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   For most Indians, London is familiar territory. So it must be for Mr. Rajiv Gandhi.... (October 15, 1985)

For most Indians, London is familiar territory. So it must be for Mr. Rajiv Gandhi.

The feeling starts soon after you leave Frankfurt, over the Rhine, across the English Channel a German stewardess distributing strawberry ice-cream and immigration forms. An India with a British passport, looking more Indian than most Indians with Indian passports, asking. "Do I have to fill this form?"

And Heathrow. Contrary to all expectations and all the stories you have heard the immigration officials being extremely nice. "How long do you plan to stay, Mr. Singh?" (No not Mr. Singh…… Mr. Dongerkerry). "Have a nice stay, Mr. Dongerkerry."

And the ease with which you travel into the heart of London. From no other airport in the world can you do it so comfortably. Certainly not New York. Very definitely nor Bombay with 400 taxi-drivers queued up outside the terminal and 401 of them crooks.

You walk down tunnels, ride the moving pavements, follow the directions, and you are in the London underground with a train on the platform and about to leave.

Then through the London suburbia a uniformity of grey houses with TV antennae back-gardens along the railway lines. If an Englishman's home is his castle (one of the things we were taught in school) then the Englishman's castle is rather prosaic and unimpressive.

But that is the suburbia. London itself surfaces from the deep shafts of the underground like old pictures in history books of familiar monuments and historical landmarks.

The House of Parliament, like a child's model done from a picture, St. Paul's crowed in by other structures Piccadily Circus with the statue of Eros (though the prime minister will not be able to see him since he has been taken to the washers No. 10 Downing Street a little house among a row of house (No. 9 No. 11) a single policeman on duty. Though the police must have by now been doubled and trebled and made into a company and a half.

And Buckimgham Palace itself, with the guards in fancy dresses, a crowd of Americans, always on the road outside, taking pictures, not knowing what is best for them and wishing they had royalty of their own.

But above all London is its parks and its pubs. Hyde Park and the Kensington Gardens miles and miles of rolling countryside with only the distant towers of the Hilton to suggest you are near civilisation. And St. James Park with elderly Englishmen in bowler hats feeding pigeons who could be ad probably are MI5 men with licence to kill.

And after that going to pub and ordering a pint of bitter and talking to Englishman whose father had been in the army and been stationed in—"What's that town of yours? Yes, Karachi, that's it."

 
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