A few “interesting” things that I noticed while wandering around in London and York.
So the Speakers’ Corner hasn’t been deserted after all. After I posted an entry on the place portraying it as an empty place James (call him Sir James or James Chambuwan 😉 ) suggested me to go there on a Sunday afternoon. That’s what I did and, lo and behold, there was another James, slightly taller than the one who suggested me to go there, I must admit, talking animatedly about various crises in the world but mainly focusing his lecture to European affairs. A few middle-aged men surrounded him as he continuously spoke, leaving little chance for others to interrupt, moving both hands and his whole body furiously and occasionally jumping a few inches from the ground (or may be just raising is both ankles) to make a particularly important point. Some of his listeners were trying their best to interrupt him, correct him and to counter and add their own views to what he was saying.
James the Speaker of the Imperial College, London (a student of Chemistry who plans to go into finance and politics- finance more likely than politics, he admitted- in future and thinks it’s good to be grounded in pure science while making career in one of the aforementioned areas) was one of about seven speakers who were Continue reading
I don’t enjoy alcohol. I dislike the taste of beer. Smell of whiskey makes me vomit. Same with jaand, raksi, tongba, chhyang and aanila (which I unsuccessfully tried to drink in a Newari restaurant in Kirtipur just before Dasain in October). That being a detailed disclaimer and me being a bahun ko chhoro who shouldn’t be touching all these dirty things (!! 😉 ), let alone drink or try to drink, here I present a series of photos from various pubs of London where I drank a lot of ale and beer (again taste was horrible).
A friend had suggested to find the difference of taste between ale and lagar. I heeded the suggestion. Not sure if I could find any but it was all fun. Got almost drunk. That was all part of my ‘see and feel London’ efforts. Also, I wanted to post this entry. In the process, I learned a thing or two about the role of pubs in British life (like how they bring communities together etc). Talked to a few random people who were consuming a lot of alcohol. Some of them were dancing and others were singing (see the video). Continue reading
….त म त्यो साँझ घर फर्किरहेको थिएँ, गाडी बिछट्टै प्याक थियो। एउटा स्टपमा मानिसहरू ओर्लिंदै थिए, छतबाट पनि एक तन्नेरी झर्दैथियो। छतमै पनि भीड भएकाले ऊ भर्याङबाट होइन बीचैबाट ओर्लिंदै थियो। कसोकसो उसको खुट्टो झ्यालमै नअडिएर झ्यालसँगैको सिटमा बसेका एकजना अधबैंसेको मुखमा जोतिन पुग्यो। ‘थुइक्क,’ ती अधबैंसेले चुक अमिलो आएझैं अनुहार पार्दै मुखमा छिरेको हिलो निकाल्न खोजे। तिनले हतारमै सर्टको बाहुलाले ओठ र मैले देखें, जिब्रो पनि पुछ्न खोजे। बाहुलामा खैरो–कालो धब्बा बस्यो तर तिनको मुखबाट हिलो सबै गएन। तिनी ओ हेनरीको कुनै अतिव्यंग्यात्मक कथाको एउटा पीडित पात्रजस्तै थिए। विडम्बना उनको मुखमा जुत्ता पुर्याउने युवकलाई ती अधबैंसेको हबिगतको पत्तोसम्म थिएन। ऊ आफैं संघर्ष गर्दै जसोतसो छतबाट झरेर अँध्यारोमा घरतिर लम्किसकेको थियो। पाँच मिनेट पछि पनि ती अधबैंसे जिब्रो निकाल्दै, ओठ चलाउँदै, मुख पूरै बिगार्दै झयालबाहिर थुक्दै थिए। तिनको अनुहार म प्रस्ट पढ्न सक्थें– तिनी सिटमा बसेर गरेको यात्राप्रति खुबै पश्चाताप गरिरहेका छन्।
(कान्तिपुर कोसेली 2008/08/23)
I wrote that article four years ago. The situation hasn’t changed a bit. Two days ago an impromptu afternoon strike in Kathmandu (and elsewhere in Nepal) forced people to commute in the same pathetic condition that I describe in the article. In all these years we have seen tall promises made (and never fulfilled), new men heading one government after another (and delivering nothing but disappointment). Things remain same. Buses continue to be crowded and dangerously unsafe to travel for women (and men). This city lacks infrastructures that make a city a city. In fact I don’t feel comfortable to call Kathmandu a city. It’s a mess as portrayed in the article above.
When you have lived in a mess for most of your life, the sight of anything that is functional and working makes you amazed. But one doesn’t have to be a citizen of a third world country and its capital city to notice the excellent infrastructure of the city that has hosted Olympics three times. So if I say here that London has everything and most of those things are in order that statement will be totally influenced by my experience with Kathmandu. With such statements, I’ll be unknowingly comparing Kathmandu with London which is not the point of this entry. Continue reading
Protest: For an average Nepali citizen like me understanding the UK’s health care system is challenging. It is ‘complex’. Especially so if I attempt to compare it with our health care system in Nepal which is incredibly simple: Got money? Get treatment. No money? Die (unless your letter to a national daily newspaper begging for donation to transplant kidney touches hearts of some generous readers). One of the problems with our ‘simple and clear’ system is that our government doesn’t have enough money. That’s just a guess. Governments here give money to hospitals so that they can provide free treatment to qualified people. Now, if I understand correctly, national health service is facing cuts. People are not liking it. That’s why they are protesting. I saw one small group of protesters last week at the Parliament Square in London. Peaceful protesters. No shouting and sloganeering. No one was making any speeches.
