A city always on the move.
A bustling, bubbling cauldron of many cultures, much to the chagrin of certain tram ladies.
A city characterised by the spiffy hum of several relentless minds.
The time is morning rush hour. Between sips of strong coffee and stretching; I stand waiting patiently to get my daily tube ticket. The sun was certainly out but the mist in the air was audaciously challenging it to shine brighter. Suddenly, there is a chorus of deafening booms. Westminster, the Houses of Parliament and the Big Ben lets out a screeching alarm reminding us to rise and shine, to shake off the last signs of snooze. I take the ticket; the helpful ticket-teller gives me necessary directions about which line to take. I am alert…at least for the moment. There are so many lines—Victoria, Jubilee, Metropolitan etc, so many changes and so less time to process it all.
I somnambulate and find myself amidst busy silhouettes jostling their way in a mélange of stylish suits, polished shoes and boots. With newspaper tucked on one side, a suitcase in one hand and the-all-important coffee on the other, they are an epitome of style. As the tube chugs in, everyone experiences a collective sense of alertness. Ready, steady and go. From somewhere a sharp voice reminds us to–MIND THE GAP.
Minding the gap, in less than ten seconds, I am in. Hurray. In the closed somewhat intimate space of the tube, everyone seems to be in some unconscious synchronized choreography, darting the headlines on their I-phones, rhythmically moving their head to the I-pod, reading the free newspaper Metro, skimming through their Kindle. I take out my own, try to get lost in the pages of my e-book. I think I look nonchalant; I hope I have blended in. Soon it is time to step out. Step out I did; only to get enveloped in a streak of grey. Grey skies were at it again! The streets were getting wet with the slow pitter-patter of raindrops. But thank God, I had the accessory dearest to every Londoner—the quintessential umbrella. Snooty yet a savior. I unwrap it, smoothen my skirt, tighten the jacket and march forward. I look London, I feel London.
Walking down the Queen’s memorial walk near Green Park, crisp autumn air kisses my face. The park is full of men and women dressed in stylish leggings and the shortest shorts running despite the nip in the air. Welcome to another slice of London life. I reach the famous Buckingham Palace after crossing the War memorial and find myself surrounded by ebullient tourists hopping around feverishly, snapping pictures, hoping to get a glimpse of the Queen or Kate Middleton. Suddenly, it all goes silent. It’s time to change the guards; I am told. The air is filled with guards’ bands and military music; new set of guards come out to take over the duties from old ones. With their red jackets and huge bearskins; they are an eye-catching sight. All of us look around, laugh and smile at each other; the differences of race, colour, and language are kept aside.
Time to move on; I walk along the St. James’ Palace catching in the local sights. On the streets, I can hear a myriad of faces of different races lending the city a beautiful, vibrant charm. Perhaps, it’s this variety which makes London a global hotspot. I find myself near St. Paul’s Cathedral, an ornate structure built between 1675 and 1710, a centre for arts, spiritualism, learning and public debate. The cathedral which was in news in 2011 for the anti-capitalism protests is said to attract people of all faith. Its legacy cannot be contained in the narrow borders of religion and perhaps is another testimony of the city’s multicultural fabric .
I still don’t know who is a true Londoner, but I am mesmerized by the variety the city offers, where each different culture comes together, integrate and become something greater.
As I step into the tube; I feel my cheeks flushed.
I think I am in love and it is going to be an affair to remember.