Last Day in London

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We started the day at the British Museum on Russell Street. Once again, we used the Bakerloo Line from Paddington to Oxford Circus where we hopped into the Central Line train to Holborn Station. We saw signs here that said, “British Museum 6 min”. We walked in the direction the sign indicated while keeping an eye out for more signs that might tell us to turn this way or that, but none were forthcoming. Pretty soon we realized we had been walking for over 6 minutes and had probably overshot our target. We then started asking people who looked like locals, for directions, but locals I often find, are always surprisingly unaware of the points of interest in their cities. We received many an embarrassed shrugs and shakes of heads from people telling us they hadn’t a clue. So then we asked a parking attendant who told us to walk back toward Holborn Station and then turn left. We were finally there.
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It was quite an amazing museum. It is ranked amongst the top 10 in the world. And surprisingly, it was free. It had been free to the public since 1753. The museum building is phenomenal, the wide-open ground floor with light streaming in from the glass ceiling above and a plan that was intuitive and easily navigable. We walked straight up to the European prehistory and a money exhibit (sponsored by HSBC). The exhibit was fascinating, the things people tried to use for currency! King Gustav (?) of Denmark had tried using a copper tablet, its dimensions similar to present day legal size paper, causing a famous visitor to remark on how a cart was needed to transport Danish money when the rest of the world preferred carrying their money on a rope worn around the neck! I am sketchy on the details of which king, which visitor etc. because my attention was divided in scanning the crowded museum floor for Anoushka and Anil, who tend to disappear on me, and reading what was written about each exhibit. There was the jewelry room, the gold and silver ornaments, cooking utensils, prehistoric tools, all quite fascinating. But Alas! Museums are not ideal places for four-year-old kids or even husband. I have made a note to myself that I must indulge this interest in solitude whenever the opportunity presents itself again. The more memorable aspects of this particular visit can be summarized in the following lines:

“Can I pleaaaaaaaase get a drink, Mommy? I want juice, mommy!”
“Can we please go back to the hotel?”
“Can we please go to the kids’ section?”
“I’ll be over there, how long you gonna be?”

Needless to say, this fine museum could not be viewed in its entirety.

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Museum visit concluded it was time now for us to head over to the London Bridge Station where we had planned to meet our friends Anjali and Kishore. We had decided to meet outside the station, so we walked back to Holborn and took the Central Line train to Bank Street where we changed for the southbound Northern Line train that took us to our destination. Anjali and Kishore were waiting for us right outside and we had no trouble recognizing them even though we had never met each other in person.

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Anjali looked gorgeous in her lavender dress and a lovely crinkled silk shirt of the same color that she stylishly wore over it. This was my last day in London and at the end of my tether in wardrobe choices out of the suitcase I felt the usual female green-eyed monster of not quite matching up in attire. Kishore also looked as dapper in person as he did in his pictures. We had been looking forward to this meeting. My previous acquaintance with Anjali had only been through Shakespeare & Company and our frequent online chats. One is often surprised when meeting a virtual acquaintance in person; they often appear quite different from their online persona. Not so with Anjali, she was as wonderful, gregarious, intelligent and as sparkling a conversationalist as she was online. Kishore was also very easy to like and converse with. We sat down for a cup of coffee at the Starbucks and chatted awhile as it was still too early for dinner. Our pleasant conversation was soon interrupted by Anoushka’s desperate need for a restroom break.

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I suppose it would be unfair to state that public restrooms are hard to come by in London, but the fact remains that when we so desperately needed it, we couldn’t find one. We did see a coin operated one that kept returning our 20 p back to us and refused to open up. Anil finally walked inside a Thai restaurant and pleaded with the owner who relented and said he would allow just the kid to use the facilities.

After that we tried to figure out where we wanted to eat. I suggested Thai, only because when the option is left to me I always suggest Thai. But it was still too early to eat, so we walked toward the Tower Bridge. A beautiful sight! We saw more of the cobble-stoned streets and alleys, quaint looking old apartments connected to each other by bridges, flower beds on window sills; a very pleasant English sight. I commented on how visually appealing everything was and Anjali told me how architecturally conscious the British really were. We emerged on the side of the City Hall – the mayoral offices – in a modernistic tilted helmet like glass structure, supposedly a metaphoric representation of the ushering in of an era of openness.

We had just finished talking about the architectural beauty of the city and in that context the glass structure and the building known as the Gherkin – also made of glass – were quite an aberration, to my eyes. I am usually all for modern structures but only when all they blend in well with existing structures, in London they don’t.

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We kept walking until we came to what looked like restaurant row by the riverside. Anjali and Kishore pointed to one they said they frequented. I gave up on Thai and suggested we eat somewhere around there. Kishore went in to check if we could be seated outside at this place but they were already full and it was too nice an evening to spend inside. We walked on and noticed that several other restaurants were off limits to us because children weren’t allowed. We finally saw one that looked fine, allowed children and was going to find us seating outside – Brown’s. We got a pleasant enough table after a short wait.

Once the ordering was out of the way, we settled down for an evening of flowing conversation in a pleasant setting, watching dusk settle in over the Thames. We talked about several things – among them certain propensities that scientists attributed to the youngest male child in a family, a certain genetic predisposition. It was good for some laughs, since Kishore mentioned he was the youngest of all his siblings. We finally decided scientists were full of it and moved on to talk about our homes, our lives in the UK and the US, our future plans, Shakespeare and Company, monstrous egos, opinionated and arrogant behavior of certain ethnic groups, hypocrisy when it came to all matters related to sex etc.

The food arrived and was consumed, more drinks were ordered and the evening went on in an easy, unrushed fashion. Anoushka was quite enchanted by both Anjali and Kishore. She kept hugging Anjali for the longest time, ultimately deciding that they were her new parents. She told us we were still her parents but insisted that now she had two sets of parents, two mommies and two daddies, much to our hosts’ amusement.

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We were sad to see the evening end as we parted company. We thanked Anjali and Kishore for a delightful evening and ever since then have been trying to address Anoushka’s repeated inquiries about when she’ll see her new mommy and daddy again!!

4 Comments

  1. what a nice way to end such a lovely trip… and memorable..but we miss you onboard.

  2. What an amusing twist to the pleasant account of meeting Anjali and her husband. ;-)Incidentally, I felt this to be a perfectly-turned, Henry James sort of sentence:<< I suppose it would be unfair to state that public restrooms are hard to come by in London, but the fact remains that when we so desperately needed it, we couldn’t find one. >>– or (to put perhaps too fine a point to it), a locution and phrasing quintessentially Londoner-like (at least a London or Londoner of mildly antiquarian imagination).

  3. Thank you Prags for such a fav description ;)…but most of all I miss the lil darlin! Do give her some more huggs from me and tell her, her new mommy misses her too! :))

  4. Beautifully and vividly written Pragya..i enjoyed reading this:)


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