The first public library I ever visited was in Canada Waters, London, in 2006. I do not even remember how I discovered the library, because, though the internet was picking up, I did not have a laptop, and I had no visibility into what was happening around me beyond walking distance.
I suspect, like any new immigrant, I must have walked into a community center, and asked the elderly person there.
One Sunday, I walked out with a map that I had copied on paper, from where I was staying in Bermondsey and walked to the library. One of the first books that I remember borrowing was Alan Moore’s Watchmen.
I still remember the new world feel I experienced during that walk in London. Clean air, cool wind, zebra crossings, beautiful people, orderly traffic. From my stay in Scotland, it is the moors that I remember, the lochs, the endless rolling greens, and the cold rains and gray skies, the haggis, the Stirling castle, and the drams.
All this seems to be in the distant past, maybe because I have never revisited my time in the UK, or maybe because I do not have any visual memories of my time there. I would have to use substitute images to supplement these revisits.
When I sit back and think about those times now, I realize I tend to think of myself during that time as someone different, someone with whom I do not identify anymore, whereas I am completely comfortable with thinking of myself before and after that phase as an extension of me.
London was and still is, in my mind, my primary civilization, the civilization that westernized my behavior and Indianized my identity. India happened to me without consent, the UK knocked first before entering.
I do not know how to regulate experiences that I have accumulated through these first-hand foreign travel and abode, now supplemented generously by online exposure when I get irritated by those whose exposures are much more limited.
My two odd years in London, Scotland, and Wales allowed me the fortuitous combination of anonymity and access to form a mellow identity. It also is an untouched phase I need to dig into, if nothing, at least just to relive my experiences and document my first stop on my journey to the West.