Summer in the City: How my new part-time job (and R.K. Narayan) made me love Scotland (and want to write about it) again

I’ve been back in Scotland for three weeks now, and I’ve spent quite a large portion of that time feeling guilty about not writing anything for this blog. Yes, I do realise how unproductive that sounds, and I know that in three weeks I could have easily written pages and pages of stuff (instead of sitting on my backside at home, which is what I was actually doing), but finding time wasn’t the problem. I’ve just had absolutely no inspiration.

(I believe the term for this is ‘writer’s block’, but we all know that that’s just a clever way of making ‘laziness’ sound a bit more professional.)

To be honest, I used to be of the opinion that the only point of ‘blogging’ was to help boring and deeply narcissistic people while away their long and meaningless days by spewing pages of pointless information out into the depths of the internet. Why would I want to read a detailed description of what someone I’d never met had just had for lunch, for example? But obviously all this changed last year when the blogs editor from the Times of India got in touch. Of course I would write for them, I gushed, I love blogging! Such a fabulous opportunity! Bloggy-bloggy-bloggy-bloggy-blog!

And I quickly realised that this ‘little and often’ style of writing was fun! And that people were actually reading the stuff I’d written, and saying (mostly) nice things about it! And that, out there in the depths of the internet, there were zillions of really interesting, good, funny blogs and bloggers that I’d never known about. And what I admire most about these people is that, unlike me, they always seem to be able to think of something to say…

How do they do that? I mean, in Delhi I never ran out of material. And I know I’ll have endless things to write about when I’m trying to get my head round China. But here in Scotland? It’s cold, it’s grey, it’s wet, and I just can’t see why anyone would want to read about it.

Well, I couldn’t until recently.

I’ve found out that my future employer, aka the school in Inner Mongolia (actually, it’s a college, but anyway) doesn’t need me until the end of August, which means I’ll be spending the summer here in Edinburgh. And that means I have to find myself some work in the meantime. Skip forward through some internet job searching, and the long and short of it is that I’m going to be a tour guide for a new company, right here in the Scottish capital. Wheee!

Appropriately, and perhaps what sparked the urge to apply for the job in the first place, was that I’d just finished reading ‘The Guide’ by R.K. Narayan. If you haven’t read it (and you really should, because Mr Narayanji is amazing), it’s about a guy called Raju who spent many years of his life working as a tourist guide in his hometown. The story, which is told via a massive flashback, describes the succession of strange events which caused Raju to become rich and famous, then to get locked up in jail, and then later to accidentally turn into a sort of holy local celebrity.

Of course I wasn’t imagining myself getting famous, or, come to think of it, imprisoned, but Raju’s tour guide life did sound pretty good. I liked the idea of showing people the best parts of my city, and getting paid to be out all day in the fresh air.

So, to prepare for this job, I’ve been busy walking all over Edinburgh and learning about its history. And it’s as if a light has suddenly been switched on over the dark clouds. There are buildings here that have been standing for five hundred years! There are tombs of famous writers and philosophers; old stables, mills, factories, and their workers’ housing, now converted into swish flats and offices; bridges built over valleys to link ancient villages together – villages that grew and joined and finally became the city I live in now. And then there are the ghost stories; tales of witches and plagues and public hangings; of body snatchers; of things so dark and gruesome that we can’t help but be fascinated by them.

Only, I didn’t really care about all that. I was too busy waiting to go back to India, to Delhi, to a city whose history was actually worth learning about!

Why is it that we never pay attention to what’s right under our noses?

Scotland + Bollywood = err, this, apparently!

So yes. I’m going to stop avoiding this blog and start writing about Scotland while I’m here. One reader (and new friend!) told me that I really should be blogging about this aspect of my life, that it would be interesting for people in India in other countries to read, and she’s (hopefully!) right. I spent the first twenty two years of my life in this strange little country and I’ve never bothered to write anything about it, and it’s only now that I realise how obscenely unpatriotic of me that is.

So please watch this space. I might even put on a kilt for you.


8 responses to “Summer in the City: How my new part-time job (and R.K. Narayan) made me love Scotland (and want to write about it) again

  1. Yes, kilt photos soon, please. And, I’m so happy you’re getting all this experience so I can get a wee proper tour when the glorious day comes when I visit the motherland.

  2. The book you are talking about has been made into a classic bollywood movie by the same name. With the evergreen actor Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman in lead roles, and directed by his brother Vijay Anand, this movie is actually considered a classic. You should watch it sometime.

  3. It’s true that I didn’t write about the first home (Canada) until I left, and I did the same with the second home (Scotland). So, I wrote about Canada in Scotland, about Scotland in India, about India in Russia, about Russia in Germany…I’ve made peace with this weirdness.

  4. Look forward to your posts on Scotland…we in India would love to see it from your eyes!

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