now how I feel when people stare at me in that small village in France! Okay, not the same! Still! Second outing. The driver of the minibus suggested we take the tourists to see the waterfalls (‘a mere 90min drive’, he said). Little did I know that the bas***d had conned me. Once we got to our destination after a 3hr drive I was told that there is a further 40min trek to the waterfalls. I was also told that the waterfalls had dried up! I built up the picture to the tourists all along and now I have to tell them that there is no water in the bloody falls! Ouch! They were okay with it. Although they didn’t show it, I sensed the disappointment and the anger. Sorry!!! One of my English friends was throwing up furiously every hour! She wasn’t well at all! A stomach bug? Not really! We later found out that she was pregnant! Yay!

I took the tourists to the shops to buy traditional Indian clothes for the wedding. My sister took charge. A designer wedding clothes shop had a sale on! Buy anything over 3,000 Rupees (roughly around £32, €45, $60, you get the drift) worth and you get 500 Rupees back! DEAL!!! I spread the word around. “My shoe size is 13!”, declared one of the old guys! ‘WTF?’, I thought! The stunned shop assistant took a tuk-tuk to the warehouse to find the biggest shoes in Hyderabad! Three hours and umpteen calculations later, we got everyone kitted up! Shalwar kameez and kurtas with fancy shoes for everyone! Colourful! Happy. Next stop, Golconda fort!. We found a guide who can speak fluent-ish English and the guy who was ‘scared of crossing the road’ offered to be the official translator for the Frenchies! Two hours into the tour, everyone were bitten to the bone by the omnipresent mosquitoes! A whack here and a whack there, they persevered! Welcome to India. Incredible India. History aside, they seemed to have enjoyed their trip to the ancient fort! ‘I should be a tour guide’, I thought to myself. “We should take them to a Dosa restaurant”, suggested my future wife! Dosas are pancakes, Indian style! Yummy. The tourists were so hungry that everyone had three huge Dosas! Well fed. Dropped them off at their hotel. ‘Get some rest you all coz tomorrow is the stag/hen parties’, I signed off for the night. They partied!

images

Classic mehendi design

Mehendi is the ‘making of the bride’ party, a kind of a tame hen do! Girls get henna put on their hands and feet and they have a sing-along followed by a scrumptious meal. Let the girls to do their thing. Meanwhile, on the other side of the town, three of my closest cousins organised a piss-up in a pub. All the male tourists, my cousins and I assembled in that pub. Indian beer comes in 750ml bottles! It is strong. The tourists didn’t heed to my warnings. I let them drink silly, after all it was my stag do! Late that night, I dropped the booze boys off. The next day, I found out that the drinking continued into the wee hours of the morning. One of the English guys was so drunk that he almost fell off the balcony! He was saved by a couple of burly French guys! Rivalry? What rivalry? It’s all camaraderie! They all looked very pale! Massive hangover! To kill off the pain in the head, I took them to a snow dome! What?! exactly! This place is for people who have never experienced snow. They all wore the ridiculous waterproof overhauls that they were given at the entrance. Enter the snow room! A sudden drop of 30 C was enough to perk the tourists up! I had never seen so many Europeans have so much fun in the snow, in India!

DSC_2476

Our thrones!

Indian weddings are open to all! I mean, ALL. There were 700 guests at my sister’s wedding! When you invite a family, expect their extended family and friends to show up. Some random people show up to congratulate the newly weds as well. Usually, the new couple are left to wonder who that was! I didn’t want that to happen at my wedding. So, before leaving to India, I asked my mum and my sis-in-law to restrict the numbers to immediate family and close friends. Total number of guests: 145. I was a bit relieved! Unlike the European weddings where alcohol is a plenty, there wasn’t any! And it was a complete vegetarian menu. We had mock Maharaja thrones. Classy. I was sat there like a King waiting for his beautiful bride to turn up. Turn up she did, in her Royal blue ghagra choli outfit. She looked every bit an Indian princess. Beautiful! Slowly the wedding guests trickled in. All the Europeans in their colourful Indian attire and the Indians in their suits and formal western clothes! How ironic! The auspicious moment, when the actual Hindu religious ceremony takes place, was set at 12 am by the priest. Auspicious? A bit ungodly! How am I gonna keep these people entertained between the wedding buffet and the ceremony? There’s two hours to be filled in! The Europeans filled it in alright! There was dancing, chanting, playful mingling all round! The two hours felt like two minutes!

