Stratford then Brick Lane
We met at Liverpool Street station to travel to the first reading of a play at the Stratford Circus in East London. Marilyn had come from Devon to join her husband Russell who works in the City. She had arranged this get-together to surprise our actress classmate from the "Writing from Life" course.
There were two plays this evening, both written by women in a playwriting class. The first one takes place in a London flat, a dinner among friends of Indian descent. There is reference to the caste system, which, unlike the class system, is with you from birth to death. You cannot move between the castes. Our actress friend played the lead part, that of a sultry low caste woman who hosts the dinner. The other characters are equally vivid, and I was disappointed that the play ended so abruptly with two deaths.
The scene I enjoyed the most was when her ex-lover, a man from the highest caste (Brahmin) challenges her in private, asking her why she didn't lie about her caste to his parents so that he could marry her. The audience senses deep regret on his part. His current girlfriend stumbles upon the two in conversation, and the audience is led to believe that he still loves his low caste ex-lover but only brought his pretty girlfriend to the dinner to show he's done well for himself.
After the second play ended, we walked in the rain to the station, to catch the Central Line back to Liverpool Street. Five women and one man walked along the streets of London into that part of town made famous by first-time author Monica Ali's first novel "Brick Lane."
Many summers ago, I lived in East London and worked in the area around Liverpool Street known as Broadgate. I wore my Max Mara suits to the office and returned home to enjoy the early evening with a simple ritual of cooking and reading. I didn't know about Spitalsfields Market or Brick Lane then. It wasn't that exciting in those days. Tonight I felt the urge to return to work in this area of town which is populated by good looking people in trendy clothes and cosy places to wine and dine.
The actress led us to "Le Taj," a Bengali restaurant. There were two menus, a Bengali one and an Indian one. The Bengali menu was far more exotic. Looking through the menu, I couldn't help but remember that first year in London when I shared a flat with a student from Bengladesh. Because I resented having to share a flat, I deliberately avoided eating anything she was fond of. Thus I created an artificial dislike for Earl Grey tea, hot chilli oil, and curry. So much of the good life I missed as a result!
Going out in a group, feeling the comaraderie, being in the company of women ---- these are the things I missed in the past few months of living in a Dutch village. Women like to talk. They like to listen. They empathise. You are forgiven in your confessions. Men are different animals altogether.
23 July 2004 Friday