When I first saw Montmartre (Church), I cried a bit because I hadn’t seen anything so beautiful before that. It was divine, after all it’s known as “Basilica Of Sacred Heart Of Jesus”. You must be wondering, why am I talking about Paris, when the name suggests that it should be about London. Well I will be there soon.
So, I remember, the prayer was going on and the choir was singing in harmony. I was overwhelmed, as I couldn’t believe that I am actually witnessing it from my own eyes. It was emotional. I came out and ran towards the fence. It was a mountain top and I could see whole Paris from there, but eyes were filled with tears. Those were tears of joy & gratitude! My wife (Anchal) & our host Mathilde came towards me, but they got a sense that I need some time to absorb that feel.
Later, we sat on the stairs and watched an Afro street performer juggling football while hanging on a street lamp. (He has also been featured in a bollywood movie named Queen) We then moved to the garden and had Baguette, Cheese and Wine that we had bought earlier. It was a traditional french style picnic. Everything was going great, till my CS host from London declined my request at the last moment, when we were supposed to go there the very next day.
Anyways, our time in Paris came to an end. Mathilde took us to the railway station from where we had to board our Eurostar Train to London. It was situated in an Indian district. The air was filled with Indian spices and the tempting fragrance of Masala Dosa. There were typical Indian shops like Kumar Saree House, Gupta Grocery Store etc. We bade her farewell and took our train to London.
Now It was around 1pm and we were at St Pancras Station (Central London), with no where to go. “I personally love it, these are the kind of things that give me thrill!” It was filled with people, there were musicians busking on platforms. But we had no time to enjoy that. As we had no internet, so I connected my phone to Railway Station’s Wi-Fi and started sending last minute requests to find a host. We had send hundreds of requests, but there was no one who could have agreed to host us. After One and a half hour of trying, we finally thought to go find a backpacker’s hostel. Though the online price for a stay was around 100 pounds a day, which was way more to fit in our budget.
Anyways, we came out of the station and got in a queue to take a Taxi. The taxi arrived. It was a Classic Black Fairway Taxi Cab. I opened the door, put my luggage and got inside. The driver asked “Where do you want to go Sir?” I didn’t reply, I was looking for Anchal. She was about fifteen metres away, talking to an Indian looking guy. He was in a uniform, dressed as a guard. “Chhottey! What happened?” I shouted. She replied “Leave the Cab, Come here.”
I took my luggage out and went towards them. That guy was from Bangladesh but was fluent in speaking Hindi. She was asking him if we can find any cheap accommodation somewhere. He pointed out towards an Indian Super Mart which was just across the street. He said there are lot of Indians working there and maybe they can help us in finding some place.
We crossed the road and went inside the mart. It was a big Indian supermarket and most of their staff members were from Gujrat They had everything, like Indian spices, fruits, vegetables, milk, liquor, toiletries, sim cards, a small cafe and even a foreign exchange counter. There was a guy in early 30’s, standing at the main cash counter. We told him about our situation and that we are running short on cash. He asked few of his fellow workers if someone can help us. They all literally stopped their work and started making calls. After around 15-20 minutes, Anchal got anxious and started crying.
The staff there was unbelievably helpful. When they saw her crying, one of them came to us and assured that we shouldn’t have to worry and they will surely find some place for us. They told us to leave our luggage there and go out to explore the city. One of them said “Guys you are in London, don’t waste your time. Go have fun, leave the rest to us.”
We felt a bit relieved. We sat at the small cafe, ate some sandwiches, then grabbed 2 beer. When we came out, the huge St Pancras Station was right in front of us. It was the most central part of London’s Zone 1 named King’s Cross. We thought to find a calm place to think of some alternate, hence we went to a lane going to some interior residential area. We started walking down those lanes, sipping on those beer. Anchal was so frightened by this whole episode, that she again started crying. I felt really bad, that it’s because of my adventures that we are in this troubled situation now. She was my responsibility and I have put her in this misery.
After an hour, we again went to that supermarket to know if they have found any accomodation. One of them told us about an apartment, for which we have to pay 40 pounds a day. We kind of agreed to take that, but it was like taking a big chunk out of our budget. So we requested them to look for something cheaper. They were again making calls, asking every estate agent, if they have an apartment to rent.
The girl sitting behind the foreign exchange counter was observing everything. She saw that we were really tensed, so she came to us and said “If you won’t find any place by 5:30pm, then come with me. A friend of mine stays at Romford Road, it’s an Indian district. He can definitely arrange something for you.”
We were delighted to hear that.
They all were trying, but couldn’t find any suitable place that would fit in our budget. And then it was 5:30pm. The girl from Forex counter was ready to leave. She came to us and said “Pick up your luggage, I am leaving now.” I looked at Anchal, she gestured me to do so. I grabbed my luggage and started following her. She was walking really fast. It was a task to match her speed with that much luggage, but we had to. I ran a bit, reached near her and said “I am Karan and that’s my wife Anchal. We are really thankful for your help. If we may ask, what’s your name?”
She said ” I am Pallavi, but you can call me HONEY!”
We went to King’s Cross Station and bought our Oyster Cards to travel. We took the train till Stratford. When we got down, she said we have to take another train.
I asked her “I forgot, where does your friend stay?”
To which she replied “Forget that, We are going to Forest Gate, TO MY PLACE!”
I curiously asked, “How much do we have to pay you for the stay?”
“NOTHING! Just give me a small party on your last night here.” She replied.
We never thought that, that disastrous day would turnout to be our “Best Memory Of London.” Forget thames river, forget tower bridge, forget madame tussauds. Nothing can over shadow the pleasure of meeting and staying with her. Her unconditional kindness and hospitality, made us feel at HOME! In our 5 days of stay, she gave us her Oyster Card, a spare mobile phone to use, cooked dinner for us, even gave us her cozy comfy bed but in return took our hearts forever!
We still can’t thank her much for what she did. It’s been so many years, but I am glad that we are still in touch! Will meet her again for sure, someday somewhere.
*P.S. All of our pictures with her had been deleted as my laptop got corrupted.