Travel Shot: Regent’s Mosque

One morning, on an exceptionally clear October day of 2008, I was walking in Regent’s Park in London. It was along a path that I had not taken before and I was busy taking in all the new sights. Suddenly, an intriguing glint of gold in the distance caught my eye, and I walked in that direction to further explore the source.

The Regent's Mosque, London

The glint had come the dome of the Regent’s Mosque, a dome that was not actually golden, but had coppery and bronze hues. The way the mosque dome sparkled in the morning sun was unbelievable, and with autumnal colours all around, it was a sight that I can never forget.

As I stood there clicking photographs, a family passed me by wishing me “Eid Mubarak”, and then another family and then some more. It was then that I realised that it was Eid-ul-Fitr or Ramadan Id that day.

Eid-ul-Fitr will be celebrated in the Indian sub-continent on August 31 (the rest of the world will celebrate it a day early), and I take this occasion to wish all my readers Eid Mubarak :-)

Appa

The mood was quite festive in the shop. It was the first day of the 10-day Ganpati festival and customers were lining up to collect their pre-booked idols to take home. They would give their names and man at the counter would check against the labels attached to the various idols and hand over the correct one with some flowers and coconut, and a loud “Ganpati Bappa Morya”.

Soon it was our turn to collect the Ganpati idol we had booked.

“Namaskar,” said the man at the counter, “What is your name?”

“Ganapathi”, said Appa (my father).

“Uncle, I asked for your name,” said the man at the counter.

“Ganapathi,” repeated Appa.

“Uncle, I know you have come to collect your Ganpati idol. I want to know the name you have booked it under,” said the man at the counter, a little impatiently now.

“That is what I have been telling you. My name is Ganapathi,” said Appa patiently.

The man at the counter looked a little stunned and then burst out laughing. “Sorry, Uncle. I have never had a Ganapathi come to collect a Ganpati idol.” He handed over our pre-booked idol with the flowers and coconut, and then came out of the counter to touch Appa’s feet and ask for his blessings.

Whenever Appa shares this incident, which happened about 10 years back, with family and friends it always brings forth lots of laughter. And during the Ganpati season, it is a much repeated story. The 2011 Ganpati season is underway now and this year too, the story will be narrated, not by Appa, but by us with a bittersweet tinge. For Appa is no longer here to narrate this incident. He passed away a month ago.

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Pubs, inns, bars

The English pubs, inns and bars are an institution in themselves, and the local people are very proud of them. Their history, their quirky names, the drinks they serve, as well as the err… food has loyal followers. During my year-long stay in London, I visited quite a few of them and, in the process, developed a love-hate relationship with them.

I love their exteriors (bright electric blue, red, yellow, black), their quirky names (how about The Slug and the Lettuce), and the history that many of them have, but don’t really care much for what they serve. That’s because I hate the smell of beer, ale, etc. and don’t eat non-vegetarian good. And the less said about the vegetarian food served in such places, the better. The worst meal that I can ever remember having was at an inn in Kent—a pumpkin risotto (kaddu ka khichdi for you and me) garnished with blue cheese and pine nuts. Aargh !!!! However, the soups served in such places are hearty and to die for. Not surprisingly, one of my best meals has also been at an inn (The Waffles Inn at St. Albans) where I had mixed vegetable soup with bread and lots of butter. Mmmm…

So presenting the side of pubs, inns and bars that I like. While I remember where most of them are located, my apologies for those that I don’t.

The foundations of 'Ye Olde Fighting Cocks' at St. Albans date back to the year 793. This inn claims to be the oldest public house in England and to have sheltered Oliver Cromwell for one night during the Civil War.

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If only stones could speak… A visit to Stonehenge

Stonehenge. From the moment I read about it in a school history book, I wanted to visit it. Photographs of stone slabs in a circular formation should have been boring to a 10 year-old, but the opposite was true for me—I was fascinated with Stonehenge, so much so that everybody in my family knew about it. When I left for my year-long stay in London in September 2008, my father told me, “You’ll finally see the Stonehenge now.”

And I finally saw Stonehenge for real at 11 am at on a wet, grey and rainy day in July 2009. Instead of elation and joy at having finally seen my “childhood dream”, my first reaction was one of intense disappointment — I had expected towering stone slabs rising up to the skies, but all I saw was a cluster of stony protrusions on a plain, featureless landscape. Added to this disappointment was the persistent rain that had followed me from London, leading to a perfect set-up for the much-anticipated visit to Stonehenge turning into a disaster.

I gave myself a strict talking to about not judging monuments by their appearance and to enjoy my visit as i walked towards the ticket office. I had almost cheered up when I saw the people lined up to buy tickets to see the monument. There were babies in prams, toddlers being given their first or maybe 11th history lesson by their fond parents; bored tweens and teens dragged around by determined parents. There were also busloads of bemused Italian, Spanish and Chinese students (who were in England to learn English) and trying their best to look interested as their instructors shouted out amidst the din: “Look at the stones and feel history and pre-history”.

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Mumbai Lens: Chaos !

For a Mumbaikar, crowds and Mumbai are often mentioned in the same breath. But sometimes, and I must admit here that such times are very rare, the sheer crowd volume can shock even the most die-hard Mumbaikar as I found on August 14.

I had a friend visiting from Delhi and she was rather keen on seeing the Gateway of India. So, after a morning spent wandering around Ballard Estate, Kala Ghoda and the Fort area, we arrived at the Gateway of India to see this.

3.00 pm, 14 August 2011: Gateway of India

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My ‘now’ song: The silent anthem

Do you ever have a song, an idea, a storyline, or an image stuck in your head? And it just refuses to go away? For some time at least. I have this with music—it could be a song, an instrumental piece, a jingle, etc. This becomes my ‘now’ song, and the “nowness” (pardon my English here) could be for any length of time.

My now song is the silent version of the Jana Gana Mana, produced by .

I’m sure you’ll agree that no further explanations are needed here.

Happy Independence Day :-)