I spent the day yesterday traveling to Manchester and Birmingham. Its always interesting to see the lives of Indian expats in the British Midlands. The most striking experience was a conversation I had with a middle-aged Gujarati gentleman who had emigrated to Britain in the 60s. He, and others like him, have lived a tough life. He spent his early childhood in rural Gujarat. Then one day his father, who was a farmer, decided to take him away to Mombasa (Kenya) – where he received his high-school education. Then to avoid persecution during the nationalist movements of Central Africa in the 60s, this gentleman moved to the Midlands without a penny to his name. He struggled through labour-jobs in racist factories. He became an electrician, though he wasn’t qualified. Through holding many such jobs, he got a house, brought his parents over to England, and raised a happy family, giving his kids all the opportunities and comforts he could only have dreamt of in his childhood. His is an inspiring life. And such are the stories of many immigrants in Britain.
In Manchester, I went to see a premier league football match – my first.
I even met Denis Irwin and got the chance to hold the Carling cup in my hand. I wish I knew who Denis was and what the Carling cup was. I had to explain to my friends later (after I did my research) that Denis was like the Kapil Dev of football, and the Carling Cup was like the Ranji Trophy. And like a true Indian, I wasn’t satisfied with seeing the Old Trafford football ground. I went and paid homage to the Lancashire County Cricket Club (or the Old Trafford Cricket Ground). I even wanted to end the night at the “Curry Mile” of Manchester, but the horrendous post-match traffic, moving at 5 miles an hour, made sure I didn’t make it 🙂
But it was a fun trip. Went to a nice pub called the Britons Protection. This was rated as one of the best places for a pint in my Lonely Planet guide – and Lonely Planet is always right. If you are ever in Manchester, ensure you go there and try the “Witches Cauldron” (I think I got the name right) beer. And Gay-pride parade is quite a spectacle too!