December 14, 2016, Wednesday: London
My Last Day in London Dawned:
Hard to believe that almost five whole months had passed since I had arrived to make London my home. And yet, it seemed to me like an eternity. The things I had done (moving into Bethnal Green) and the places I had visited (Victoria Park, the Museum of Childhood, the Ragged School Museum) seemed such a long time ago to me! And now finally, it was all over. I would be flying to India on the morrow, spending five weeks with my Dad in his home in Bombay, then one more week in the UK and at the end of January, I would wing my way back home to the USA after exactly six months away!
So how exactly did I spend my last day?
More Packing, More Clearing and Saying my Goodbyes:
After leaving my place in Maida Vale, I took the Tube to the Burger King at Tottenham Court Road for breakfast. Feeling strengthened, I made my way across Bedford Square to my office and set straight off to the task of finalizing my packing. With all that done and one suitcase closed up and locked, I took it downstairs to the office of my colleague who offered to hold it for me until my return from India–which was very kind of her indeed.
I then set out to say my goodbyes to the many folk who had made my Fellowship so fruitful–administrative and support staff, a couple of faculty members who had been such a source of friendship and support during my time. The sudden death of our beloved site director at NYU-London had put such a damper on everyone’s spirits but with the end-of-semester around the corner, holiday parties were still being held on schedule. I would be missing our holiday party which is tomorrow evening as I fly out tomorrow morning. As I went from one office to the next saying goodbye and thank-you to my colleagues, I felt an unfamiliar mixture of feelings–sadness at parting from them, but relief that time had passed and I would soon be seeing (first) my Dad and brother Russel in Bombay and later Llew, my other brother Roger and his family in the States.
Lunch was the last bits and bobs from my stash of office snacks–mainly cookies which I had with a cup of hot chocolate from the kitchen. Then, I set about preparing for my evening’s lecture at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London as I had been invited to conduct a seminar there. I had already sent them the Powerpoint presentation I intended to make and all I needed to do was to focus on my invited talk and put myself in a calm frame of mind to take questions.
Giving an Invited Lecture at the Seminar at SOAS:
My talk at the Center for Migration and Diasporic Studies at SOAS was scheduled for 5.00pm, but I had been invited by Prof. Parvati Raman to meet her at 4.00 pm in the main Reception area. It was good to meet her and at her invitation, we set out for a coffee in one of the lounges. It is a good thing that SOAS is just behind our NYU-London premises. I know the building well and have used its library on a couple of occasions in the past.
Paru had invited a couple of her colleagues to join us and before long, we were a spirited few at the table discussing all things–from the situation regarding academic hiring in the UK (dismal, as it is everywhere) to the kind of students who would be attending my talk (interdisciplinary ones). It was very interesting and time flew by.
At 4. 50 pm, we made our way to the classroom in which the seminar was to be held. My Powerpoint Presentation was up and running on the screen and in a very short space of time, Paru introduced me to an almost full classroom and I began to talk about my forthcoming book on Britain’s Anglo-Indians: The Invisibility of Assimilation. I spoke for about 45 minutes in a talk that was recorded. It was followed by a very interesting Question and Answer session as the students asked many questions that I found a lot of fun to answer.
By 6.45 pm, it was all over and I had finished my last professional commitment in London and was free to think about winging it homewards to India. I said Bye and Thanks to Paru and returned to my office at NYU.
Getting an Uber Cab to Maida Vale:
I had called for a mini cab to take me to Maida Vale as I had a large suitcase I needed to transport there–it would go with me to India early tomorrow morning.
However, the cab simply did not show. While waiting downstairs in the lobby for it, I ran into an Indian woman, the mother of one of our students from Chandigarh, India, who suggested I use Uber. I had never used it before and had always meant to download the app on to my phone. Well, I had no choice. She guided me on how to download the app, how to hail the cab and how to go about tracking its arrival. That was it! I am now sold on Uber and hope that I can continue to use it in India.
The Uber cabbie turned up soon enough and, within ten minutes, I was in a cab and on my way to Maida Vale where I reached about 25 minutes later. Then began the difficult haul of my case up Raquel’s stairs–she has no elevator–to the third floor where I stashed it for the night. I spent most of the rest of the evening organizing and repacking the last of my bits and pieces that were in the room I had occupied and then I was ready to say goodbye to everyone and get to bed on my last night in T’Smoke.
Early tomorrow morning at 6.00 am, I have a cabbie coming to pick me up to take me to Heathrow airport for my 10.00 am flight to Bombay.
I will not be blogging again until I return to the UK on January 20, 2017. Thanks a million for following me and for being such faithful readers of my blog. It has been a wild ride–a crazy five months. Oftentimes I awoke actually wondering where I was. But, in the end, although I missed my family members far more than I have ever done while away from home and although I am convinced that I will not take any more professional gigs that keep Llew and me apart, I am grateful for every one of the opportunities that came my way, every single experience I had and every person I met. I wish you all a Very Happy Holiday Season, a Christmas that’s Merry and Bright and a Healthy and Fulfilling New Year.
Until 2017 comes around, cheerio…