Live from Luton, UK

I am writing from England, the land of the Queen's English. Before I begin, I should express my love for the quaint accent that the English speak with. There is something very unique about it and American English can never match the inflections and phonetics of the Queen's English. I was given small doses of the accent even in the airplane.

Alrighty then. I am in a small town called Luton, 35 miles north-something of London.

We (yeah there were 3 of us) landed in Heathrow around 7:30 and the sun was still up :-o. The sun is up until about 8:00 or later. That's why they have daylight savings (slap on the forehead).

First impressions were about the roads. I think we took the M1 (that would be a highway or maybe an expressway) and well what do we have here. It was a busy road, but the road discipline was so very apparent. Cars were always separated by a safe distance on road. People stuck to their lanes and moved lanes after checking their rear-views and switching on their turn indicators. If only we could get the people in India to behave on the road. Wishes!

Got to the hotel after losing our way a few times inside Luton town. Righty ho! Now for a more serious analysis of things English :-))

The People

I was shocked by the friendliness and cheerfulness of the people. People walking down the road would wish us and ask us how we were. Given our Indian roots, we obviously thought these people wanted something from us :-)) They were just being polite. Ofcourse there are the bad lot here too, but it is so great to see people being so cheerful and uninhibited and so polite. Awesome!!!! I am still getting used to the corridor or road hellos. I am getting there.

One unfortunate thing that I noticed is that there is a large proportion of overweight people here. It must be because of the food that they have. More on that below.

I have a Scottish colleague at work and he talks, talks and talks some more. You are always entertained when he is around. He would often move around to different topics in the course of the conversation, always managing to get back on track. I hear all Scottish are like that. Interesting. Alas, he will be leaving the project in a few days. We are sure to be bored without him around.

The Food

Food is usually non-veggie here with chips ('french' fries in Indian parlance) and carbonated drinks and beer or other alcoholic drinks. In other words, you have all the ingredients to put on a lot of weight. Water is at a premium, sometimes more expensive than Coke or Pepsi. Infact, they don't have a water jug in the hotel room. When I asked room service to get me some *plain* water, I ended up paying 3.5 Pounds for a litre. :-o

Potatoes, potatoes, potatoes. Potato chips, potato wedges, masjed potatoes, jacket potatoes, new potatoes and meat potatoes (kidding...)

We have been trying all kinds of food. Indian, fish and chips, Thai, brugers, sandwiches, Portuguese (I think it is). I don't have a problem with food. Infact I like it a little less spicy unlike my fellow Indians. Or very very bland. LOL.

People seem to be drinking (not water) around the clock.

Luton - the town

Small, very so. Everytime we take a walk, we end up where we started in less than 45 minutes (of an ambling pace). The roads are pretty good. Very little traffic around the place we stay. Oh yeah, our hotel is right in the town center adjoining the Arndale shopping center, which is a big mall. The mall is clean, airy and not congested. There are benches everywhere to sit down. Hurray!

In the evenings there are a lot of drunk people loitering around which makes it a bit scary. We haven't had any trouble so far, but we take extra care to avoid groups of people hanging on the road.

There appears to be a lot of crime. Police cars are sirening around quite often. My theory is that we don't notice the crimes in India cos the police never bother to break up small fist-fights like they do here. Yeah just remembered. My team lead in the project had his Merc broken into on Friday. Somebody had broken the passenger side window. Nothing stolen, fortunately!

That's all I have to say about that, yeah. There are few snaps from around Luton here -> Luton Pictures. Take a look at them, yeah.

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Foreword: From the time I was a kid, I had this itch to write. Ofcourse I knew I wasn't good at it; yet the literary world held a strange fascination. What if I could churn out a book like the authors I so adored? What if people would actually read a book that I wrote? Childhood fantasies, I guess. I did make attempts to write. Everything begun but never finished. Heck, none moved beyond 10 pages of hand-written material. When Itried to analyze my writing, one thing was clear - anything I wrote was too concise to become a story. I would narrate the entire story in a single paragraph. That was a big handicap, but it was my greatest asset in English class - I could write gists of stories that covered every nook and cranny yet did not exceed the word limit. Ofcourse I did fancy becoming an essayist, but I was lost for a subject to write about. Irony!
Here's one of my recent attempts. Once again begun but might never go anywhere...

He watched the moon shining placidly down upon the earth. The bus rumbled on, swaying through the undulations of the road, rocking the passengers to sleep. It was a pleasant night, not too cold, just right. His mind was unravelling a thousand different thoughts, each fighting to break out of the surface. The silent night cajoled him to pick, look at and admire the streaks that his mind held encased. It was not a night for soul-searching beacuse he did not believe that he had any need for searching. He knew his soul as well as he needed to and he had no inspiration to want to delve deeper into the mysteries of life, thoughts and the universe.

Vish merely wished to bring out and inspect his soul, the way a child would take his toys out of the box and line them up on the floor for inspection. It did not serve any significant purpose, it never would and that suited his line of belief.He never had understood life or what it served. He did not believe in the framework that society sought to establish. The concepts of ambition, career, money and relationships were as alien to him as anything could be. As a child, he did not have too many questions. He did what was expected of him, but never believed in the need for those actions.