I was asked by the priest to take off my Maharaja regalia and change into traditional clothes for the ceremony. It was just a dhoti (a white sarong tied in a special way)! Nothing else! Thanks to the natural fur that I have, I was okay! Still, you could see my nipples piercing out like bullets! Is there a way to turn the air conditioning off? No! Typical! Anyway, the two hour ceremony started. My to be father-in-law was asked to repeat Sanskrit verses (the official language of all the religious stuff). He did it impeccably! There were gasps in the Indian side of the audience. The Europeans were too busy taking photos. After what seemed like an enteral wait, the moment to put the ring on the finger arrived. Anti-climax! According to the Hindu tradition, the father of the bride puts the ring on the groom’s finger. When asked to do so, there was a baffled look on the bride’s father’s face (there was bafflement all around the European quarter!). What?! But?! Why?! Whose marriage is it anyway?

Ceremony over, I went with the bus load of tourists to stay in the honeymoon suite in their hotel. That is when all the questions began! I explained, over a glass of rum and orange, to everyone what happened. There was content on their faces as I offered explanation to every thing that went on. Relief. I was married. I was exhausted.

Time to go back to England. A new life as a married man awaits me.

Another new chapter in my life.

Part VI: A confused Catholic priest, ante-natal stuff and a baby…

Au revoir, England! Hello, France! Part IV

Part IV: Punts, posh dinners and painful hangovers

I thought I was dying or something. I was out of breath. I was staring into a huge pile of cow sh*t. Hallucination? No, I was, indeed, staring at a huge pile of cow sh*t. I had moved up to Cambridge the week before. A lot of people suggested I go for a run along the river Cam. I felt compelled. But there was a problem. I haven’t exercised in more than a year! Surely, a slow jog wouldn’t do me any harm, would it? It was like an obstacle course on midsummer common. Cyclists, speed walkers, slow walkers, cows and cow sh*t!!! A mile into the jog, I found myself with an intolerable stitch in my abdomen and completely out of breath. I continued like a wounded soldier. I saw some rowing boats get past me. The little woman at the front of the boat, who wasn’t rowing, was screaming her lungs out at the poor bast**ds who are doing all the hard work! Cox!! I need to find a gym!!!

My Irish boss supported Liverpool FC, just like me. We watched a few games together. He lined up a few shots of Irish whisky after Liverpool won against West Ham in the FA cup final! He was a different person outside of the lab! In the lab he used to listen to BBC radio 1, religiously, in the morning. Mark and Lard’s morning show. Lard used to do an impression of an old Irish guy.The impressions were so funny that I used to have trouble keeping a straight face and do the experiment! On the other hand, the boss-man didn’t show any reaction. How could he do that? Anyway, new people arrived in the lab. A quiet English guy and a loud Iranian guy. This is gonna be fun! Went for a drink in the pub next to the hospital. Yes, there was (still is) a pub on the hospital campus! The Iranian guy was knocking back drinks! Show off. Met a few other scientists. A ginger lad came over and said hello to the quiet guy. I got introduced to him. Soon the three of us were going to share a house on beche road (not to be confused with ‘beach’). People started calling us the ‘Beche Boys’. The night I moved into the house, the Iranian guy showed up to help. ‘That’s very kind of him’, I thought. Mayhem ensued when he opened the lager cans. Soon he was shouting abuse at the barking pooch next door! “Shut up you mongrel”, he shouted, at around midnight. I couldn’t control this guy! The other two guys haven’t even moved in and already there was trouble! A letter came through the next morning, from the neighbour! A long letter! Damn. Not the best house warming present. She was extremely critical about many things; she was particularly upset about calling her pooch a ‘mongrel’. “She is a pure breed Dacshund, by the way”, she pointed out! I gingerly (no pun intended) knocked on the door (with a painful hangover) and waited for a huge woman to show up! A frail lady answered the door. Very kind. I apologised (I didn’t blame it on the Iranian guy). All is well in the neighbourhood! The other guys moved into the house. Trip to Ikea. The genius reason behind it was to buy spare sets of plates and glasses that came with the house. Just in case there were any party related damage! Clever. Crammed, in a VW Polo. Happy, until we got rammed on the roundabout. Magic. It turns out that we were at fault. Wrong lane.

punt_1561867c

The chaos on the river Cam!

