My week in England flew by-I got in Monday morning and left early on Sunday which seems ample time but really isn’t when you’ve got a packed week planned. Between spending time with Manu and revisiting places that I adore in London, I met with professors at LSE, Cambridge, and Oxford for advice about how to go about my research project—as well as post-Fulbright plans.
The more memorable day by far was the one spent in Oxford. I scheduled my trip to Oxford on a Wednesday because of the Gloucester Green Farmers’ Market—where among a variety of foods, one can find momos, delicious Nepali dumplings. I asked Manu to come along so that I could reminisce out-loud and she obliged and took the day off. After lunch, I was able to meet with Dr. Partha Mitter, one of the greats of Indian Art History (his first work was published even before Edward Said’s Orientalism). He was very helpful in passing along resources and telling me how to approach a daunting yearlong project. The remainder of the afternoon was spent walking around Oxford and meeting two of my favorite tutors: George and Mallica. Manu and I spent quite a bit of time at Wolfson College with George—after spilling my iced coffee and creating a commotion, we were able to settle down into a wonderful conversation where among other things, we discussed the intersections of gender, craft, and caste. We later caught a bus to Woodstock, a little village a few miles from Oxford where Mallica lives. Mallica is an art historian—and the person who introduced me to the Bengal School and modern Indian Art. We had tea, explored the grounds of Blenheim Palace, and talked about contemporary art and life in India. Before catching a bus back to London, Manu and I ate at a kebab truck—a staple of life for students at the university.
Besides my day in Oxford, I also took a solo-trip to Cambridge. The town was lovely and I met with two professors in the Modern South Asian Studies department. I also got to visit the U.S. Embassy twice and speak with Manu’s colleagues as well as several FSOs who are stationed in London. Though a job as a Foreign Service Officer seems glamorous and exciting, I’m not sure that it’s the right path for me. During the week, I got to spend a bit of time with Mummy’s cousin, Vasu mama, and his wife. They were kind enough to allow me to use their home as a base for my travels and meetings. Another major highlight of the week was an evening spent at the Warner Brothers Harry Potter Experience. We went out to Watford Junction on Manu’s last evening in London and were quite amazed at the magic behind the movies. We were able to see parts of the original sets, costumes, and even the model of Hogwarts that was used in all the films. While it was magical, it was also rather disillusioning to come to terms with the fact that nothing portrayed in the movies is real.
As you can imagine, it was a jam-packed and exhausting week and after dropping Manu at the airport on Saturday, I went and slept for the entire afternoon at Vasu mama’s place. The next morning, I caught an early flight to Frankfurt and then traveled on to New Delhi, where I arrived around midnight (sans luggage as I mentioned earlier).