no, its a continuum – I might have left London (temporarily) but it won’t exactly leave me, so…

I started Zadie Smith’s second novel called On Beauty.

The novel initially seemed to lack the punch of White Teeth in using conventional narration to describe the characters, but her writing styles returns. I find it hard to even describe her writing style because Smith reforms cliched philosophies, but in new ways. My favorite passage so far is a physical description of experiencing Mozart – its so bizarre, like we’re on an acid trip and our senses are getting mixed up except it captures the strength of our emotional responses to music. Since the passage starts the chapter, it completely takes the reader by surprise, I love it.

My inner scholar warns me against reading the story’s details literally, since it can hinder my understanding of the important universal message. But I felt a warm inside because the novel includes a reference to Michigan and London.

The inclusion of Michigan, even as a passing reference, and Boston, a city to which I’ve aspired from Lahiri’s novels, and Queen’s Park in London, north of Finchley Road on the Jubilee line, coincidentally connects all of these places that I possess in some way. Stories of belonging have started to resonate with me as I now feel uprooted, and unsure where “home” is anymore. I always thought I’d want to end up in Philly after Swat, but can I somehow claim London as my home? Now that I’m approaching graduation, I’m seriously taking notice that we can’t choose our homes based on where we feel comfortable, but its determined on who wants to employ us. In this global recession where countries are drawing in their borders, (Obama’s buy American, “we don’t want to create Chinese jobs”) I probably can’t relocate to London. And even if I do, it won’t be the same London that I left. In fact, my London changed every month and its by virtue of my extended stay of 6 months, rather than the typical 3 months, that I came to love the city. Otherwise I’d have left in the end of March with bitter feelings.

I’m rambling, but who’s reading anymore? Except myself.

I don’t want to talk about my internship. I don’t want to talk about New York. I’m just confused. I don’t drink alcohol anymore, and probably won’t for the rest of the summer, and I haven’t experimented with cooking. (When Parth came on Saturday, though, I made my perfect dish. I failed in London because I was lazy and used chopped tomatoes from a can instead of fresh tomatoes.) I hardly walk anywhere because I’m so focused on my goals for the internship, and I haven’t visited any cafes, restaurants, plays or concerts. Where are my promises to keep full life I created in London? Why does it seem like “living” and “working” are incompatible?

I shouldn’t have even questioned whether London’s a dream slipping away from my fingers. The harder I try to hold on to it, the faster it goes until I only have a few dregs left. Its like Wizard of Oz, where Dorothy is left with ruby slippers. Only. I’m left with a box of Twining’s finest Earl Grey.


PS: There’s always a postscrip. I’ll say tomatoes with a long o, and then realise that it doesn’t sound correct, and correct myself, and then get confused which is the right pronunciation. I spend six months trying to perfect one word, and then have to undo it all here because it’s just pretentious. You can’t avoid the connection between America’s perception of Britain as posh and pretentious, no more than the connection between the word “rape” as a joking threat and its long history of sexual violence. If Urooj, you ever read this, yes, you would be shocked the way those Brits casually used the word “rape”. It really bothered me.