Punts are like flat boats without oars but with a pole! Incredibly difficult to manoeuvre but hilariously entertaining on a sunny day. Decided to have a go! ‘Picnic’ on a punt, said the lads! Booze, check! Sandwiches, check! Off we go. Half way down the river our pole got stuck in the sediment. Paddling with one safety oar and arms, we got back to where the pole got stuck. Bumped into few other punts and missed the pole. There was more traffic on this narrow part of the river than the bloody M11! Click, click, click, photos by the Chinese tourists of our (invain) attempt to recover the pole! The murky water splashed all over me and my fellow puntsmen! Finally, got hold of the pole after a 360 degree turn and back on the course!

I was dancing furiously in a club on an R&B night. In my Metallica t-shirt. Misinformed? yes.There was a pretty girl sitting on her own. “Wanna drink?”, I said slurringly. Next thing I know I was scribbling down my telephone number on a serviette. Another painful hangover. Went to Istanbul for a conference. Had a great time. Came back to see a message, on my mobile, from an unknown number asking whether I was free for a drink. Date? Preparations for the date went smoothly. The lads were supportive. I was, as always, my decent self. A date! With a stunning girl! What can go wrong? Took her to a pub. I couldn’t hear a word she was saying as there was a pub quiz in full swing! #Epic fail. Ended up in a club. Again! I was jiving and grooving to the music with my eyes slightly closed. Enjoying the music. Swaying to the rhythm. Suddenly I felt a zap on my face! A slap! ‘What the f**k?’, I thought. My date slapped me! Why? “I thought you were asleep!”, remarked the girl! Cultural difference! She was French.

bucket

I did…

I recounted what happened the next day to the guys. They laughed. Friday afternoon at the bar near the hospital. The Iranian guy was in form! He challenged a Scottish guy for a ‘Whisky off’! Fool! 1, 2, 3, shots and I was a spectator for the shenanigans. After the 4th shot of Whisky, something went horribly wrong! There was a hurl of vomit that travelled at least 20 MPH. Next thing I knew the Iranian guy was passed out. 3pm! It was too much for him. The landlord who was watching these antics saw the horror on my face and gave me a half a smile. He handed me a mop and a bucket and pointed me to the spew on the floor. I did. I cleaned up!

I was in love with the French girl. We went on a few more dates. Posh places, posh dinners. Hey, come on, I was trying to impress her! I asked her to move to England, for good. I said bye to the ‘Beche boys’. New flat, new life. She drove in an old banger from Portsmouth to Cambridge with me as the satnav! The couple were reunited! Yay! Soon it was Halloween! We decided to have a house warming party. One of our closest friends came dressed as Cruella de Ville! Impressive costume! Instead of bringing 101 Dalmations with her, she brought along a bloke with a pig mask! Nice touch, Cruella! The next 3 hours they spent kissing in the corner! It must have been love! Years later, they got married! Having played an indirect Cupid role, I was optimistic about my own relationship with the Frenchie. Of course, the parents-out-law and the little brother soon showed up on our doorstep! On my best behaviour! Punting, again! No pole-related disasters this time. A week with them was enough to think twice about inter-cultural relationship. I persevered. Time to say au revoir to them.

Car-Fire3

Similar scene outside our little flat!

It started as a normal Monday. Up early, so that I can get my business done in the bathroom before the out-laws hog it! They were taking the Eurostar back from London mid-morning. After exhausting all the tricks in my book, I bought some ASDA croissants and pains au chocolat (classy, I hear you say?). I got a look for approval from the mother! Get in! Packed their bags in the old banger (the car not the…) and waved good bye. It happened all of a sudden. There was smoke on the bonnet of the car. Since it was cold that morning, I didn’t hesitate. Soon, it was thick black smoke. ‘Get out’, the words didn’t come out but the gestures were clear! Within about 8 mins, the fire engine showed up. The smoke was so thick that I could hardly see the car! It was on FIRE! What is it with me and fire?! Everyone and their luggage got out just in time! Imagine, the whole family perishing in that fire! Still have nightmares about it! The fire was put out and the family got a cab to the train station.

