Who the Laydeh

1 May

Let me tell you a little about my childhood. I grew up in a non-cosmopolitan building (where I still live), with neighbors who were either cuckoo or musical geniuses. Dogs were called Waffles and Rufus. Grandmas wore dresses and earlobe-length hair and said things like “Hi dearie!” and “Good day-good luck” to you as you drove off to school. Ma sang me English songs from the ‘60s as lullabies and Mozart serenaded us at lunch on Sundays at my Daddy’s insistence. His inner coterie included Beethoven, Brahms and Liszt, and Strauss was my favorite uncle from toddlerhood.

I knew what scones were at 6 but found out what dalia is at 28. Hindi movies were banned at home. I saw my first at 11 and it did nothing for me. At 31, they still don’t. Since my early years were spent under the omnipotence of good old Doordarshan, apart from some “acceptable” telly serials, my idiot box entertainment flew in from London, courtesy Dad’s best friend. So ask me about Kermit and Miss Piggy, Benny Hill, the Two Ronnies and the Royal Variety Entertainment Performance and I’ll chirp away excitedly. Tell me about S.D. Burman and I’ll nod. But mostly only because you’ll judge me for not having a clue.

Until 10, the world was Enid Blyton. Every book re-read in double digits. Queen Elizabeth was “aapri Rani” to my grandparents’ generation. We still have a “Rani ni cupboard” that’s nine feet tall and dates back to the early ‘20s with ye olde grand dame’s face engraved on it. And a dumb waiter that’s about as old. Adi Kaka, the granduncle who lived with us, demolished all finger foods with a knife and fork and my brother carries on that legacy. Nana rang for her tea at 3 p.m. sharp and the tea cozies she used were hand embroidered by Aloo Mami with the classic “Mudum” with a parasol in an English garden. My clothes and shoes were frequently sent over from Kent and I remember the musical Mickey Mouse tee and the red plaid dress that could only be worn at the peak of Bombay winters and the ballerina flats with detachable bows.

I went to a school named after an English Queen and am still the member of a club named after a Princess. My literature teacher in senior school worshipped Shakespeare. So Marc Antony’s speech was to be blazed through in our sleep. And Venice and Verona were the backyard, never mind Virar and Vasai closer home. So. Bloody. Angrez.

I know.

If I haven’t alienated you already with what sounds like a bizarre life to lead in 1980s India, then hear out why I’m telling you this.

I’m going.

To Blighty.


After 31 years of hearing paeans to London and having it brought to me, I will finally be setting foot on the land that has so shaped my community, my family and, of course, my country. As Indian as I feel—and I very strongly do—my upbringing has had me at the receiving end of remarks such as “Angrez chale gaye, tumhe chhod gaye.”

So I’m off. To see where so much of it filtered down from, the monuments and towers hitherto seen in snow globes and family pictures, to hear Sir Colin Davis conduct the London Symphony Orchestra in its home city, to be fussed over by my surrogate parents, to watch The Lion King at the West End, to dance to Celtic music in Eire, where my Aunt comes from, to meet college pals and university pals, twitter friends and blogger friends, wear scarves and jackets and all kinds of pretty, step back, let loose and unwind, however I please. For One. Whole. Delicious. Month.

I’ll be the first to tell you that I’ve had a fairly privileged life, but this vacation, my friends, has never been more richly deserved. Or needed. To say I’m thrilled is an understatement. I only hope I don’t squish a stewardess to death in excitement as I embark at Heathrow. Three days and I’ll be gone. And hope to bring the rain back with me. Big hugs to all of you. And throw in some respect when you send them back, y’hear? You’re now in the presence of a mem.

34 Responses to “Who the Laydeh”

  1. M..... May 1, 2010 at 2:02 am #

    Do try to make them guards outside Buckingham palace wiggle a bit.
    Have fun Mi lady!
    *do not come back with a stiff upper lip, mind you*

  2. The Rambler and the Cook May 1, 2010 at 2:57 am #

    Khikhi……have an amazing vacation though be forewarned that the britees land is no longer as britees as our parents. My childhood too had a large dose of colonial hangover. Among many things I still can’t do the conventional Indian way is drink tea boiled on a saucepan with milk and sugar!

  3. dipali May 1, 2010 at 7:42 am #

    Have a ball, OJ!
    When I visited London in 2007, a lot of it reminded me of Mumbai:)
    Keep us posted from Blighty.
    Hugs and more hugs.
    God bless.

  4. Rohini May 1, 2010 at 8:14 am #

    Lovely post.

    Lion King is mindblowing!

    Have a blast on your holiday

  5. Orange Jammies May 1, 2010 at 9:20 am #

    M….: I’m going to blow them kisses and shout out in Espanol. And throw in Parsi Gujarati.

    The Rambler and the Cook: Oh I’m totally prepared to experience nothing like I’ve heard.

    dipali: Will try to get online, D, but not sure if I’ll be regular. Hugs.

    Rohini: Thanks, Ro! So my parents tell me.

  6. Eveslungs May 1, 2010 at 10:13 am #

    Hey enjoy yourself !

  7. aneela z May 1, 2010 at 11:16 am #

    dont be like the mom in law in crow eaters ok if they dont behave all angrez like!!!
    have a blast and dont kiss Prince Charles.

