Last Saturday, Prasad and I undertook another day trip to London, my second, his fifth. This time we booked ourselves a return coach trip instead of the train to save ourselves a few bucks. I surprised myself by getting up at the right time (In fact I even had time to change the playlist in my mp3 players with some recent songs that I had downloaded) and we found ourselves at the bus stop well before time. The journey was a little more than two hours and was quite comfortable.
It was a beautiful day. Actually, I must mention that the summer has now well and truly arrived with the temperature hovering around the 20s most of the time. Anyway, we had to get to Madame Tussaud’s which was first on our agenda. We hadn’t booked our tickets as Prasad in his infinite wisdom from his previous visits to his city had concluded that if we queued up before 10 AM we wouldn’t have to wait long. Unfortunately, it was the Easter weekend and we ended up standing (and sometimes sitting) in the queue along with many other tourists, mostly European, for well over two and a half hours. Reminds me of Tirupati, I told Prasad. He told me how their family gets a special treatment at Tirupati because they know somebody there. Doesn’t everybody?
Finally, we did get in. The place was jam packed. I didn’t like it immediately. The whole idea of the place is that people can act funny with life like mannequins of well known people and take photographs. Prasad hugged Jennifer Aniston while I tried to get intimate with Nicole Kidman. But she was quite a stiff (sic). Shahrukh Khan, who was a recent addition, occupied a pride of place and we rubbed our shoulders with him. Prasad became really excited on seeing Aishwarya Rai in a traditional saree and made his way torpedo-like towards her. But when I was about to click a momentous photo which would have been in his family’s photo album for generations, the battery ran out. Prasad was quite inconsolable. I was actually quite worried for him when he emitted a long sigh on seeing Princess Diana.
But the truly enjoyable part of the visit was the ‘Chamber of Horrors’. This is the section of the tour where they have images from the French Revolution, graphic description of various methods of torture and dismemberment. The live tour takes the cake where in a dimly lit scary section with appropriate sound effects are live actors dressed up as scary ghosts and corpses etc. who tend to give you quite a scare when you least expect it. An elderly couple in front of us refused to complete the tour by themselves and asked us to shepherd them out, me in front and Prasad behind them. It was quite a thrill and I had a blast. The rest of the tour was quite uneventful by comparison.
After lunch, our next stop was at the Sherlock Holmes museum at Bakers Street. I had read all the short stories and novels by Sir Arthur Conon Doyle by the time I was a 15, and the museum and all its artifacts took me back to those memories. It could have been a much better organized tour than it was though, and people who haven’t read Doyle wouldn’t find it engaging.
We then went on to take a leisurely walk in the Regents Park. It’s quite a huge park and we almost lost our way trying to get back to where we started from. Our next stop was at Eastham, which is like little south India. Prasad wanted to go to a temple there where he went round and round the place and did about 30 namaskarams. I took the opportunity to rest my feet and sat down on the cool floor. Our next stop of the day, was the most important and anticipated one, Saravana Bhavan. I had Sambhar Vada and Masala Dosa while Prasad hogged some Idlis and Uthhapam. Topped it off with some filter coffee, of course. Next stop was at a shop selling pirated CDs of South Indian movies. Prasad is multilingual (he speaks all the four Dravidian languages) and he picked up a few CDs that I hadn’t heard of or even knew what the titles meant. I picked up Veyil, a Tamil movie which I had heard was invited to screen at the Cannes film festival.
We were getting late and hurrying back when Prasad remembered that he had to buy jaggery to put in the sambhar that he cooks at home. That took a few more minutes and consequently, we were looking at out watches every two minutes after that to see if we would make it back in time. We didn’t. The bus left just in front of my eyes (the drivers here don’t wait for late passengers) and I informed Prasad of the same as he came huffing and puffing to the coach station a couple of minutes behind me. Luckily, places were available on the next coach a half hour later and for a rescheduling fee, we were on it on our way back home to Bristol.
I was home by midnight and watched Veyil. It’s a very good movie. Watch it if you know the language or are able to get your hands on a version with subtitles.