First Month Adventures
And a little taste of MA in Creative Writing
Since last month’s newsletter, I’ve received several messages telling me they are eagerly waiting for the next one. I’m really surprised and humbled by this response. I sometimes forget that as much fun it is for me to write this, people actually do read this and some, if not many, enjoy it. That’s pretty much all the reason I need to continue. Thank you, dear reader, for your support. It means so much.
Big Hellos! 🤗
The end of October signifies completing my first proper month is London, my first proper month studying at university. The biggest question everyone seems to be asking me is how has it been? Well, it’s a been a crazy-topsy-turvy ride.
I love that word. Topsy-turvy. It says so much without saying anything at all. I’d first encountered it while listening to Radiohead.
In the last month I’ve done it all: I’ve ridden the tube like a local, listening to music or reading books within it, I’ve had my wallet stolen, I’ve entered a London police station, made insurance claim for the money that was stolen from me, seen Benedict Cumberbatch live reading letters on stage (also Kit Harington), spent Diwali getting drunk and got so late that all the tubes were shut and I had to wait at random bus stops while avoiding eye contacts with drunks and druggies, burnt my omelette, evacuated a tube station because an announcement said there is something wrong and everyone was requested to leave the station immediately, walked like a lunatic to get a frying pan from a friend, walked into class with the said frying pan, used my grocery bags instead of dumbbells to lift weights and between all this, found some time to read and write and meet all the deadlines. Well, almost.
But life in London is amazing. People respect queues. It’s a small thing but it makes life so much simpler and systematic. You stop having to worry about others and just focus on yourself and stay in your head with your thoughts; or stay in the engaging conversation you’re having with someone while the world around you falls into queue. It’s easy, simple, and I think this is the biggest thing I love about being here.
And people are so warm. I’ve heard enough about London people — they are dangerous, you can’t trust them, most are living in silos and no one cares. But it’s not true. Yes, people do live in silos, but that makes them more in need for human contact and they genuinely reach out for it. I may be blessed, but I’ve interacted with some amazing people and I’m really enjoying the conversations I’m having.
Like the other day, I was walking with my partner in a park post our date, and an old lady sewing on one of the benches stopped us and told us to sit on the bench with her. Why? Because the bench was an anniversary gift from a certain Sam to his wife, Mary. On it, he’d inscribed the words “What a Wonderful World!” The lady had simply wanted to share this with someone and she caught my partner’s eye. I’m so glad that she did. A minute into the conversation, she told us how she had also done her PhD in the same place my partner is studying. Soon after, she walked out, leaving us with a bubble of warmth, she’d created. No names were shared, but that rarely matters. We both remember her fondly.
But there are things to dislike as well — aside from the food that I’ve been cooking.
1. Pigeons. 🪶 Fuck them. Fuck them all. Take a gun and shove it down into each one’s beak and blow them up. Bloody fuckers. London pigeons are so much more braver than the ones back in India. And that much more annoying. God!
2. Thieves. 🦹🏻♂️ It’s such a big thing here — while I was at the police station making a complaint, three people before me in line were making a similar complaint. Everyone here seems to have a story about when their wallets were flicked. It’s so common, that people take it in their stride. It’s sad to see it so normalised, but all you can do is be aware at all points of time.
3. Nashedi — 💉that’s Hindi slang for druggies. There are so many, especially late at night, but even during the day, who are high on something — I think it’s heroin — who look, feel and make the whole place feel that much scarier. It’s not that they attack you or anything, it’s just the unpredictability of their existence. It’s freaky and just tiresome, especially at the end of a long day.
But these can be taken in your stride.
It’s strange though. I’m living away from everything I knew, but in some ways I feel more at home here. I enjoy wearing layers of clothes though I used to say I’m a nudist at heart. I enjoy going to university, I absolutely enjoy the conversations I’m having with my classmates and my professors. And more than anything, the sort of workshops I’m now a part of are exactly what I needed in the place I am as a writer. The conversations remind of my time at Alekhya, but at a slightly higher level. It’s just right, as if I’ve dialled the temperature of my life to the exact degree it needs to be.
And I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Here are a few short stories I’ve been reading as part of my class that have stayed with me and inspired my writing recently.
1. You’re Ugly Too by Lorie Moore : The voice of the author in this story is so, so strong. While reading this, I had to stop twice, to jot down ideas for short stories as the voice thundered in my brain and words wouldn’t stop flowing. Excellent piece of writing.
2. What Cancer Takes Away by Anne Boyer : The level of research that’s gone into this piece and the nonchalant way in which she displays it all is just *chef’s kiss*.
3. Fruits of My Wife by Han Kang : This was such a strange and riveting story. We had an amazing spread of discussion over this story and if you do end up reading it, I’d love to hear your thoughts and engage in a dialogue with you over this. It’s a fascinating little piece.
You’re reading a newsletter by Akshay Gajria. This newsletter is delivered to your inbox on the 30th of every month via Substack and on the 15th of the next month via Medium. You can also find him on Twitter, Instagram and Medium. If you found what you read helpful, you can consider tipping him by buying a cup of tea (or three) here or buying his ebook (linked below). You can discover his work at akshaygajria.com