Vibrant, Vivacious Southall

Gill and I decided on an adventure yesterday. We took the train five minutes south to a different world.

Southall is one of regions in London most famous for its large Asian population. 55% of the population is Indian or Pakistani but there is also a large community of Somalis who live there. The result: a colourful, vibrant area with cultural differences woven intricately throughout. The signs at the train station are even bilingual in English and Gurmukhi.

As Gill pointed out, being blond and American, I was overwhelmingly outnumbered, but it wasn’t a place that makes you feel like you stand out.

It was quite a fascinating little venture. The McDonalds is halal. There is a pub called the Glassy Junction which accepts rupees as payment (300 = 1 pint of beer). It has churches, temples and mosques. You can buy little cups of “magical corn” along the roads set up in front of rows and rows of shops. Bend It Like Beckham was filmed there.

We went into a little jumble of a shop that sells everything from rolls to bubble wrap to states of Ganesh, to Jesus and Mary dinner trays to sex toys to children’s toys to kitchen ware and hardware. The goods were dirty and tumbling off the shelves. It was an array of treasures that required some digging, but if you needed a light bulb, an old cassette a giant stuffed tiger or a spin-the-wheel-strip-tease game, that’s the place to go.

There were gorgeously vivid fabric shops, sari shops and jewellery shops, lots of phones and DVDs, loads of curry restaurants and market food lining the streets, vegetables and fruits I’ve never seen before in my life. We bought some lychees and some sweet noodles called Noogdi to munch on.

We poked and prodded various bags of spices and rice and lentils, examined sauces and unfamiliar snacks. And then, with a craving for Asian food after all the spices wafting through the Southall air, we went home and cooked a giant pot of chicken biryani.