Continuing from the last post, I discuss Cambridge in more detail and discuss my visit to Southall, a mini-India in the UK.
While walking in and around Cambridge, I could be wearing different outfits on different days but there were some constants – my Cambridge tote bag with different pictures of Cambridge splashed on it, my camera pouch, and my cap. The tote bag held a bottle of water, a book that I would be reading, and some energy bars. The camera pouch, apart from holding my camera and the selfie stick, carried some local currency and a debit card.
As I walked in and around Cambridge, there are lots of places where one can sit down and enjoy the beauty. This picture is taken at King’s College in Cambridge.
This time around, I was not carrying my Canon DSLR camera.
My pocket-sized genie
Instead, I had a fancy piece of equipment with me – the AI-powered Insta360 X3 camera. I had also wanted a particular type of tripod for the camera – not available in India. Sid had ordered it and it had already arrived at his home.
The Insta360 X3 camera has transformed photography in many substantive ways. For instance, the earlier paradigm of ‘point and shoot’ – meaning, you point the camera to shoot a video for instance – has shifted to ‘shoot and point’, meaning, whatever the camera records, I can decide later what should appear in the final footage. The camera with sensitive and powerful lenses on both sides can record images with a 360-degree view while the power of AI is that it miraculously stitches the footage/images captured by both these lenses into one seamless footage/image. I can operate the camera via my mobile phone and use the Insta360 mobile App to do post-production work including using the App’s creative templates to produce high-quality pictures and videos.
To top it, the AI feature makes the selfie stick – or the tripod – magically disappear in the final footage/image.
In some of my Insta360 videos that I have shared earlier on social media, I had my selfie stick with the camera stuck in my backpack as the camera kept recording the proceedings with a 360-degree view. Fascinating results!
‘Never retire from Life’ – my Quote #271
As a travel storyteller, with my Insta 360 camera, I have plans to do photo essays at home…and abroad. And my specialism would be driven by the following Quote of mine:
My Quote #52 says, ‘In Life, look for the extraordinary in the ordinary. There will be a lot to look forward to every day.’
In this journey of uncovering the extraordinary, I plan to combine my interests of traveling, photography, storytelling, and writing and present my perspective to the world via the social media.
Ah! What’s Life without ambition!
On one of the mornings, I headed to the neighboring Brook Leys – Sid had already taken me here once before. Brook Leys is a parkland consisting of open green spaces, and rustic pathways around a man-made lake.
As I sat down on a wooden bench, I was struck by the breathtaking view. The place was awash with wildflowers, whether it is on the open grasslands, on the climb approaching the motorway, along the edges of the lake, or even in the ditches. There was no one around. A mild sun was shining down on me. A cool, refreshing breeze was blowing. Ducks and geese went about their business in the lake. Beyond a point, I was so comfortable that I began feeling sleepy.
Both Sid & Prerana had planned the itinerary very well. My wife, Jyothi, had still not arrived in the UK and as Jyothi had already visited Cambridge in 2022, till the time she arrived, I was being taken to places that either she had already visited or those that she was not very keen to visit – a visit to Southall fell in the latter category.
It is said that a tourist wants to escape life while a traveler wants to experience life.
When Sid asked me if I wanted to visit any particular area in London, I expressed my wish to visit Covent Garden & Southall. I had visited both these places in the past too when I had come on work and personal trips but that was years ago. The reasons for visiting these two areas were different.
I loved the buzz of Covent Garden. We had met as an extended family in one of the restaurants there years ago. I just wanted to reconnect with that buzz.
The Southall visit was for a different reason.
Whichever foreign land I have visited, I have a habit of visiting areas inhabited predominantly by the Indian community. I love to watch how an entire ecosystem from India has been transplanted and nurtured through the decades.
For a traveler, the assimilation of different cultures is an interesting topic. I enjoy exploring this topic even back home in India. For instance, once I met a Sikh shopkeeper in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, and was surprised to learn that he spoke neither Hindi nor Punjabi. He was the third generation Sikh in his family in Coimbatore. Likewise, I have met Jews settled down in Kerala in similar circumstances or that middle-aged Chinese couple who had made Coonoor their home. I love having conversations with such people.
In Sydney, I visited Harris Park to watch how the Indian community immersed themselves in Australia. In the US, apart from other places, I had experienced Edison from close quarters. In Bangkok, I toured Silom and Sukhumvit. In Singapore, of course, I had been to the Little India area. In other parts of Europe too, such as Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, we visited Indian restaurants for that feel.
Way Out but No Way Out
I had to visit Southall – there was no way out.
Of all the places, I find Southall eminently fascinating. I was visiting Southall after several years. I may have missed some of the shops last time, but this time around, I saw how the pavement had been creatively encroached upon by small kiosks while some shops were now using the pavement as an extended display area. I could have been very much in the Sarojini Nagar Market or Lajpat Nagar areas of New Delhi or the Jayanagar 4th or 9th Block markets of Bangalore.
Filling a void in a foreign land
I have seen many people complaining about the upkeep of such places but as a traveler, I have a different take. These places fill the void for so many families who moved in generations ago. While many of the businesses operating in these areas have assimilated the culture of the country of their choice, they still retain that Indian soul. Whether is the language spoken there, the outfits people wear in these parts, the places of worship established there, or the ‘jugaad’ approach (charitably termed as Indian creativity) that seems to thrive in these pockets, the soul of India is very much alive here.
I find these places more accommodating especially for people who have chosen to move into this country recently. It could be in the form of a warm embrace, a shoulder to lean on, or offering a better value for money spent – things are more reasonably priced here with many more options to suit every pocket and circumstance.
Food for the soul!
We headed to Kulcha Express in Southall on Sid’s recommendation. And what a recommendation it was!
We had the incredibly-tasty Gobi Kulcha platter with Chole, Raita, and Pickle with Onion and a cube of butter. Sid had Paneer Kulcha – the accompaniments were similar. I have never tasted such a soft and fresh Kulcha in a long time.
As we staggered out of Kulcha Express, I was silently thanking the chef there.
He had not served us just food. He had served us India…on a platter.
It may have mattered less for me but for the folks here who are separated by thousands of miles, he would have also fed their souls.
My Quote # 249
On the way back from Southall, I spotted this board in one of the train stations:
And I recollected my own Quote #249 that says, ‘The day we give up the desire to be someone else, we will begin appreciating ourselves as we are.’ This Quote reflects one of my own life philosophies.
Cambridge’s contribution to the world is immense. If you zoom into the below picture, you can spot a statement on this plaque located in West Cambridge that says,
‘The people that come here change Cambridge. The ideas that leave here change the world.’
Coming up next: my visit to Bath and Stonehenge and my wife, Jyothi, touches down in Cambridge.