Deccan Herald. Sunday, 22 February, 2009.
Turn left off Wimbledon Broadway and take the 4th right into Effra Road. Tucked away at # 124, the temple priests piously go about their daily rituals - intermittent jingles of the holy bell soundless, outside double-glazed parameters.
For the uninitiated, a Hindu temple in the middle of this quintessentially English town, is the ultimate paradox. To those home away from home, it is a charming microcosm of a vast envelope that is the Indian subcontinent. A cozy bubble that will not burst.
Hands folded and eyes closed in humble resignation to the remover of obstacles, I let the calm radiate through my being, disentangling my thoughts and revealing the way forward. Every once in an infrequent while, when my world closes in around me with conflicting desires and hazy identities, I look to my sanctuary - an oasis that keeps me from wilting, sound and proud in the knowledge of who I am. I leave its threshold, reconnected to my soul and poised for another day.
Back now in my own country of birth, I stare in bewilderment at the apathy that is tearing lives apart. Racial perpetrators dock, unsuspected, and mock all anticipation. Where there is no will, they force their own way! Peaceful neighbourhoods are lamenting in anguish as faith finds new enemies – its deity desecrated and refuge brutalised. For a country that thrives on its diversity and prospers because of it, this inferno of hatred dangerously snaking its way into susceptible minds, is too frightening to comprehend.
My thoughts wander back, across the seas, to the little nook of tranquility that sustains my own immigrant uncertainties. In the comfort of its quiet dignity, thrive a people who uphold their faith and spirit, undeterred, in a foreign land as much home as the soil that remains dear.
The amalgamation is complete. Tough roots nurture a community that keeps generations wrapped close. Family values hold and propagate their resilience down the line. The allure and proximity of a lifestyle more permissive than native contraptions notwithstanding, new blood toddles on, finding its way through the labyrinthine melee of culture, cross-culture and opportunity.
The custodians, spread far across the city of London and beyond, bring their flocks together regularly, to regale in festive fervor and reiterate their cognisance in a country unnaturally theirs.
What with the bustle of an unstoppable high street in the skirting, the swift drive up the hill into quaint Wimbledon Village replete with chic boutiques and top-end chains, the fabled serenity of Wimbledon Common with its sprinkling of woods and water holes and the all-imposing tennis with resident reverend Centre Court - the contrasts are unflinching.
Yet, an institution, ethnic in stance, prospers. And a country, staunchly protestant, revels in the multitude of colours as foreign as those who bring them in.
Constantly, silent and sure, mindful and determined, considerate and considerable, a new wave tides in and out of this idyllic suburb. Like clockwork, the priests chant their verse, the temple bells ring and the incense wafts its scent.
And every now and again, for redemption, blessing or on a whim, a little temple in classy Wimbledon, gets a visitor ■