Friday, 17 July 2015

Human Watch- Hats and Hijabs

I happened to spend nearly two hours outside London Dungeons waiting for my kids, just next to the London Eye, which is situated on the banks of Thames; overlooking the Big Ben and Houses of Parliament in Westminister.

Watching crowds of tourists from literally all around the world was a refreshing and enjoyable experience.

There were the big footed Americans with their twangy accents, the quiet little Chinese and Japanese, the tall, pale Russians and Eastern Europeans, the loud, dark eyed Spanish and Italians, stately Arabs and of course lots of Indians, amongst the other South East Asians. There were shorts, mini skirts, figure sculpting leggings, flowing abayas, saris, hats and hijabs!

There was an elderly Indian mother dressed in her best for the London experience in what looked like gold brocade Kanjeevaram sari; being helped along, in her waddling gait, (probably from osteo arthiritis in her knees), by a young man (son, possibly). There was an Oriental looking couple too, the lady in bridal finery and man in a three piece suit with flashes of red satin in his outfit. They looked like they were either coming from their wedding or were models for a photo shoot. The lady had gathered up the trail of her delicate fabric and lace gown and was carrying it nonchalantly in her right arm while she joined the crowd in her now clearly visible stilettos.

Most people were in T shirts, which were fun to read too- "Yes, I am a Unicorn", "Keep calm and take a selfie" "Love is....I wouldn't know, I am still falling", Another big woman had a large cat in patchwork stitched on the front of her top which just said HAPPINESS. There were quite a few brands like Jack Wills claiming to be "Fabulously British", though the company has come under a lot of scrutiny over what was fabulously British about their manufacturing units abroad.

There were lots of young people holding up selfie sticks, which seemed a bit dangerous in the crowd, jostling along neck to neck. Since I was near the landmarks I witnessed a lot of people taking selfies. One self conscious huge man was struggling to fit himself in with Big Ben but walked away before I could muster up courage to offer to take his photograph.

There was a group of middle aged American couples who were taking turns to take photographs of each other with Big Ben. On one of these photo shoots, one of the ladies watching, spotted that even though in the photograph the man looked like he had an innocent arm around his partner, in actual fact he was pinching her bottom, while she smiled to the camera. They laughed and joked boisterously as they moved on. Clearly, the photos were not going to tell the whole story even though they would have caught the spirit and they would be reminded of the memory every time they looked at the photos.

Food was in short supply as we soon discovered after queuing up for road side noodles, only to be told it was all gone. McDonald's looked like they were giving away burgers for free. McDonald's has been doing more to connect with the world than all the American embassies put together, I think. All parents of kids who are fussy eaters will agree with me. Writing off Greek debt or the Iran nuclear deal would not get consensus from world over but if we rounded up kids from all parts of the world and asked for consensus on what lunch should be, offering McDonald's would clinch the deal!

Talking of kids, we saw lots and lots of them. Little people in school uniforms usually with fluorescent little aprons, holding hands, again very diverse groups with all regions of the world represented looking at their souvenirs from the London Aquarium, while being pulled along in a queue. The little ones were from London itself but there were older school children too, usually speaking in European languages, moving together in groups and queuing up for attractions.

The excitement was palpable in all except the people in suits! They were just going to work or having client meetings and looking miserable while trying to look smart.

I was held up by the energy being generated from a very heterogenous, dynamic, moving, changing crowd of happy faces visiting London.....

My achievement that afternoon, which kept me buoyed up and smiling; was getting a baby to look at the camera, when I clicked a photo of a couple with a little son.
Long Live London!


Debbie Dasan said...

you are a natural story teller- you can weave a delicate yarn from the most inane of raw material- love to read everything you put..

anurag shukla said...

Fantastic vignette, quite literally a pen picture, each sentence a loving brush stroke in itself. Sitting here I could envision what you saw and that was nit just the picture alone. Crowds fascinate me too as a voyeur. You can sit quietly safe behind anonymity and watch so many human stories unfold.

Nina Shah said...

"Kanjeevaram sari" lady in her waddling gait........ & i immediately connected with my mom's recent visit in California! Aapki Bak-Bak mei kitna apnapan hai!