  8. Guy May 1, 2010 at 12:10 pm #

    *sigh* Isn’t she beautiful…

  9. Anjali May 1, 2010 at 5:45 pm #

    Lovely post!I can so feel your excitement. Good season it must be there. Enjoy and click pics. Hugs!

  10. Parul May 1, 2010 at 6:13 pm #

    One of my favourite cities in the world. Have fun, mem sa’ab!

  11. DewdropDream May 1, 2010 at 10:50 pm #

    Would you have the time/inclination to meet a blogger such as yours truly, memsaab? 🙂

    I hope you enjoy the place, it’s one of those things which you’ll hear about to no end but will still be very different to everything that’s been said. And, it’ll becomes yours in a way it cannot for anyone else.

    Have a wonderful vacation, OJ!

  12. Barath May 1, 2010 at 10:54 pm #

    As someone who has maintained a healthy dislike for anything British all his life, all I can say is “tut, tut”.

    And don’t tell your family the British left a while ago – they might not take it well 🙂

  13. Orange Jammies May 1, 2010 at 11:36 pm #

    Eveslungs: Thanks, I totalutely intend to!

    aneela z: Mrs. Junglewala? 🙂 And holidays are for kissing handsome strangers…not aged never-to-be monarchs.

    Guy: Err, you have a thing for the Rani too? 😕

    Anjali: Will do, thanks! Temps are between 8 and 18 degrees. Perfectomundo.

    Parul: 🙂 I hope to hear news very soon!

    DewdropDream: I would love that! Write me at orangejammies@gmail with your number, will call.

    Barath: And I suppose writing from a former colony doesn’t count? 😉

  14. aneela z May 1, 2010 at 11:53 pm #

    re: not kissing aged never to be monarchs: Padmini Kolhapuri Ko Nahee Batana!!
    Now this is some Bolly trivia to antagonize you!! circa 1980 probably the year you were born.

    Mrs Junglewallah’s mom (Jerbanoo) …remember how she fights the traffic and is scandalized that their hostess is not the Lady of the Manor anymore and scrubs her own toilets…haw hai then why should a person be born a gora? (my words)

  15. Aunty G May 2, 2010 at 1:01 am #

    Tally ho, OJ
    Lovely post, i must say
    Have a ball
    Then us enthral
    With what you did in the month of May!

  16. Jil Jil Ramamani May 2, 2010 at 9:59 am #

    Haha…you remind me of this friend of mine, she’s quite firang too. She heard people singing Jai Ho in the distance and wondered why they were saying ‘Tally Ho’ so enthusiastically! 😀

  17. Tamanna May 2, 2010 at 8:15 pm #

    Have so much fun, mem ji! 😀

  18. Orange Jammies May 3, 2010 at 6:16 pm #

    aneela z: Yes, I remember. 🙂 No clue about what Padmini Kolhapure did and with whom.

    Aunty G: Byebye, my darling Aunty G!

    Jil Jil Ramamani: Umm, refer to the comment above yours. 😉

    Tamanna: Thanks, Tamanna. My uncle and aunt totally plan to spoil me silly. 😀

  19. Soma_G May 3, 2010 at 6:30 pm #

    Go on, paint the town in neon green, yellow, orange, blue and come back happy with the rains!!!

  20. Sharanya Manivannan May 3, 2010 at 6:43 pm #

    Oh how lovely! Enjoy!

  21. Orange Jammies May 3, 2010 at 7:59 pm #

    Soma_G: Did you tell the husband I’m visiting his country? 🙂

    Sharanya: 😀 Yesyesyes. Take care, girl.

  22. sukanya May 4, 2010 at 8:52 pm #

    hey…enjoy to the hilt memsaahib!! keep us posted….

  23. jp May 5, 2010 at 3:20 am #

    ah, enid blyton! esp the faraway tree – a part of me still believes in it 🙂

  24. smartassbride May 5, 2010 at 8:21 am #

    *bowing* *curtsying*

    You have a good holiday!

  25. Nino's Mum May 6, 2010 at 1:18 pm #

    One of my favourite places in the world 🙂 so yeah, you’ll have tons of fun… although It took me very few days in Blighty to realise that we’ve retained all the bits of British-ness there is. You won’t find any in England. It’s all WAG-logic there now.
    Although you’ll love Shakespeare on the tube announcements!

  26. Ofbunkyandbobban May 8, 2010 at 1:24 pm #

    I just got back after more than a year and I ENVY you. Also, that whole thing you described there, that’s totally my life too 🙂

  27. Orange Jammies May 21, 2010 at 5:03 pm #

    sukanya: The former, absolutely will do. The latter, not right away. 🙂

    jp: What’s not to believe? 😕

    smartassbride: *OJ gives SAB a peremptory wave*

    Nino’s Mum: Oh but they were all wrong! Blyton lives on.

    Ofbunkyandbobban: I wouldn’t expect any different from a fellow bawi. 😉 Lucky woman, a whole year in England!

  28. Ofbunkyandbobban May 21, 2010 at 10:20 pm #

    I was doing eshtudies there. Plenty of my friends still lurk in the London lanes – let me know if you need any help at all.

  29. Orange Jammies May 23, 2010 at 3:26 pm #

    Ofbunkyandbobban: Aww, thanks a bunch, hon. 🙂 Will do.


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