That week in England, just before I was to leave for home, I decided I had to see the London Eye. Although it was unashamedly touristy, I felt this urge. On reaching there I was told there was a technical problem and it might open only at noon; it was 10.30.
I walked towards the Dali exhibition, then sat on a bench and started writing something morbid, my pen twisted at an angle as though reluctant to commit. A few people hesitated before asking me to take their group pictures. I felt like taking back a digital memory as well. I managed half a smile and returned to my place.
An old woman came and sat next to me and unpeeled a sandwich wrapped in plastic; it looked stale as dry crumbs fell. She remained expressionless, looking nowhere but at the target of her hunger. There was so much desolation in those few minutes – was that her lifetime?
So lost in thought was I that I decided to walk back towards the gate. There was already a queue. I had not bothered to exchange my counterfoil for a ticket. I ran quickly and was being ushered into one capsule. After the metal detector and the rummaging of the bag, the security person asked, “Anything sharp?” I had already moved ahead but I called out to him, “Yes…”
He arched his eyebrows in a query…what??
I did not wait to see his reaction.
Inside the capsule we were told to take precautions since we would be going very high and could feel dizzy or get sick. I started clicking – the sky, the river, the Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, buildings, others in the capsules, people below – tiny figures. We all look like crumbs from stale sandwiches.
As we were descending, an announcement was made that our pictures would be taken by a remote camera and we should all move to the North-east side. Everyone stood…well, most did. A bit diffidently, I felt I too needed a souvenir. I ambled to a spot. When I went to collect the picture, there were several flashing on the monitor.
I was there with the thick line that ran across the capsule dividing me into two. The girl at the counter apologised, “Sorry about that.”
“Not at all. That’s me, all right.”