The Desi Diaspora

Just a quick note this week to say that I’m in London.

I have a message for the city from one of my fellow travelers on Jet Airways Flight 122 from New Delhi:  “London is the third world.”

This sentiment comes from an Indian gentleman who stood with me for over two hours in immigration when we arrived at Heathrow.   There were only four immigration officers working last night in the “other passport holders” queue. Most everyone in line was dark-skinned.  Several flights from Africa, as well as ours from India, arrived at the same time.

It was a miserable scene:  Kids crying, exhausted passengers pushed to their travel limits.  Shame on you, London for not having more immigration officers on duty.  You could have moved a few over from the “British Passport Holders” side.  You had four officers over there as well and no one waiting in line.



On my run in Hyde Park this morning I stopped at the Albert Memorial and found this lovely carving titled “Asia”.   My guess is that it’s a tribute to the Victorian colonial presence in the region.  (?)

I’ve been in London less than 24 hours and I’ve chatted-up two Indian women and a man from Pakistan:

Kavita, a make-up assistant in Harrods, tried to help me find my favorite mascara.  (Blinc….  fabulous stuff, ladies!  Sadly, Harrods doesn’t carry it. )

Kavita’s family is from Gujarat, the Indian state famously known as Mahatma Gandhi’s home.  However, Kavita grew up in Africa – I can’t remember which country… South Africa?  Nigeria?  Kenya?  Many Indians left after partition in 1947 – fleeing to British colonies.

Navinda, a lovely lady from north India, works in a beautiful boutique in South Kensington.  I stopped-in to ask about a black-and-white dress hanging in the window.   Sigh… it costs 300-pounds.  (Why am I always attracted to the untouchable?)

Navinda is getting married in February in Lucknow, her home town.  I invited her to stay with me in Delhi – in turn, she invited me to her wedding.  This is the way things happen in my life… I’m betting that I will be at that wedding.  But NOT in the dress, sadly.

Zafar, a muslim from Punjab, sold me a USB cable to download photos.  I had forgotten to bring mine to London so I popped down the street to a local camera shop.   Zafar has been in London for nearly 40 years but he returns often to his home in Lahore – a city that ended up in Pakistan after partition.

One day in London, three familiar faces, and decades of the Desi diaspora…

2 thoughts on “The Desi Diaspora”

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