That event shook me right to my bones! It strengthened my love for the girl. Soon I was to marry her. Soon I was on a new chapter in my book of life.

Part V: A bus load of foreigners and me, in India…

Au revoir, England! Hello, France! Part III

Part III: Life in a Ghetto…

After what seemed like an eternal wait, I got the phone call. I was happy. I got the Ph.D. position in the University of East London! Yay! I am moving to London! It was an unconventional interview two weeks earlier. In a pub. As you know, I indulge in a pint or two but I’m used to confining those shenanigans mostly to the evenings and nights. I am not a big afternoon drinker but I managed to squeeze in a pint with that guy. He was interviewing me for the Ph.D post! Anyone who does an interview in a pub, in the middle of the afternoon over a pint of a beer and a game of pool deserves to be called a ‘Legend’. He was a Legend!!!

Packed the bags. London, here comes the (party) animal!

images

Flag waving!!!

It could have been India or Pakistan or Bangladesh! But it was East London! Judging by the amount of that red betel-nut leaf (called Paan in parts of Asia) spit on the pavements, it has to be, unmistakably, the Asian part of the town. There was a lot of ‘cricket-based’ tension in the community. Flags everywhere. What is it with sports and flags?! A lot of bearded men shouting at each other across the street. I hardly saw a white face for miles. Literally miles!!! It’s like the sub-continent was lifted out of the ground and placed here! Is this really London? It’s a dump! I need a place to live! After a few phone calls and visits, I chose to move into a house in Manor Park.Two girls and two guys already lived there. I met the ‘house-mates’. They seemed ok. One night, I came downstairs to use the toilet (as you do, if the only toilet in the house is downstairs). The light in the kitchen was on! Strange. I was just about to go into the toilet and it happened!!! I saw him standing there!!! One of the house-mates. He was rummaging through the fridge like a hungry dog! He was stark naked. His bits dangling. He looked at me and said nothing! I was dumb struck! A disturbed night’s sleep followed! The next morning I shared my trauma with the girls. “Oh, he does it all time!”, said the Tibetan girl, “he sleep walks!”. The Indian girl giggled all the way through the conversation! As much as I sympathise with sleep walkers, I don’t want someone’s meat and two veg in my face (figuratively or literally) every time I want to have a midnight pee. I decided to move.

images3

Fireworks (and fire)!

“Mr. Sohail Shah”, said the guy through the window of his Mitsubishi Shogun. “Jump in”. So I did. “This is the ghetto of London, innit. You need to be careful, innit”, he said looking in his rearview mirror. He never pronounced the ‘Ts’ in his words. It turns out that he is a well known figure in that area. “So, Sohail how many properties do you own?”, I said, keeping it informal. “I insist on being called Mr. Shah, innit”, he said “that’s my business name, innit”. He is a property ‘tycoon’, according to himself. He showed me around his flat. This was above a convenient store. I liked it. It was a nice flat. Moved in. Settled in. No midnight traumas. It was Diwali, the festival of lights, fireworks and a lot of sweets!!! The two Indian girls I was living with suggested we celebrate Diwali in style. I bought some fireworks from the ‘Indian’ shop. Our patio door lead to a concrete terrace and I had nowhere to ‘plant’ the fireworks to let them off (at a safe distance). I looked for some ideas and I got the – ‘just let them off here’ – look from the two girls. So I did. One of them nearly went up my backside!!! One of them strayed into the pile of cardboard boxes at the back of the stores! Within seconds a box was on FIRE. Don’t panick. Panick!!! I ran downstairs, climbed over a massive 12-foot gate, trampled and stomped on the cardboard that caught fire! I burnt my little toe! I had ripped my shirt whilst scaling the gate! Festivals, eh! No more fireworks. No more festivals.

images4

Foam!!! Lots of it!!!

