A view of London

      If you are a foreigner in London and have visited the city a few times, you are by now familiar with the quirks and idiosyncrasies of the British kind.

     Landing at the Heathrow, the British passion for queueing is visible all around at the immigration counters. Over to the streets of London and day to day life and the British, queue for everything from supermarkets to cinemas, bus-stops, train stations, aircrafts, plays, football tickets, post offices, groceries,  hospitals and malls. Ten people in the queue is “long”. Obviously they haven’t been to India or Tirupathi to understand what a queue or a serpentine queue is all about.

     Jostling, pushing, shoving and elbowing , to get ahead in a queue as we do in India is considered a misdemeanour and the British show their pique by just glaring at you and conveying a message that you are an ill-mannered upstart.

     Staring, ogling, gazing, gawking and gaping, are national pastimes in India, observed across all age groups and all echelons of society. One stares at foreigners, women, bejewelled, bedecked aunties, or anyone who is eminently stare worthy. The subject of the gaze either ignores, looks away or simply stares back, because, we in India, grow up getting used to being stared at by all and sundry.

     In London, on the contrary, if you are on the train, tube or bus, one never makes eye contact with fellow passengers, leave alone stare! One is required to look at the back of newspapers held by the commuter in front of you, at the ceiling, floor, destination board, route map on the sides, or if nothing else, simply out of the window! On an escalator in the tube station, one always stands on the right to let other commuters race up or down as the case maybe.

     You can safely look at the dogs or pets that accompany the masters or mistresses on the train and even smile at them. They may make eye contact with you, but do not bark or wag their tails like their energetic Indian counterparts because they are far too well bred to attempt indiscretions of any kind.

     One learns soon enough that a roundabout is actually a traffic circle, a jumper is a sweater, a jacket is a coat or an overcoat, a motorway is a highway, aubergine is brinjal and crisps are chips.

     Discussing and predicting the weather patterns is a widespread obsession in England. In India we escape to the hill stations in search of cooler climes, but in a wet and rainy country, a few hours of sunshine in a day is celebrated with a nationwide outpouring of pure delight.

     The British are charming people nevertheless and if one lives here long enough, one may even begin to enjoy and appreciate the grey skies, rain and the cold weather. 



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