Sunday, December 14, 2008

Of English landladies and the long, creative tradition of the Bengalis

Finally. We have found a flat to move to. As most of you know, finding a flat is sort of a hobby with us - its our way of exploring eateries and neighborhoods in London and must say that in that respect, the flat hunt has worked out quite well. However, a couple of weeks ago, moi decided that enough is enough and that I am totally sick of sleeping in what is essentially a storage room. Bill nodded in agreement and promptly started looking at places in Cambridge. Since I am gentle and compassionate, I relaxed my constraints - I was willing to go look at any reasonably priced flat within:

1. Our current location, i.e. 3-8 minutes from Regents Park (not too close to Primrose Hill though - way too many bankers even in these times)
2. 3-8 minutes from the Heath
3. 3-5 minutes from Anthony Lane's house (the Cambridge constraint)

Needless to say, Bill totally failed to find out where Lane lives so that was out. We looked at a couple of places near where we live but didn't meet our space and budget requirements. So last Saturday we did a marathon flat viewing near the Heath and came up with a shortlist. We fought a bit over our first choice - closer to Heath vs. closer to Tube - and me being gentle and compassionate (in case you forgot), gave in and said okay to the place closer to the tube. Now for the fun part.

As part of negotiations, the landlady wanted us to go meet her. The agent called up and fixed a time when we were supposed to go meet her. Bill couldn't go because he wouldn't be back from Cambridge on time. So I went all by myself, on a cold, dark winter evening to make an impression on this landlady.

"Hello. You must be Veena"

"Yes I am. You must be Mrs. R"

"Yes, so nice to see you. Is your partner coming?"

"I am afraid not. He couldn't make it back from Cambridge on time"

"Oh yes. Mark (the agent) mentioned that he works in Cambridge. Does he commute everyday then?"

"Well, it is quite flexible so 3-4 days a week. Not too bad"

"I used to work in Cambridge and it was quite bad. I don't envy his commute"

"Yeah well"

"Come sit down now. I am sorry I cannot offer you anything - we could always go over to my place"

"That's alright. Do you live around here too?"

"Yes, just across the road. But I am married to a Frechman so I spend a lot of time oversees"

"I see"

"Your partner is a researcher I hear"

"Yes, Bill is doing his post-doc"

"A Phd! What is his area of research?"

"Computer Science"

"What does he do in Computer Science"

"He specialises in theoritical CS. In this area commonly known as eurotheory" (Cat: Thank you. I have never managed to explain (without stammering) what Bill does before this)

"Interesting. And what do you do?"

"I am a management consultant"

"What does that really mean?"


"I work with different clients in the City mostly helping them with a bunch of stuff really. What do you do?" (Obviously, now I can explain what Bill does better than what I do)

"I am an artist - I paint a bit and play music"

"Oh, interesting" (Say something intelligent. Oh, why the fuck didn't I read 42 today?)

"I just edited a book on Cecil Collins which is launching this week"


"You surely know who he is?"

"I am afraid not"

"Have you been to Tate Britain?"

"Of course"

"There is a Cecil Collins exhibit right next to the Bacon section. You should go see it"

"I surely will"

"Tell me which part of India you are from"

"I am from down South. Have you been to India?"

"Yes, I spent a year there when I was young"

"A year? That's great. Were you travelling?"

"Yes, I did four years of travelling. In Turkey I came across a bit of music that I wanted to find more about. It was Indian, and so I went to India to find out about it"

"Thats interesting. Did you study music when you were in India then?"

"Yes, I remember a few jamming sessions with Ali Akbar Khan"

"Oh wow"

"Where did you say you were from?"

"I am from Kerala which is all the way South"

"And your partner?"

"He is from well, Bombay, well, Bengal actually but he grew up in Bombay"

"He is Bengali then?"

"I am afraid so"

"I have a lot of Bengali friends"


"I work with a lot of Indian artists. I used to know Jatin Das when he was very young"

"Oh ok"

"Of course you know that Bengalis have a long tradition of creativity"

What the hell?

"And laziness"

"It is such a rich tradition - so many artists and intellectuals"

"All very pretentious"

"Its all part of it, isn't it?"

"Is it?"

"Some of it cannot be avoided"

"I guess"

"So does your partner play any instrument?"

"Well, he is trying to learn the violin. Not much success though"

"Which style?"

"He was considering the Suzuki style but he is quite convinved that he doesn't have the ear for it. So its the traditional style"

"I am sure he is musically inclined. He has such a big musical tradition behind him"

Bill. Musically inclined. Am I going to pay the rent or Bill? Maybe that's the question you should be asking. I need to get out of here. Now.

"Yeah well. Can I look around once more before I make my decision?"

"Absolutely. Bring your partner along too if you want to take another look. I look forward to meeting him"

"Of course"


Cheshire Cat said...

Such a lovely fluent spell of sterotyping, that. Slip up on a simple thing like Cecil Collins (who he?), and within minutes you're one of those oily consultant-types whom sensitive intellectuals pride themselves on condescending to...

What this means is you've got to get the flat. We need to hear more.

Veena said...

Cat: We have the flat. Or rather, I have it. They are still checking Bill's references. More stories once we move in.

And hey, its holidays and all no? Any plans to come down from your perch up north? We are slightly warmer here if nothing else.

Cheshire Cat said...

Perch has already moved south - sunny Chennai it is for a month's recovery from hibernation. But I should be down in London for a talk in March, and then definitely for Wimbledon.

You guys are due up north too, after the no-show for the fest. Though you might prefer a time when the sun stays up past five...

Space Bar said...

Oy! Cat, if you're in Chennai, we must meet this time, yes? Stay well, keep keep the paracetemol handy and all that.