Vish was not a disturbed child. He knew happiness. He knew how to laugh and he knew how to cry. His parents adored him and so did everyone that knew him. His grades were above average, but he never stood out. He chose not to stand out. Even when he was merely a ten year old boy, such competition held no fancy. Though nobody had the chance to notice it, Vish was a very silent child. He did not speak unless there was a real need for words.

Now at the age of twenty, he had a degree in engineering and a fancy job awaiting him in Bangalore. Everything had fallen into place and the bus was speeding him on his way to becoming another sacrifice at the altar society had created. He would soon be lost in the masses - irrelevant, one of many fighting for a foot-hold. Vish did not make an attempt to fight the current because he did not see the purpose in it. He did not want to stand-out as a rebel.

Vish had a constant companion in Arya. She listened to everything Vish had to say and Vish always felt at ease talking to Arya about the things that he thought. Thoughts that nobody knew could exist within such a calm and unassuming soul. Arya never pretended to understand the line of thought that Vish had nurtured through his life. She did not pretend to accept what Vish had to say. She would always tell him,"Vish, I don't know if you are right, but I know ideals are not for me. I don't think it can mean anything to anybody". He had immense respect for her because of this and it helped him open up to her.

The two spent hours together, doing nothing in particular. They fit each other like perfectly cut gloves. This was not affected by the truth that the duo were very different from each other. Arya, unlike Vish, was completely earthy and did not carry any of Vish's idealistic outlook. She liked to have her share of fun. To her there was no point in changing the way the world was. It sometimes surprised them that they were such close friends.

Arya was in love with a young man she knew from college. She met him through the cultural club at college. David, like Arya, loved to have fun and the two came across each other at many a party. As time passed by, they began seeing each other and soon enough they fell for each other. It was a perfect pair both fun-loving, both party animals. "We groove together", Arya liked to say.

David respected Vish's friendship with Arya and never made a fuss. This was all that Vish wanted. He couldn't have borne to lose his only friend and the only person that accepted the real him. They were never great pals, but they were at ease. Everything was well in this part of the world.

But now as he twisted and turned through the tunnels that his mind held, there was an apparent kink. A small jigsaw piece that did not belong to the puzzle, for it seemed to have no place at all. Vish did not understand the sense of hollowness that he felt within. The piece had to have a place somewhere, though he could not determine how or where. It had Arya's face etched onto it, her face turned up towards the breeze as they sat on the water tank talking. She was listening to him and nodding her head. She shone underneath the moon-light with a radiance that made his heart stop for just a moment. That moment held the key to his current thoughts, that moment was the root to the pain he now experienced growing in his heart.

A chill gust of wind washed the truth across his face. The only person he could think of as a friend would be miles away from him. "It is not just the distance. Time has a way of changing things. She would be married to David soon and things will never be the same between us. I've just lost my friend", Vish thought to himself. The finality of that thought frightened him. Arya was the only worldly thing that Vish ever cherished and she would now be lost to him. With nothing connecting him from his abode of ideals to society and its underlying foundations, there was no purpose in allowing himself to be driven through the undulating terrain that society imposed.

He suddenly stood up from his seat and walked towards the front of the bus. He did not notice the sleeping passengers. He was not bothered by the baggage strewn across the floor. He knew he had to do what he was about to do and he would do it.

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The blues

Monsoon is here (I think it is). Anyway the weather is blue.. err.. actually dark gray. It's moody, it's chilled out and it's awesome. It drizzles every few hours. Sometimes it pours down like a waterfall. Rains are never far away in Bangalore, yet it is only now that the weather has taken on a true rainy hue. Dark clouds float lazily throughout the day, hiding the white clouds and the blue sky behind their rain laden mass. There is a certain dampness all around, that gives you a pleasant caress whenever you step out from the dumpy interiors.

The whole world looks lazy. The day invites you to shed all your work, relax and enjoy the freshness that the world has to offer. The greens of the trees stand out in vivid detail against the stark clouded sky. The sun peeps out once in a while, as if to supervise the earth underneath. Those few sunlit moments of warmth can feel like heaven when standing within the cold draft.

Though the mood is moody, the wind and the chill call you out to have some fun. You can watch the raindrops drip from all possible structures - from roofs to tree leaves. You can wait for the breeze to bring to you a mist of fresh raindrops. You can merely sit there staring and lost to the world.

The weather is perfect for a ride through curvy country roads with the wind now whispering and now howling at you. Alternately if you like to laze around, there is nothing that beats this balmy weather with a cup of tea and music to keep you cuddled on the bean bag.

Unfortunately I am stuck inside the office. How cruel! And when I do get to leave in the evening, there'll be horrendously serpentine traffic to overcome. Something about rain makes people crazy on the road. Luckily I get to enjoy the loveliness whenever I step out for a coffee. Not completely there, yet a wonderful break from the monotony.

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