I got to know my colleagues. A varied bunch. “Let’s go to the Pigeons”, said the Irish fella rubbing his hands. Pigeons was a pub. Rough as hell. If you don’t have a visible tattoo, you are very unlikely to be served. Safety in numbers. Met a few more characters from the University. Some big drinkers. Some not so. I was invited to a ‘foam party’. My first one. I didn’t know what to expect. I dressed in my new jeans and I even put on a shirt. Looking nice, came the reply back from the mirror. I met up with my new friends in the Pigeons pub but they were dressed in scruffy clothes! What kind of a party is this? “So, where is this party, then?”, I asked. “It’s upstairs”, said the lad from Manchester.There is an upstairs? A couple of drinks later it all kicked off! Next thing I know, I was on the floor wrestling with this little English girl who slipped and tripped me over! I was covered in foamy soap that was slowly filling up my lungs. My eyes were teary and I couldn’t rub them as my hands where covered is some kind of black muck (and the awful foam). I was pulled out of the fracas by the Irish dude. When I eventually gained my breath and senses, I looked down on my clothes. Mucky. Soaked. I had numerous cuts and grazes. I went home. Almost in tears. I used to frequent the student bar (a real dump). Bit of a cheap beer. Ok, there was no atmosphere! It can’t get any worse?! “We know the best place for a bit of an after hour drinking, do you wanna go?” asked the lads. I said yes. I ended up in a dark room with loud music. Very seedy. Couldn’t see who I was punching whilst dancing but I quickly realised that it isn’t a wise idea to throw shapes. No one knew why they went there but they did. Crammed. Sweaty. We often stopped for a kebab after that. East London kebab shop! “Do you want some chilli sauce with your kebab?”, the dreaded question comes. Say No. Say No. Oh, damn it, just said yes! It is one of those things that tastes good at the time but wreaks havoc in your tummy all night! Painful runs. That was the end of my dabbing into Turkish cuisine. I haven’t had a kebab since then!

I moved houses again. Third in three years! This time there were more of us. One night I woke up to some screams outside our house. There was a dude screaming his head off! He was calling out my house-mate’s name! He was wailing all night begging her to take him back. He WAS sorry. I wondered what he did? That girl never came out of her room. Gosh, what is going on? Had a quick look outside, smoked and went back to bed. I couldn’t fall asleep. Awkward silence in the morning! The Irish dude’s cousin who lives with us was cooking potatoes! Seriously? At 7 am?! No one brought up what happened last night. I had my porridge and went to work. My phone rang. “Hello?”. I ran home. Our house was burgled and ‘that’ girl decided to move out! Never heard from her nor the screaming dude, ever again!

Time to wrap up the thesis. I did. Got a proper job, in Cambridge! yes, CAMBRIDGE!!! Time for a new adventure!!!

Part IV: Punts, posh dinners and painful hangovers…

Au revoir, England! Hello, France! Part II

Part II: Go back to where ya came from…

“Yer goona see a lootof heeland coos rround heeyar, A”- Dave P.

Bristol days were coming to an end. Had fun. Too much fun. Exams over, now it’s project time. “Dundee is famous for its marmalade”, said my tutor, “good luck with your project, hope it works out”! The only project left to pick for my Masters degree was in Dundee, Scotland. No one wanted it, I was lumbered with it! Damn, I should have gone to the Friday lectures. Everyone picked the projects. I didn’t. Where the heck is Dundee? The only Dundee I knew was the guy in that film with crocodiles! What is marmalade?

Bye, bye, Bristol.

National express bus service to Berwick-on-Tweed. Six and a half hours of painful, claustrophobic ride and I was dumped in the middle of nowhere at 4 am. In a bus stop. In a border town. In a very white town. Not many people out on the streets but I saw some hoodies milling around. Freezing. I summoned lord Ganesh again. Why? ‘It’s your own fault, child’, came the answer! It’s 7am.”Is this the bus to Edinburgh?”, I asked the bus driver. “Aye, Edinbra”, came the reply. Both words sounded alien to me. Soon enough, I was in Edinburgh (Edinbra)! There was a loud bang in the distance. It sounded like a bomb had exploded! Where the hell am I? Sarajevo? It turns out that there is a castle in Edinburgh and they fire a cannon every now and then! Phew!!! Another boring bus journey, albeit a short one. Finally, in Dundee. I met up with my supervisor in the bus station. A short guy with an English accent but a Scottish clan surname. Interesting. I was taken to my accommodation. I was told that I was going to live with a family. An old couple. The lady of the house, Dorothy, showed me into my room. A bunk bed! Thankfully, I didn’t share it with anyone! I decided that I’ll sleep on the top bunk and reserve the bottom one for the drunken nights!

