London Dreams

By Sunil Kumar

“When a man is tired of London; he’s tired of life”- Sam “Somebody” Johnson.

Britain’s capital is like a seductive Western wench; high maintenance and a complete whore. There’s something that draws you in; and keeps you away. The international veneer still has something of the country’s characteristics; quintessentially British; shaken but not stirred.

English: The City of London skyline as viewed ...

English: The City of London skyline as viewed toward the north-west from the top floor viewing platform of London City Hall on the southern side of the Thames. In the foreground: Dixie Queen and Millennium Time at Tower Millennium Pier. This is a 5 segment panoramic image taken by myself with a Canon 5D and 24-105mm f/4L IS lens. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The self-absorption and sometimes easy amiability are charming and annoying at the same time. Reveries in this city are toned down by reality and money. So; what’s in’it for me; mate? After the nod to information technology; one of the primary reasons for traveling to the United Kingdom; I explore some sights and sounds that escaped me previously.

St. Paul‘s; an iconic ode to Christendom; was a mixed bag. Although the staircases were grand; and the dome superlative; I still felt as if there was something missing; the stark coldness of the bleak island may have seeped into my bones. “The Mousetrap”; Agatha Christie’s longest running play is also something that I manage to watch in a Victorian theatre. London’s buzzing tube is always a study in humanity; an international cross-section weaving its way into the heart of one of the most over-hyped but beautiful cities on the planet.

Could there be something surreal, cerebral in the ordinariness of normal life? Bond, Downton Abbey, Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie; Harry Potter; the list of British global exports is a long one; they seem to have reaped a rich harvest for having some of the most visionary people to have ever lived. Shorn of its international mix; will the city retain some of its charm? Probably, not.

Can this city spawn something more potent? The British are no longer the international force they were with an empire; with the tendency to become insular and keep the world at bay. Their best bet is a glorious intellectual legacy; that still inspires a lot of the world.

On my last day; I make my way to the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew; and the National Archives; both repositories of eclectic information. I’m slightly happy; London parts with a smile; still leaving the door open for a tryst with a sublimely insane city; a place which you can hate and love.

For once; a comfortable seat helps me relax as I make my way back to the sweltering heat of the subcontinent; back to life’s intangible tomorrows; firmly in the grasp of an inescapable today.

 

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