Over the years I have heard of various European cities being referred to as City of Bridges. Some people would like to think of Paris as the City of Bridges, while some say its Lisbon and yet others strongly believe that at some point it was Lucerne that deserved the title. From where I am today, I am convinced, that if there is one city in Europe that can command this title, it is London.
London: the bridge between all thats traditional and all thats contemporary, the bridge which joins varied cultures and races, the bridge which connects the two different worlds called America and Europe and the bridge which has helped me traverse the chasm from my past to my future.
I came to London a little over four years ago without any family, without much money, no permanent job and without a roof over my head. All that I had was dreams (yes and an MBA from INSEAD. I am not a total dreamer nor a complete idiot!!!) and the determination to see them turn into reality. A few friends helped along the way and London was always out there to embrace me.
Those were tough times. Times when I thought I could feel myself sinking below the surface of the sea. Those were the times when from nowhere came Londoners to help me and make me feel precious. Be it the station master who got the Gatwick Express to make a non-scheduled stop to pick me up and drop me to my destination (evidently I had not read the train timings and had missed my last connection to Redhill. I was standing at East Croydon in the middle of the night on a desolate platform figuiring out the most economical means to get home) or be it the black cab driver who dropped me to an interview despite my telling him that I did not have the fare to pay him for the whole journey (in his words, "my dear, I want you to get this job so that next time you can pay me for a journey from the City to Heathrow!". I have yet to find him!) or be it the elderly English couple who called me home for numerous dinners and treated me like a daughter (I am sorry for not having been in touch recently and will change that starting now).
I spent many evenings standing on London Bridge thinking where I was headed. I camped out at Hampstead Heath as the view from the Heath was enough to make me feel fortunate (if not a job at least I would take cherished memories back home). I would stare at Westminster from the opposite bank and just drown in its magical charm. All these episodes made me feel lucky to be alive and experience the city.
Slowly the city started throwing opportunities towards me. It started with a few head hunter calls, some of which turned into initial screening interviews and then a fewer some into interviews with potential employers. I landed a job after 6 months of patience and hard work. (Today, it no longer seems the struggle it seemed then!) It was a job that I had wanted! I, a techie, the youngest in my MBA class, had made it into banking without any experience in the field in a difficult economy!!!!!!!
Today, after four years, I have come a long way. There a number of people I should thank for this and yes the one supreme being above who has been looking out for me. However, I cannot overlook that the city has played its part too. It has helped me discover myself. Given me my fair share of openings. Connected me with friends who I had not met in years and years together. Helped me forge new friendships which are a big support system for me today. But most importantly, this city has helped me become an individual, a professional, who today can go back to what she had left behind (my forever favourite city Mumbai!!!!!!!) at her own terms and with her held high. For that, London will always be special to me, very special!
Why am I, someone who does not likes blogs, writing this today? Because, in the recent times I have seen myslef complaining more and more about London. Be it the weather, the expenses, the mayor (he so needs to go!) or the tubes, I am moaning about London everyday. However, a short walk along the South Bank today, made me realise that had it not been for Londoners and for London, I probably would not have been who I am. And so before I forget once again, I would like to extend my tribute to this absolutely fantastic city! My City of Bridges!