One of the most loyal contributors to this blog is the lovely Kathakoli Dasgupta, the young woman who was one of the reasons I started running in the first place.
Last week, while I was up in the cool hills of Himachal, Katha sent me another guest post from the UK where she now lives, but connectivity was so patchy, that I am only now able to post it from Delhi (where I live).
With apologies for tardiness, here is Katha’s story from end September. It’s a beautifully written account of discovering another part of her adopted country, and with an Indian connection too. And, as in an earlier blog post from the Lake District, this is the story of all of our 2020 lives – travel plans gone awry…
“We should have been in Vietnam at this time.
But it was yet another trip we had to cancel.
So we decided to explore some cities in the UK instead.
A couple of days back though, the first leg of our journey had to be altered due to new covid restrictions. So the Portsmouth trip to see Dave’s dad had to be swapped for a stay in London before heading to Bath.
Since I have been wanting to try out a Bengali restaurant in Harrow for a while now, we decided to book accommodation here rather than central London.
Dave quickly scanned the guidebooks for running routes and places to see in the area.
And we soon found out about The Harrow School that PMs Winston Churchill and Jawahar Lal Nehru went to. It is just over a mile from our hotel. So we both ended up doing one of our runs to explore this historic bit of the borough.
A few hundred metres from the slightly run down town centre (now looking quite sparse due to covid) takes you to Harrow on the Hill which was the town centre in the 19th century before the town expanded. It’s a different world altogether—affluent, with a number of listed buildings, historic architecture and the surrounding greenery.
St Mary’s church, which was consecrated in 1094, is at the apex.
Because it’s ‘on the hill’, on a clear day (like during my run), you can get a view of Wembley Stadium and even the London Eye!
On either side of the road though you find buildings dedicated to different departments of The Harrow School—the ‘village’ is kind of absorbed by the school, just like the guide book said!
It’s as elite as Eton, a fact clearly evident in the straw boater hats that the students wore or carried.
Also evident were the markers of the strange times we are living in. Masks that many of the students wore were a strange contrast to the posh Harrow Hat.
There was also covid related signage outside every school building.
Further along, down the hill, I came across a gantry sign. Apparently this was the site of the oldest building in the village—The King’s Head Hotel, build in 1535 that thrived up until the 1970s and was converted to private apartments in 2001.
Before the run, I had read an old Times of India article about Nehru’s two year stint in Harrow and how the prize (the first volume of G M Trevelyan’s historical trilogy on Giuseppe Garibaldi) he received at end of his term shaped his views on India’s struggle for freedom.
So my head was full of lessons in History already. And during my run in this very historic neighbourhood, I realised a different kind of history is in the making. That of a strange pandemic that has taken the world by surprise, left even the brightest of minds puzzled, is claiming lives and forcing us to find a new normal for every aspect of our lives.
Luckily, running is still a part of it, even though sometimes it involves wearing a mask, crossing over to the other side of the road to avoid brushing past a fellow pedestrian or holding your breath if you can’t do so for fear that breathing heavily may increase the chances of passing on or contracting the virus! Proper weird.“
Katha, as ever, thanks SO much for such a lovely informative post.
Can’t wait to read more.