The Venue: Not even at the Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park where I had gone a week earlier to see if someone was talking about some random issues. There were none. The place was empty. That was disappointing.
Tana Sarma describes animating activities that he saw at the Speakers’ Corner in his book Belayattira Baralinda in such a way that the description had remained with me for long when I first read the book during my high school days. A friend who spent 10 years in York and earned a PhD from the University of York before moving to Sweden recently reminded me of the same book just before I left Nepal. I re-read parts of it just before I arrived here. This time I didn’t find the book as interesting as I had found it last time. I was surprised to see that the book was actually written (and detailed events) in the 60s and that it was now one of the many travel books written by Nepalis on Belayat. But I didn’t change my decision to visit Hyde Park and the SC. May be I wanted to write an update to Tana’s version. Continue reading
Posting this update just to take advantage of the free WiFi connection (pleasantly surprised, I must admit) in this moving bus that is taking me to Leeds. Left London- the city and the crowd and the buildings- about two hours ago, now I can see a lot of windmills on both sides of the highway. Many small villages/settlements and lot of green fields and small hilltops.
There are so many things to write about. This evening’s bus ride, branded shops of Oxford Street with ridiculously high prices of the products on display and malls that sell things surprisingly cheap stuffs. The famous bridge of London, museums that I visited, television studio that I liked, portraits that I saw, food that I ate and people I met including the hobbyist singer with whom I just exchanged email address in a pub. But I don’t have enough time to write about all these things and select, edit and post photos. Will try and do that when I am back in Kathmandu.
Now I must get some sleep. I have to wake up early tomorrow morning to catch a bus that will take me to a northern city of York via Leeds. And then to Edinburgh in a train.
Last two entries have given the impression that the city is so very cold, that I am freezing here in London and that I am about to die of hypothermia (exaggeration). That’s obviously not the case. Last week was all normal. I mean I needed a jacket but going out was no problem at all. Plenty of sunshine and less wind. Evenings were friendlier to walk weather-wise; didn’t need to wear two caps (again that’s for me only, not for the brave bald heads that I mentioned in the first entry). So for me it was all ‘normal’ week- cold but bearable.
But not for my friend from Bahrain- he was shivering most of the times when we went out together last week during lunch hours and was complaining how cold the city was. I had to tell him that this week was nothing compared to the previous one. So the cold, as I learnt, is dependent to your resistance capacity/ability. I think this capability is partly determined by how (conditions including weather) and where you were born and grew up. Kathmandu doesn’t get as hot as Bahrain gets in summer- and it also doesn’t get as cold as London gets in winter- which should explain why my British friend in Kathmandu was surprised to learn through my first post that I found London cold and that I was surprised to see my Bahraini friend complain about the London weather that I had found pleasant.
Just as I was about enter through the main gate, someone waved at me and extended a warm invitation.
“Come, eat,” he said. “It’s a very cold day today. You should eat something. It’s free.”
The white man, with a bald head and a huge tuppi, was wearing a yellowish dhoti. I was in central London at the campus of a well-known British school. I had gone there to see a Nepali-speaking professor. I had reached at the gate a good 30 minutes earlier after tiring myself of walking around and inside Hyde Park for a couple of hours. I needed to kill time.
I was hungry too.
Pasta, very thick daal and an interesting conversation were waiting for me.
The person who invited me for this surprise late afternoon lunch was accompanied by a man who looked like a Southasian and a white lady.
I could instantly recognize who these people were. A small board with words from Bhagawat Gita was stood on the food stall that stood on wheels. But I didn’t need to see that to conclude who they were. I happily accepted the invite. I was instantly given a plate full of food that I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish.
I ate along with other students who were offered the food in the same manner I was offered.
Some Indian students, while eating the same food as they stood not far from the food stall, were cracking some dirty jokes in Hindi.
I quietly listened to them while strolling around to suppress my laughter.
I couldn’t eat that all.
“Can I take a photo of you distributing food, please?” I asked.
“Yes,” said the Russian man. I was just guessing his nationality based on his ascent. Turned out i
I was correct.
“Oh, Nepal,” he reacted after I answered his question. “Ratna Park! I know. I have been there. Budhanilakantha. There is temple.” He was correct. Long time ago, I had gone to interview a Russian at the ISCON temple in Budhanilakantha. As far as I could remember, this man with thick tuppi looked like the Russian that I had met in Budhanilakantha in 2004.
The Southasian guy turned out to be a Sri Lankan. “I have a friend who worked in Nepal,” he said in a very excited tone. “He coached the national Cricket team of Nepal. Do you know Roy Dias? He is my classmate.”
“I know Roy Dias,” I told him, “But only through media. Not personally.”
“I believe he was quite a star in Nepal,” he added. “Many girls wanted to marry him. I understand that the boys (Cricket players, he obviously meant, I assumed) liked him as well.”
Better late than never. Continued from my Feb/March London/UK trip.
I visited the newly refurbished BBC building to see newsrooms and recording studios. Liked the design and overall feel of newsrooms/sections (lobbys to gather and discuss) which are open and very much connected with each other. Impressive glass walls received the highest score. (From a BBC website: At the heart of the building is the newsroom, a column-free space, surrounded by technical areas and day-lit by the eight-storey high atria above.)
A big thanks to Bhagirath Yogi who works at the Nepali Service for giving me a tour of the $1.59 billion building. If you want to read more about the building here’s a Guardian article. Want to read about New York Times’ new building? Here you go: Architecture Blog: New York Times Building Vs Kantipur Tower!).