We started our journey at London’s iconic Kings cross station. The station was buzzing with people, tourists and Londoners alike, craning their necks to see the destination board , trying to take tubes, waiting at coffee shops, tourists queuing at platform 9 o three quarters , made so famous by Harry Potter books . I have done all of the above on various occasions, that day I just stood and observed.
This was a train journey, whereby I engaged in conversation with total strangers. In India while travelling,you always get pulled in to conversation with fellow passengers/strangers, at the end of journey you know their horoscopes and they know yours. I used to find reasons to avoid such conversation. London and India are tangentially opposite on this regard. I have travelled by trains both in Mumbai and in London as a daily commute to work and for leisure too, the experience is polar opposite. In Mumbai I travelled everyday to work with a friend, on daily local sub urban train, where strangers knew where I used to work, which station I got in and got off. On one occasion , where my friend was off sick, while travelling back home, I was approached by another traveller who wanted to know why my friend had not accompanied me’ you always travel with her, I have spoken to her, you get down on this stop .. And she gets down at .., you both work … , ” I was left perplexed, I had never noticed this woman before that day, and had never spoken a word to her. I mumbled something to her, and quickly got down at my stop and disappeared in to the crowd. Please believe me she was not a stalker, neither was she a friend, this is how Mumbai train travel works. In London on the other hand often on tube people avoid eye contact with strangers, two known people could be travelling together, without uttering any word to each other, staring at nothingness, burying their noses into books, newspapers, with a glow on their face from their smart phones /tablets. I am one of them, I will be the one with my phone or a book. When I moved to London I was happy I would not have to engage in small talks with strangers in train, I found it quixotic, yet refreshing and achievable. I was so relieved to be away from incessant chatter, away from constant, compulsory idle chat. Yet on this journey I found myself trying to engage in small talks and idle chats, and I found this time idle chats refreshing!!!!
I met two travellers of Bosnian origin now living in America, who were on their way to Edingurgh too, who happened to book a round trip ticket and the train was overbooked and people were travelling with tickets but no seats available. They were curious if this is how the tickets worked in UK. A couple who were returning to York from London, after a little holiday with their daughter. A little girl travelling to Edinburgh on holiday with her Grandmother and mother. She was extremely chatty,playing I spy with my little eye , ..full of observations and opinions. When I mentioned she reminded me of my niece who is a chatterbox just like her, she declared she was not a chatterbox, but liked to converse and give her opinions. Her nan and mum agreed in secret with me that she was a little Miss Chatterbox.
We reached Edinburgh around Lunch time. Edinburgh is a beautiful city with splendid historical architecture. The city is divided in to the old city and modern city, a beautiful fusion of modern and historical architecture. The view from Waverley Station, is very impressive and resplendent.
Since it was lunch time we decided to look for some place to eat. Upon quickly swiping through the smart technologies in our hand, we decided on a small tea house called 10to10Delhi. It’s an Indian style tea house. It is a small quirky looking place, has a laid back atmosphere, with no frills ambience. A perfect spot to sit with friends and enjoy good Indian khana,chai and gappein translated from Hindi means food,Tea and conversation. If you are looking for an authentic Indian food joint with a different experience, I would highly recommend this place. It is similar to the Kaati Roll Company in London. You have good veg and non veg options. I had Aloo Saag Wrap. The wraps are made of wheat and are homemade style rotis and not Naans or Tortilla Wraps. I had a little chat with the man running the place who I found out that is originally from a town near Chandigarh, in India. I thanked him for the home style rotis, who seemed to disagree saying “Is me ghar jaisi baat nahi hai..” .It translates as’ it does not feel like home’, making me wonder whether he meant the roti or the city. I reckon he is missing home.
Later in the evening we went out for a walk around the city of Edinburgh. Since we had visited tourist spots like Holyrood Palace, Arthur’s seat etc, in earlier visits, we thought we will give it a skip this time. We walked around the Edinburgh old town and went in for a bite at The Elephant House, a coffee house. The cafe has a large collection of elephants, not real animals of course. The cafe is famous because of J K Rowling having sat there at one of the tables and having written the earlier novels of the Harry Potter series. And is a literary hub, with Ian Rankin and Alexander McCallsmith often visiting the coffee house.
The cafe has a sign stating to be birth place of Harry Potter !!!. In my view birth place of Harry Potter is the writers brain, but being a Potter-maniac, I wanted to have a coffee there. The cafe reminded me of old Indian coffee or tea houses in Bombay or Puna, with its high ceiling, the lamps shades, buzzing with activity,constant flow of people, mindless chatter and voices around the room. You can happily vanish or disappear amidst the crowd and become inconspicuous in a corner.
The most fascinating and interesting thing about the coffee house for me, was a little notice board at the entrance of coffee house. ” We do not have WiFi. Talk to each other and pretend it’s 1995.”