Highland Cow (Heeland Coo)

“We are retired. I am from Edinburgh and my husband, Dave, is from around here”, she didn’t have the bus driver’s accent. I understood her without a problem. Dave came back from a market. “Ardya thee new payrson, A?”, said Dave. I shook his hand with a nervous smile. I didn’t understand what he said! “Yer goona see a lootof heeland coos rround heeyar, A”, he said. I looked at Dorothy, she smiled and said, “You are going to see a lot of highland cows round here!”. This will be interesting. “Ye wunt soom tea, Robbie, A?”, asked Dave. I said yes. The tea took a long time to come. After around 25 mins, Dave came back with a plate of sausages, boiled cabbage and potatoes. What the…? It’s bloody 5:30pm! I said yes to a cup of tea, not the bloody dinner!!! “We call lunch ‘dinner’ and dinner ‘tea’ here”, explained Dorothy, “it’s all a bit strange!”. Damn right it was. I was told not to smoke in the house. “Ye wunt a wee dram o’whisky, A?”, asked Dave.I was expecting a Guns N’ Roses song but it turns out that it was a glass of single malt whisky. Nice. Good night! I went into my room, climbed up the top bunk and thought, what am I doing here?! Why does Dave call me Robbie? Why does he say ‘A’ at the end of each sentence?

H-A-G-G-I-S

There was a post office, a small convenience store and a pub in the village that I lived in. I had never seen so many people stop, turn their heads and stare at me! I was the only brown person around there! The drinking and smoking continued. I hated the project. I made excuses to get out of the lab and headed to the pub on my way home. One evening, the landlord of the pub started chatting to me. I couldn’t understand what he was saying but I nodded in agreement. For all I know, he could have said something rude! Once, I stayed in the pub for ‘tea’. I ordered the ‘Local Special’ from the chef’s recommendations. A plate of an unpleasant looking ball of meat with potato mash on it arrived in front of me. “Haggis”, declared the biggish woman! I panicked. I got up and tried to give her a hug before she pointed to the plate and repeated herself. “H-A-G-G-I-S! Not Hug us!!!” What is Haggis?! I later found out that it is essentially the non-essential parts of a sheep mixed up with some spices. I ate it and washed it down with a few jars of local ales. One too many. I stumbled into my room. Drunk. I fancied a smoke. I broke the rule. I smoked in my room with the window open. “Robbie, ardya smokin in yer rrumme, A?!”, shouted Dave. I could have just kept quiet but I garbled, ‘No, I not smoke you chill, A!’. He mumbled and swore and mumbled even more. I was in trouble. The morning after the night before! I hate hangovers. I was given a bowl of something which tasted like shredded cardboard. “Porridge”, said Dorothy. “You know, Dave wasn’t happy about you turning up drunk and smoking in the house!”, she said. I apologised to them. I never did it again. Dave gave me a wee dram of whisky that evening and everything was forgotten! I slowly got used to the porridge brekkie. In fact, years later, I still enjoy a good bowl of porridge in the morning.

Dave used to take me to the supermarket but one day he said,”Ye goo on yer oon, son”. So, I ended up in Dundee town centre. I bought a lot of food from the shop and I was struggling to walk to the bus stop. A pale, fat kid on his bike suddenly appears from nowhere and started circling me. Something remarkable happened. I wasn’t prepared for it. “F**k off to Pakistan!”, shouted the boy! I ignored the racist comment but I decided to correct the boy, “I am NOT from Pakistan, I am from India!”. Next, the boy said something that stunned me! He said, “Then, f**k off to Bombay!”. That, in a weird way, impressed me. Not the racist comment, but the geographical knowledge of that kid. I just looked at him for a second and he looked back at me. I acknowledged his geography and he cycled off!

Soon it will be time to go back, I thought to myself. But where to?

I finished my project, went back and graduated from Bristol. Soon after that, I moved to East London!

Part III: Life in a ghetto…

Au revoir, England! Hello, France! Part I

Part I: Smoking, football, beer and all round debauchery!

After 18 years (half of my life, well almost) I will be setting sail to new shores. So, I thought I would share my experiences of those years in a series of blogs. Welcome to the world of me.

