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A group of Indian visitors doing the touristy thing at Trafalgar Square in London.
A group of Indian visitors doing the touristy thing at Trafalgar Square in London.
Opinion

Oh, to be Indian in England

By Bikram Vohra

Dubai, October 2, 2013

I love going to the UK.
Feel so much at home, unlike my English expat friends who say they feel like strangers when they visit. No such problems for the likes of us. From the moment I land it is a swizz.
This is how it will go on these foreign stayovers. Nabu and Anu will be at the airport to meet me and, to the nostalgic sounds of A R Rahman on the car stereo, we’ll traipse off to Edgware for a biryani lunch with Sohail and then sit down to watch the latest Hindi movie DVD .
That evening, Rafiq, an old friend, will be taking us to Bombay Brasserie or, if we prefer, Veeraswamys, and we are scheduled to go to a concert of Harbhajan Singh Maan later on after which it is din din at the Chatterjeas in Stratham.
Next morning will be duty-by-the-relatives time and we’ll all toodle off to Birmingham to meet sundry members of the clan so I can tell them how everyone is back home and we are sure to have one of rich-burp-shouldn’t-have such spreads all soaked in oil and dripping deliciously bad cholesterol.
It’ll be sticky nostalgia time and Uncle Nath will tell us all about his days way back when he was in the Punjab. Aunty Nath will produce lovely carrot halwa and that evening we’ll be joined by the Mehras, the Nairs, the Rais, the Bajpais and the Sonu Singhs, not to mention Bunny and Twinkle who now have a silk boutique in Mayfair and are doing enormously well. And everyone will compete on who is missing the home country more.
We’ll round off another evening of deep and abiding togetherness at the nearest disco and dance to the beat of the Bhangra rap, the mix provided by Dahler Mehndi’s latest clone.
On the third day before I leave we'll return to London and call on the current High Commissioner who will invite us over for a quick lunch which means thirty three traditional Indian dishes so that we are made to feel all at home.
We'll then take a walk down Kensington way and pick up a paper from Mr Patel's newspaper kiosk, say hello to the couple from Gujarat who run the corner tea shoppe, get introduced to their son Ravi who is soon joining LSE and finally take a bus back to Slough and chat with Rana Ray, the conductor on the delights of Calcutta.
At Slough, we'll visit Gandharv's electronic outlet in Queensmere and hand over a jar of lemon pickle sent to him from his sister in Abu Dhabi. We'll talk of this and that and watch Goodness Gracious Me reruns.
That evening Nabu will call his friends over for a 'goodbye' bash and we'll natter on about the good old days in Bombay and share the latest risque Hindi jokes and discuss the way Narendra Modi has taken the country by storm and it is time Air India bought new planes and it will be a great evening.
Next day I shall take British Airways out of Heathrow and on route to the airport strike up an interesting conversation with Arjun the minicab driver about British customs like seeing a man about a dog and dropping pennies around corners and this quaint set up they have called welfare.
After which time for Club World in BA and the air hostess asking me if I want chicken curry and rice with pappadums for my lunch and me saying, no, let's have a change, how about some bangers and mash…with mushy peas, please.
Bikram Vohra has been editor of Gulf News, Khaleej Times, Bahrain Tribune, Emirates Evening Post and helped in setting up Gulf Today.

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