I have always talked about how I have found my Paris in London. The statement might not make sense to most but over the years I have learnt to ignore this set of ‘most’ and pay more heed to the people who make ‘my kind of sense’. I have always expressed through words written better. From the time I was told stories of myself trying to grab a pen with a tight grasp within my little fist, I remember being told how I liked to write words down rather than scream them out loud. I have sworn by imagination and floated in mushrooming passion inside my head. Through books and letters and notes and pictures, I have captured moments of London even before I set my foot inside Hyde Park. My first picture of why Hyde Park would look like it eventually did to me, was formed by a very important person in my life. I have constructed roads and paved pathways through alleys of London with him until I landed into the city I had always thought I knew.
You wouldn’t believe if I told you, would you? it felt like I had known the city before I opened the map. The routes, the subways, the Piccadilly line, the Baker Street crossing, the swift and smooth turns, they were all right in front of me even before I had locked the main door of 36 Hyde Park Corner apartment. I carried myself, a bit of my future and most of my imagination as I walked passed every gate and every street that morning and the next. My Hyde Park was right in front of my eyes every morning for 4 days and I could not have asked for anything better.
If you asked me my favourite place in London, I would hardly be able to mention one. It could be Russell square, the National gallery, the Waffles shop outside the museum, the alleys with lined stores of fish and chips, the ice cream parlour near Baker Street or Leicester square.
I think, now that I remember, I would want to stick with Leicester square. Somehow it meant the world to me to go into those alleys, past some smiling faces and capped men. The alleys were narrow and clean, leading me to a place so similar to Diagon Alley that I wanted to cry. A row of shops lined up, almost every shop had glowing glass windows, some had grilled gates to keep out dogs. A silence engulfed the alleys and it was as if a spell had been cast. These bookstores had underground storage spaces and of course I climbed down into them. These spaces had smells I could die in, happily. They were crowded with books and notepads, colours spilling over each other’s pages, hard-bound covers looking rock solid in a light-bright atmosphere.
As I was walking out of the alley, into the square where men and women sat on the floor drawing graphitti with more colour shades than I had ever seen, I wandered off to the pigeons who rested calmly on the streets and I hardly could stop looking. There were men playing the acoustic guitar and humming tunes they loved, there were babies running from one end to another, a merry fair as if being held within a muted music video.
I remember the pubs and the restaurants, the cafes and the umbrellas on them as clearly till now as I remember the last sentence of the Miniaturist I was reading last night. The memories and the words from strangers, the printed taxis and the fancy hats, London remains somewhere I would still want to reside. Fills the gap for me between myself and my generation. Takes me back to a classical tale and brings me back to vivid modernity all at once, at the same time.
Letters to London and letters about London, fill my diary pages. They always shall, my idea of romance, desire, passion, ambition and images, shall always start with London and end with it. Till I am able to go back to London and open the front door of my house beside Albert Hall, I will rest romanticizing about London and spare the narrowing eyes of my readers., who I am sure are disgusted with the overtly sensitive and elaborate descriptions of London that I put forth time and again!