Two homes

Most of us Indians are half-British - by heritage if not by blood.I am an Anglophile -- a wholesome and guilt free one. I love everything English, the art, architecture, literature, music, the cuisine, the culture, the etiquette (the renowned stiff upper lip included), the picturesque villages, quaint cottages, plush green meadows…most of all the language itself that has been bestowed upon us almost as a legacy. Hence, waking up to an English morning for a fortnight was a dream come true.

‘London Bridge is Falling Down’ was perhaps the first rhyme to be drilled into my ear. A veritable reason, perhaps, for the most illustrious landmark in London to be embedded so deep in one’s consciousness. We also know that it underwent numerous renovations from the subsequent refrain ‘Build it up with wood and clay’. And of course, Her Royal Highness of the British Isles was first introduced to me by the legendary feline who ‘had been up to London to visit the queen!’

The staple diet of my formative years was Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Thomas Hardy, not to mention the Bard of Avon! Fiction by the queen of crime, Agatha Christie, was savoured and devoured with delicious guilt when one was supposed to be studying! In college, my first introduction to Anglo-Saxon literature was with the famous epic poem ‘Beowulf’. Poets of the romantic era--Keats, Shelley, Blake and Wordsworth, were worshipped. It is no wonder that one felt an ineffable frisson when standing in front of John Keats’s house in London or William Wordsworth’s ‘Dove Cottage’ at Grasmere in Lake District.

One reeled under a sense of déjà vu when names of various stations and layouts I had only read about sounded in the ears and the food seen in print and tasted in memory’s palate materialized on my plate- courtesy the charming English cafes and my magnanimous hosts. The head soon became a muesli of Paddington, Piccadilly, Notting Hill, Soho, Elephant and Castle, The Red Lion, Bakewell tarts, Battenberg cakes, scones with clotted cream and blueberry jam, short bread, croissants, crumpets, bagels, muffins, not to mention strawberries and cream-- a celebrated Wimbledon speciality!

Most of us Indians are half-British - by heritage if not by blood, whether we acknowledge it or not.  I am fortunate to have imbibed what I consider the best of the east and the west. I am enamoured of India- its colours, earthy textures, the heady fragrance of jasmine…and spices and also the sweet agony of heat and dust. Equally so do I like England- its mercurial weather included. James Baldwin once said, ‘Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition’. In that case, I am blessed to have two irrevocable conditions!!

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