My Time in London 

Philip John

The Dentist

My idyllic life was disturbed by a toothache that did not go away. In fact it got worse. Someone in our office said that all employees were covered by the NHS and that I would not have to pay to see a Dentist. Vijay Dudeja offered to accompany me. We found a Dentist who, I learned was a first generation Italian. He took a look at my mouth and immediately concluded that a wisdom tooth was infected. He said he could treat the infection with Penicillin or extract the tooth which would be a more permanent solution. The thought of a permanent solution at the expense of Her Majesty’s government appealed to me. 

Once the decision was made the dentist started preparing for the procedure. The implements he put together looked like a tong and pincer. But what terrified me more was the large syringe he had filled, which I guessed was an anaestetic to numb my jaws while he extracted my tooth. 

“Open your mouth please.”
“Ahh….doctor will it hurt?”
“No, I will be quick”.
“Aaah….”, said I and then clenched my teeth when I saw the needle coming towards me.
“Shut up! And open your mouth!” he yelled.
I was terrified and opened my mouth. He knew that this approach always worked. He probed and poked my gums with his needle at three places. He gave 5 minutes for the anaesthetic to take effect and then proceeded to use brute force to pull out my infected wisdom tooth. 

Vijay Dudeja handled the paperwork, hailed a taxi and took me back to the YMCA. I asked him to stay with me for some time. I kept spitting blood regularly but painkillers made the pain manageable. It took a whole weekend for the last traces of numbness to go. I was very grateful to Vijay for helping me through this unpleasant experience. 

Local Tours 

Since we had only a few months at our disposal Vijay and I decided to do some sightseeing on our own. Our first visit was to Bath, in Somerset.,_Somerset

This is historical proof that the Roman empire extended to Britain.  Beautiful architecture and pools but alas, we were not allowed to dip even our toes in the pools! 

Our next trip was to Brighton on the South West coast of UK. This is a famous seaside resort not too far from London.
Brighton has a pebble beach meaning, no sand just pebbles. In India I had seen dirty beaches, clean beaches, white sand, yellow sand – but always sand. So a pebble beach was a big surprise. To make matters worse I was wearing a new pair of Dolcis shoes which I had salivated over each time I walked passed the shop window. It looked amazingly nice in the London shop window but was not appropriate footwear for a pebble beach! Within an hour of walking on the beach I felt I was going lame. The excruciating pain was turning to numbness. Vijay Dudeja cursed me more than once. He would remind me of this incident and the tooth extraction many times, over the next few years! 

We found a Pier that had a battery of One Arm Bandits (slot machines). Many came to Brighton to play these machines and satisfy their inner urge to get rich quickly. I must admit that it’s a great feeling to see 3 Strawberries line up and the clink of coins falling through the trap door. But you never win much and probably end up loosing more. That is the nature of gambling. 

Last year I was in Las Vegas staying at The Bellagio, one of the many 5 star hotels on the Strip. First time tourists like me visit this city out of curiosity but those who return come seeking pleasure, one of which is gambling. There are rows and rows of slot machines in every hotel and you see young and old operate these machines with utmost concentration, hoping for the big payday which never comes!    

My Brighton experience and some lessons I learned along the way helped me walk past these machines at Bellagio without a twinge of desire! Tables playing Poker, Blackjack, Roulette, and such were super busy at Las Vegas, each night! 

But back to the Brighton story…
We chose a place selling Fish and Chips and decided to order some for lunch. Fish and Chips is synonymous with life in Britain. To the uninitiated I would say it’s a cultivated taste but once you know what to order you get hooked! 

That done, Vijay Dudeja suggested we head back to London before I became totally lame. I thanked him and apologised for spoiling his day, but I think he was just as happy to catch our train back to London.
I took the Monday off to treat and rest my feet.

London Shopping

I noticed when shopping in London that the shop girls paid no attention when I went in dressed casually. I had to badger them to get service. But they were all attention when someone wearing a suit walked in. So I got myself a 3-piece suit, a brolly and a bowler hat and walked in to buy something trivial. I had their attention! It was all, “Yes Sir”, “No Sir” from then on!
They didn’t want to pass up an Indian prince, perhaps?

Dance Performance at Royal Albert Hall

I got news that Uday Shankar, the famed Indian Dancer, and older brother of Sitar maestro, Ravi Shankar was going to perform at the Royal Albert Hall. 

Uday Shankar started as a Kathak dancer. It’s one of the oldest dance forms in North India. Katha is story and Kathak is storytelling in dance form.

Later Uday Shankar developed many modern dances on his own. He and his troupe would tour countries showcasing the richness of Indian dance.

I was keen to watch him as I had learned Kathak as a young boy. It was my mother’s idea but after a few months it became clear that this was not my calling and so I discontinued after a year. However, I didn’t want to pass up a chance to watch the world’s best known Kathak dancer. It was a scintillating performance even though Uday Shankar was in his early sixties at the time!

Time to go home!

London was most enjoyable. Jani Uthup and Vijay Dudeja were great company. We all went out pub crawling with other trainees from TC&I as well.
But my time in the UK was coming to a close. I had booked my return with two day stops in Rome, Athens, and Beirut. I did not know at the time that my return would be even more eventful than my arrival!

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