Shift_London

Dear passenger,

Our journey continues.

At the start of the new year, I left Washington DC for London, heart of the erstwhile British Empire. After three and a half years in the global political/economic/military capital, it seemed time for a change of scenery. When I first moved to DC, people often used to say ‘No one ever lives in DC for very long.’ I used to laugh it off, not liking the idea of an an expiry-date on my presence in the city but time did prove them right. DC did become home though, and as one passed through challenges of various hues, one’s familiarity with it grew. Farewell DC, and thank you.

To the Kingdom, then. Lets get one thing out of the way first though. The weather is “@¬£$%^$, just like they said it would be. I am here to learn more about the European, and particularly British perspective on economic development. ¬†With the world moving from a uni-polar to a hetero-polar power structure, it is an important time for Britain to calibrate its position in the world. As things kick off here, one senses a certain familiarity with the society and country. There are of course, ample monuments which refer to a colonial past which Pakistan shares in, cars are driven on the left hand side, and my spellings are beginning to return to their old consistency (thankfully!). Then, there are the many aspects of British culture which one is yet to understand.

London is a global city steeped in history, and the events which took place here shaped the future of the sub-continent in particular, in addition to other regions of the world. Perhaps one most exciting aspect of being here is the ability to explore places where those events took place, and retrace some of the steps of the personalities who passed through the halls, inns, and courts of London. Jinnah, Iqbal, Naoroji, Bose, Nehru and Gandhi all passed through. More recently, so have Imran Khan, Benazir Bhutto, and Tariq Ali.

There is much to explore then, stick around for the drive.

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23 hours in Post-Olympics London

730 AM. Airborne all-nighter working on presentation. Plane rolls into Heathrow with Bon Jovi playing in the background. Bon Jovi? Quick walk to immigration. Hello sir. Why do you have two passports? Here we go again? Not one but two green passports. Double the magic! Ah, I see. Thank you sir. Heathrow Express to Central London. Continue work on presentation. Paddington. Black cab to Gee St. Finishing touches on presentation. Cab weaves through the morning city traffic. Glorious sunny day. 930 AM – 7 PM: Presentation/planning session. 3 cups of tea= vitality. More tea and cake at a street cafe with a colleague after. Spot the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson randomly cycling outside. Check-in at hotel. Cab to Arsenal Stadium to see O&M. Greetings! Opening session. Turkish dinner at Iznik. Catching up over meze. Gossip/gupshup runs late into the night. Return to hotel. Emails, a little music. Logistics. To Heathrow once more.

Airport completely deserted. Stopped by a middle-aged aunty dressed in shalwar kameez wile trying to decipher flight timings. She addresses me in German. Disorienting. Recognizing the lack of recognition on my face, she says “no English.” I’m sorry Aunty, I don’t speak German. Urdu/Hindi? Yes! Baitay mein ne Frankfurt jana hay, aap please mujhay guide kar dain. Zaroor Aunty. Where are you from (aap kahan se hain?) I ask. Afghanistan, Kabul. Aunty speaks Farsi and some Urdu. Aur aap? Pakistan, jee. Exchange of wishes for the betterment of our two countries when I guided her to her destination later. Ba-aman-e khuda baitay. Thought: May need those prayers where I’m going. 645 AM, on to Abuja – showtime.