I was born in India in a massive city called Hyderabad. As a mid-income family, my childhood was littered with ‘Noes’ and very few ‘Yeses’. Although my dad was a doctor, our family didn’t have a luxurious life. His friends on the other hand, who were doctors as well, were raking the money in! My birthdays every year were the same. Some cheap clothes, no cake and the ‘end of the year tax filing’ was blamed for the paucity of presents! But I never complained about that. In fact, I wasn’t bothered by it as I knew how hard my dad worked. I grew up a vegetarian but with meat cravings! I had carnivorous friends who used to sneak feed me chicken and lamb biryani. I tell you what else I used to do sneakily. Smoke cigarettes! I started at a tender age of 17 and used to cover up the stink by eating raw onions (before going home). The smoke stink on my clothes were conveniently blamed on ‘friends’. I started smoking so much that once I showed up at around 10pm one night with a mouth like a baboon’s backside. Everyone knew what the matter was. My parents never questioned me thanks to the onions. I had so many raw onions that I hate them now!!! I fell in love with numerous girls: on the bus, on the streets, at college! Love. Didn’t know about it in person. Only Bollywood love. A boy likes a girl, the girl is coerced into saying ‘I love you’ to the boy, they hold hands and run around trees, singing. Voila, they are in love. What? No kissing or no ehum, you know…? What kind of love is this? Anyway, my numerous ‘street’ girlfriends and the imaginary ones never said ‘I love you too my brown eyed boy!’ I wonder why? Maybe all those onions that I was munching away!

Onions on a neutral, mostly white background

All natural girl repellent!!! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One day, dad had a heart-attack! Not the figurative one, but a real one. It all happened very suddenly. Although he pulled through, it was a difficult time for the family. We stuck together. The uncles, the aunts, the cousins, my friends, my dad’s friends, the neighbours, the milkman?!, the paperboy?!, everyone sent their best wishes. It was touching. Ironically, my dad never smoked, drank alcohol or ate meat!

Exam time! I hate exams. I passed some but I failed the major one. I am not gonna be a doctor like my dad. Devastation all around. Tears flooded. Hearts broken. Careers made. What? Surely not! I told my dad I am leaving to study in the UK! ‘Okay, can we afford it?’, he asked me. No! But can we afford to miss this chance? No!

Boeing 747-400 takes off from London Heathrow ...

Flipping heck, I’m flying!!! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I felt tightness in my groin as we took off from Hyderabad to Bombay! Never in my life was I so scared! I swore like the proverbial trooper (in my head). There was ‘breakfast’ on board which could have been cooked by a pet lover (with the love of their pets in mind). Unfit for human consumption. Met up with a buddy in the airport. Smoked freely. No onions. Goodbye India. I woke up by the twitching of the shoulder. Not mine. The guy next to me was frantically trying to shrug me off his shoulder. I must have dozed off after that small bottle of cheap French wine. British Airways! Quality never (always) compromised! ‘You have to go back to your country after 1 1/2 years, is that clear?’, said the visa guy at the border. Sure thing. I was freezing in my tight suit and my leather jacket (I am sure it contracted in the cold like my member)! O lord Ganesh, why didn’t you tell me about the cold? (I had slight religious inclinations at that point in my life…kind of a convenient summoning of the Gods). After what seemed like an eternal journey through ugly towns, I ended up in Bristol. I made myself comfortable in the new accommodation. An Indian (they seemed to be everywhere in England), a Pakistani, two Englishmen and a Greek shared this house with me. The other Indian guy didn’t speak any English, the Pakistani was wary about two Indians, one of the English guys had a double-barrel surname (Posh-Posh), the other English guy swore a lot and the Greek guy played trash metal all day long! Couldn’t have been perfect. There was a pub on the campus where I used to study, live, dream. I made it my second home. I wasn’t a big drinker but soon that was to change!!!

‘You’ve lovely brown eyes!’, remarked a gori (a non-derogatory description of a fair complexioned girl in Hindi). Get in there. I was good at throwing shapes on the dance floor (thanks to Bollywood). I had made friends with a lot of people from all around the World. International man. Thursday nights were student nights. A can of beer 80 pence, cheesy 80s music, shots of tequila to end the night. Never made it to the Friday lectures. Saturdays and Sundays spent watching match of the day with a humongous hangover. Liverpool football club. My club. They hardly won anything at the time. Heineken was my favourite beer. Drink, smoke, sleep, hangover, still no Friday lectures!!!

I became fat, nearly failed my course and ended up in Scotland!

Part II: Go back to where ya came from…