A significant part of me has not yet registered that I am in England and that I am in England alone. I almost feel like those patients in coma that are depicted in films, they can hear things, they can feel things but their brains are slow to register it and are slower to react. After 11 full days I have gathered the courage to register my astonishment at the fact that I am indeed in London. I don't know when the craving to see this country and secretly craving to see it alone grew in me. It was probably made over a large period of time, through the words of masters, from some mind numbing poetry and possibly from watching Roman holiday, where the young princess may be accidentally so but spends an entire day all by herself in a foreign city to return as a changed being. I don't know if I will undergo this journey but a slow and gradual metamorphosis has come into play. And I think it will completely sink in may be a month after I am back and embroiled in a routine I chose and also choose to complain about.
I have stayed predominantly in Ibis earls court while in London. And with all my randomest sojourns on the London underground I can assure the readers that this is the most convenient station to stay close to. Earls court is London's dadar. All, any and every train stops here. The area is vivid and rich and you want for nothing. It is just away from the centre and yet a part of it and it is peaceful and buzzing at the same time. Among the many things the English have perfected, it's the art of transportation they have mastered best. Of course I hear the Japanese are better so may be I'll go there next year *winks*. All you need is a piece of plastic called oyster card, you can load it and later top it up anywhere you want and then you are free to see any and all of London as you please in the most quick and efficient manner possible. Central London is a very small space but with all of world's variety in it. While you have the ancient Roman city walled in, less ancient Westminster Abbey and the super Gizmo crazy hip places like the Trafalgar square, Oxford Street and of course Piccadilly circus. I guess the later three I loved best. They are old and yet have embraced the new so well that when you see it all you see what Wodehouse meant. A later strain of thought reminds me that I love these places so because I see Wodehouse in it's every brick. And that leads me to realization that I love all of London thus because every stone here speaks to me of Shakespeare and Wordsworth and an occasional Keats, without a doubt Thomas Hood and of course Dickens. The things they have written of have now changed significantly but yet with a keen eye you can spot it. The place has changed the spirit hasn't. But more of that later.
To a non literary observer, London will be like any other city (albeit much cleaner) but a city where amenities are plenty, culture is Cosmo and such and so many "outsiders" have come in that it has become a global entity rather than the one constrained to own's country. That's possibly 1 difference between Mumbai and London, people from all over India come to Mumbai to try their luck (and we are as big as a continent but still) and people from all over the world come to London to try theirs. And a similarity would be, in both cities, it's original culture police and trend setters are out numbered in such manners that it's only their insistence at living in the old 'original' ways that have kept the true culture of that land alive though in an archaic rather than active form.
All and every part of London has some name and identity that it brings with it. The flashing show of wealth of Oxford Street, the colaba causeway feel of Camden market, a foodie's soul borough market, the idyllic feel of Notting Hill and the imperial world of old yellowing and young crisp books at Leicester, a disorienting feel of Hyde Park as it sits in middle of the city almost in rebellion with anything urban. It satiates all your desires, it caters to every palate. And yet London can only be truly loved when you know what to look for because London is not just another city that grew it's head after industrialization, it has lived and thrived as a land of masters of art and words and that's exactly what you see when you look at it closely. The Westminster Abbey graveyard, poet's corner to be precise is one place I probably stood to grieve the loss of people who raised me almost as much as my parents did, their contribution to my thoughts, world view and ideology has been Paramount. And all of London is that way... In the old industrial district area you can see a ghosting of a small boy working as a chimney sweeper, you can see him grow to become Dickens. You can see his success and the anguish he still felt on seeing soot. You know better why David Copperfield was the way he was. Along the Thames to it's northern bank the globe theatre still stands proudly, resurrected almost to it's former glory, it's easy to slide into past to imagine Shakespeare performing here, to see young men posed as women playing ladies no lesser than the ranks of Ophelia and Desdemona... The poor districts scream Hood's 'Song of the Shirt' and when you stand motionless in the vibrant world of Piccadilly it is so easy to imagine a Bertie Wooster or Freddie Treepwood rush past.. at grovsners square a posh car stops and that elegant gentleman could easily be Galahad Treepwood and the lost Noble man, out and out conservative could be Lord Emsworth.
Every street every stone shouts hello, every nook becomes alive, rises out in three dimensions from old lost pages and asks "do you see me? Do you still really see me?" And you do. London becomes the source of my love not for what it is today but for what it has been. Despite knowing better I touch every pillar of Kingscross platform number 9 waiting to see if just may be I would fall to 9 and 3/4s.
I see them, I hear them, I rush to them and yet stand frozen where I was, I observe new faces but the old ones won't budge. They keep calling, they keep waving and I like a raved lunatic keep turning back, afraid that they will be lost when I turn the corner when I swiftly walk away. London's haunt thrills me. It sets in me a realization that I am a visa away from standing exactly where I was. And that when I come back at any age for whichever reason, these are the same people who will wave and smile the way you do when you identify a person your own.
I am not sure of I have seen the London most people see and I am not sure that most people will see the London I have seen but 1 thing is for sure that I shall come to London again but only as it's fleeting visitor, it's streets are alive with the ghosts of my eternity and continued association with them will make me a madder woman. But now I know what Alice felt when she fell into wonderland. She saw things that exist in other dimensions. I saw things that existed in past and astonishingly thanks to the potency of those words still stand strong, tall and unwavering in this soil.
London is my wonderland. Here I can be Alice or anybody and when I return I will return rich, because I have met my kin not in bone but set in stone here waiting for another crazied lover of words like me to cross their threshold and the world will spin on another axel again, a slow motion will set in, things will turn black and white, because the wonderland sits out in open for a naked eye here, if you see it you have seen it all.... And I have... Strange dimensions are real, unexpected can happen, I can come to London and London can come back home with me and as home with me.... Who is to know of death yet but impossibilities do go hand in hand with life...