After a grueling Fall semester in school, I got to get away from this place for a five-week long holiday and visit friends and family in two countries – the United Kingdom and India.
People are often surprised when they hear about how much my family and my extended family is spread out over three continents. A few days before I left, one of my lab-mates expressed his awe at how much of the world people like me have got to see. I told him that going to and living in different parts of the world has widened my horizons, and that people who haven’t lived in different places tend to have skewed understandings of other parts of the world. They tend to believe more in stereotypes and are easier to fall prey to propaganda about other nations and cultures. No, Muslims don’t actually worship a black box in the middle of the desert and don’t actually kiss the ground five times a day !
Well, this guy did not actually say that (Yusuf Estes did in one of his lectures ), but he did have some of the wrong but popular impressions about Arabs and the brown people, and he’s always been in the area between Indiana and the east coast.
After a Christmas day shutdown in London when I landed, I had little to do but sleep at a friend’s place. It was just my poor luck that my next and final day in London was going to be a strike-day for the London underground metro workers and none of the tube trains would be working. A Brit replied to a ranting me: “Welcome to London”.
Apparently, strikes are not too uncommon here.
I still enjoyed riding the jam-packed double decker buses for the first time, but long waiting times for buses, higher walking time towards stops, and a very early sunset meant I could cover only so many places. Our group got to be at The Tower bridge, London Bridge, the aquarium, London eye, Piccadilly Circus, Liverpool station, ice-skating near the London eye , Trafalgar Square in the dark, London Central Mosque’s closed gates and Madamme Tousadd’s closed doors. At least I could tame a huge lion and sit upon its back – so what if it was a statue in Trafalgar square and the pictures were crappy in the night ?
Generally overcast skies and dull weather had me humming “Welcome to Seattle” as my next few weeks were spent visiting relatives and friends in Manchester, Blackburn, Cardiff, Liverpool etc. interspersed with visits to local attractions in these cities, the best being the museums in Manchester. I would recommend the Nawab restaurant in downtown Manchester to anyone who wishes to have the best of desi food in the area.(UK for me).
Next stop, Bangalore, has always been my absolute favorite city in India despite my allergies, the pollution and the heavy traffic. Mysore, an erstwhile royal city in the south also had a bunch of relatives I had to visit and was my next stop. The Mysore Palace was definitely a better structure than the more famed Buckingham palace. A musical fountain show in Bangalore a few hours before I had to board my flight back home was my last stop and provided for my last few hours until a long time with some of the most beloved people in my life.
Pending work at school was enough motivation for me to gather enough courage to control my emotions as I headed back home.
I arrived back to a warm welcome by the customs and border protection folks at the airport, who opened all my bags and searched every inch, all the while asking questions about the books (most of them on Islam) that I had bought during my trip.
Okay, it has been enough procrastinating. Heading back to my work now. I’ve added a few pictures from my trip below.