On New Yearís Eves I often recall the incident:
I was that year working in the restaurant kitchen of the Cumberland Hotel in London. It had been a long night, the kitchen had been busy. Every night, at 8 p.m. the kitchen staff was given a certain quantity of beer. Being New Yearís Eve, the quantity had been doubled. You were always allowed to eat whatever you fancied in the kitchen, that is the normal privilege of kitchen staff all over the world. But with so much food around, and the smell of it choking your nose and throat, nobody ever ate much. So it was on this night also.
At midnight, in the restaurant, a group of bagpipers came marching in, dressed in their tartans. I had a glimpse of them from the kitchen door, as waiters hustled in and out of it. the waiters must have made good money in tips that night.
In the kitchen, everybody wished everybody else a happy new year. Then the work continued till another hour or so, till the last dessert was served.
After changing in the locker room, and more exchange of greetings, I came out into the cold winter blast of Marble Arch. London was both freezing and wrapped in a wet yellow smog. The last underground had left. So I walked home, or to my expatriate lodgings, a they were then known in London; along the Hyde Park, past Queensway and bBayswater.
And, as I walked, I thought. Pleasant thoughts; this year I would be going home, I told myself. No Indian can be happy living in England, nobody who is not an Englishman can be happy, not even a Scotsman from across the technical border, forget the Irish. And I felt sorry for all my Indian friends, who would continue to live in England through the year and through several years to come, probably forever.
I was almost home when a tall, gaunt Englishman, with a lot of nose, stopped me and invited me up to his house to have a drink with his family, it being new year and all that.
They were not a particularly well of family, the house was small, mostly rented furniture, not quite sealed against cold, the gas had been turned off earlier in the night. There was the man, who had invited me up, his wife, and a mother, though I did not find out whether it was the manís mother or the womanís. which itself was surprising, because English people, Westerners, do not normally keep their old parents with them.
The children were sleeping, but they were specially woken up to wish me. I was quite touched by that.
I was also touched when the woman insisted that I should have gin with milk in it, since it would be good for the cold that I was developing. It tasted quite nice also.
It was when I was leaving that the woman explained to me. They came from the north of England and in that part they believed that if they had a black man visiting them early on New Yearís day, it would be a good year for them. I should have been upset by that, but I was not. In those days, nothing ever upset me.