Our Dosa brunch was my first foray into Wembley proper.
What can I say about first impressions? Well, for starters, it was a greyer version of ‘back-home’. The streets were dirty – plastic bags abandoned on pavements, people spitting and litter being chucked gaily. There was the general cacophony of a predominantly Asian neighbourhood. It felt like a mela. Perhaps the atmosphere was charged because it was NY’s day, but I suspect it is like this all the time.
On our way to the restaurant, our car was tailed (and I mean that literally – any closer and the two vehicles would have to be surgically separated) by a battered car (looking at the way they drove, it was no surprise) filled with 3 youngish looking men and one old man. It was scary (for us) and an obvious source of amusement to them. Mr.R and I live in an town that has a significant Asian population (more Pakistani than Indian), but we have never experienced something like this in the 3 years that we’ve lived here.
Strike one against Wembley.
The general decay and squalor of the place made me want to shudder. If I wanted to be in a place like this, I’d go back home. A quick chakkar around any local railway station in Mumbai – you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. For me, the charm of England is in its sense of pride and place. And there was no pride of place here.
I left with another, more important feeling – I wouldn’t want to walk alone on those streets after dark. It’s not an unreasonable feeling and I’m not going to be apologetic about it. My instincts about street safety have always served me well. I’ve never felt insecure walking in a street full of Pakistani boys – they may look, but they don’t say or do anything to make me uncomfortable. I cannot say the same about the Indian men. May God prove me wrong.
I guess many immigrants to London feel more comfortable or secure in such neighbourhoods precisely because it reminds them at home. Here they can speak their own language, eat their own food, recreate a little of what they left behind. While every newcomer deserves to have a feeling of security and safety in a new country, surely there should come a point where you think that it’s time to do better?
Clean houses, clean pavements, pride in your surroundings. Is that too much to expect?