<%-- Page Title--%> Straight Talk <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 153 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

May 7, 2004

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"Beam me up, Scotty”

Nadia Kabir Barb

London is a great place to live in. It has everything we are told we could want. Entertainment galore. An endless selection of restaurants and events. Theatres and cinemas. Beautiful parks. Facilities and shops without end, albeit at a cost. But a town is more than just the facilities it has to offer. Slate grey skies for half the year and the knowledge that it could rain any second, regardless of whether there is a cloud to be seen are also defining characteristics of my adopted home.

So is it any wonder then that I get homesick from time to time? You can say what you like about the traffic and the pollution and the heat, but home is where the heart is and mine is in Dhaka. When it's your traffic and your heat, somehow it all seems very forgivable. Endearing even…at least from a distance. It's funny how patriotic you can get about rickshaw-induced traffic jams!

I have always been a science fiction fan. My husband and I have religiously watched every episode of every incarnation of Star Trek which the gods of TV-land have ever chosen to bless us with. Even though many of them were actually not very good, some parts continue to appeal. The idea that I could stand outside under those slate grey skies and say "beam me up, Scotty" and find myself transported to the heat, the hustle and bustle and vitality of Gulshan or Maghbazar holds a certain charm. Unfortunately, though, empirical evidence suggests that it does not work. At least, not in North West London.

There is, however, a next-best-thing. In London, inevitably, there are small concentrations of almost every ethnic group you can think of. There are the Japanese of Hampstead. The Jews of Golders Green. The West Indians of Brixton. The Greeks of Ealing. The Bangladeshi community has taken over Brick Lane, known otherwise as "Bangla Town". The Punjabis have Southall and the Gujarati have claimed Wembley as their home from home, aptly known as Little Gujarat.

It is there that I went the other day when frustrated with Scotty's inability or unwillingness to comply with my reasonable request to actually be transported to Spitfire Restaurant in Gulshan. As Brick Lane is too far for me to travel to at short notice, I took the underground and 30 minutes later emerged into the smells and colours of India in London. As you walk up the stairs of the station you are greeted by the familiar sight of paan stains on the wall and the posters advertising the latest Hritik Roshan concert. The women are dressed in saris and seem to resort to nothing more than a cardigan and sandals to protect them from whatever misery the notoriously unpredictable English climate may throw their way. The streets, instead of the usual rows of tidy shop fronts and clear pavements, are covered with stalls and the goods which cannot fit inside the shops. As you walk down the road you are surrounded by saris, fresh fruits, the CDs and DVDs from the latest Bollywood Blockbusters and Hindi music seems to be everywhere. Every now and then you might wander past a food shop and be tempted by the smell of some spicy deep fried delicacy as opposed to MacDonalds or the local fish and chip shop.

My most recent visit was on a Friday. It was a comforting and familiar feeling to see all the men coming back from Jummah prayers. I was unable to resist two boxes of Alphonso mangoes which beckoned me from across the street and only afterwards realised that I would actually have to carry them back home. That, however, was a hardship which I was very happy to endure. Window-shopping can be a good thing too, especially when you are walking past Lakha Jewellers or Variety Silk House. In total I must have spent a good couple of hours just walking around the streets, soaking up the atmosphere and trying out my Bollywood acquired Hindi on the unsuspecting shopkeepers. It was, however, more than just therapeutic. Little Gujarat is like a tiny piece of the subcontinent in the middle of the London Metropolis.

By the time I left to go home, I was no longer troubled by the grey sky or frustrated about the need to take my umbrella with me everywhere I go. After spending time feeling closer to home, I was, in fact, not even angry with Scotty any more.




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