Visit to the UK and Back Home

02 Feb 2014. I am back to India, and back to what I was accustomed to do! Teaching media studies! This time not at St Aloysius College Mangalore, but at St Joseph’s College of Arts & Science, Bangalore. It is a much desired and waited-for change. Bangalore was not by choice, nor by desire, not least by design, simply by consequence of opting out of SAC, Mangalore.

images - warwick flag

It was a memorable sabbatical year-and-a-half in the United Kingdom (England, to be more specific) – getting exposed to two of the best of universities of the world – one the oldest English University: Oxford; the other, one of the finest young universities in the world: Warwick.

I spent a year at the Department of Film and Television Studies, Warwick, studying Film and Television and also doing some useful research, mostly on my own using the massive library at Warwick, and also in part with the support of Dr Martin Pumphrey (I had an article published in an international journal during this period, too). And spent a term at the University of Warwick as Academic Visitor, doing research and refreshing my research methodology (for social sciences) as well as attending a number of workshops, conferences, seminars, films and discussions, and whatever came on my way! While completed writing an article for a journal, worked on two more, though am yet to complete. It was such a memorable year!

images - warwick

The two stints at the Warwick and Oxford were gainfully and refreshingly punctuated by a month-long visit to the Continent: Italy (Rome/ Vatican, Venice, and Padua), Switzerland (Basel, Friebourg, Berne, and Zurich), Poland (Krakow and Wilejca/Salt Mines), Germany (a stop at Berlin followed by longer visits to Frankfurt, Regensburg, Heidelberg, Bavaria Film City, Munich, Dacau, and Nuremberg), Netherland/ Holland (Amsterdam and around), France (Paris, Versailles, and Acheres), Belgium (Brussels), back to Amsterdam (Luxembourg on the way), and finally to London in a coach (just for six pounds!)

It was probably one of the most wonderful experiences of my life, and an exciting and refreshing break as well. And, during the year, my Religious Superiors and fellow Jesuits also encouraged me to go around the UK and get familiar with the country. That took to places like Glasgow and Edinburgh (in Scotland), Belfast and (London)Derry in Northern Ireland, Dublin in the Republic of Ireland, and St Beuno’s in Rhyll in Wales.

images Warwick Film & TV

In London, Fr Michael Kirwan was a wonderful and persuasively inviting host every time I visited London (probably over a dozen times!). Rudolph Noronha, who was with Mike, had made such a difference! Vallu provided me another London-destination and a reason to visit London. I enjoyed his company both in London and very specially during my visit to Italy (last 3 days of my stay, when he joined me to go around the city of Rome and Vatican, Venice and Padua), Switzerland, Poland, and Germany. His simplicity, generosity, and delicious cuisine (Mangalorean, which I had missed so much whenever I was out of London!) are unforgettable.

images Oxford - Sheldonian

I was happy to have Dony in London – twice spent two days each with his family. While relaxing in the decades-old friendship, his two sons added colour to my stay! So did Priya.

Actually I should mention Fr Dermot Preston SJ, Provincial of the British Jesuit Province, for his generosity and kindness for having hosted me all through my stay in the UK. And after his welcome, it was Chris Boles who managed the “formality” show meticulously! What a smooth ride I had to the UK from India! No hassles whatsoever!

Rev Paul Nicholson SJ, the Director of the Novices at Manresa House (Birmingham) and my superior/local guardian, his effervescent assistant and a man of childlike simplicity Fr Gregorgy Brenninkmeijer SJ (former provincial of the Dutch Jesuit Province), the kind Fr John McCabe SJ, the senior Fr Ron Darwen SJ, ever gregarious John Okoria from Nigeria, Roy, the four novices Peter O’Sullivan (anytime, anything about cricket, football/soccer, history, and -yeh!- films!), lively Joel, lawyer Henry, and the simple Carlos – all made a lot of difference. In fact, Frs Paul and John went out of their way to make adjustments to make my UK visit fruitful. They will always be a part of my life.

My UK visit
My UK visit

Oh, how I miss Martina and Colette (lovingly called MNC)! The two senior youngsters who made our Sundays and feast days at Manresa House wait-worthy; for me personally, they were a home away from home! They in their eighties and seventies, could challenge any teenager’s energy and spirit! May God always bless the Manresa House community and MNC!

Nothing like having your friends there, when you enter the country. When I entered the UK, Rudy was -of course- well known to me. Besides him were Indu and her family (thanks to our Dharwad college days in South India’s north Karnataka !) always with me – ever since I told her that I would be in the UK. So, was Vincy (VinSun Taccode!)

During my term time at Warwick, I lived in Coventry to go to the Department, since that was closer to Warwick (half an hour by bus). It was St Osburg’s Priory. Canon Fr Garry Byrne was a father figure. With him was Clement from Nigeria. Along with them Ms Jadwiga and Asha (both Polish) made my stay comfortable. Such warmth even in the winter of the UK!

That kept me away from the Manresa House community for most of the year! It’s only after Easter that I became a regular resident of Manresa House, Birmingham; that’s a very short time (from May to August) to know people! Nevertheless, occasionally Una Coogan found time to give me company, specially that we shared some common interests like films and television! In Birmingham, I gave expression to one more of my passions (other than photography): swimming! I would wake up every early morning and go for swimming at 6.00 am! The Birmingham City Council made it irresistible by making it a free slot, at that time of the day! And the leisure centre was a stone’s throw away, after all!

It was my childhood desire to be a part of the University of Oxford. After all, the only non-Indian educational institution I had heard of in my childhood was Oxford! And Fr Brendan Callaghan made it possible. I was looking for various institutions to refresh my little research knowledge and also do some research at that university. When every other door was closed to me, Oxford opened through Brendan. And then Prof. Catherine de Vries pitched in. And everything else. And the rest, as they say, is history! (Though, for academics, I would rate the University of Warwick much higher than Oxford, overall atmosphere at Oxford makes it different!)

Before I conclude these memory-headlines, -lest I should forget- I must share with you on special person, a special memory: Francesca Paderni! It was through this very blog that I came to know Francesca. That was five or six years ago. Bonnie (Anand Nayak) had died in a tragic – typical Indian style- impossible accident in Delhi. And I blogged about this unfortunate event. Francesca, who knew Bonnie very closely and had associated with him for a long time, came to know about the loss through my blog. After that she became a regular visitor to my blog, and would comment on its contents occasionally. That familiarity still continues.

When I was visiting the Continent, I used to update my visits and photographs daily from whichever country I was in. And Francesca was quick to invite me to visit her in France. It’s then I made up my mind. Though I had planned a very short visit to France, I made it a point to visit Francesca. What is interesting is that Francesca does not know English, and I don’t know French! But we communicated, and continue to communicate!

On that day, when my delayed coach from Amsterdam reached Paris, it was already past 10.00 pm, and Francesca was still waiting for me with her constant little companion Chuhuaha (sorry Francesca if you are reading this and I have misspelled his name!) And only because of Chuhu, did I identify her amidst hundreds of passengers in the Paris Coach Station! The elderly, frail Francesca had waited for me for a long time (and my cell phone was “not reachable” since I was on international roaming constantly).

I was sorry to have disturbed her! And then she drove me to her house in Acheres province; we reached her provincial home at around 12 am! Then a long chat into the wee hours of the next morning! One thing I missed: to sit and listen to her music. Francesca is a music teacher – her house is full of musical instruments and notations all over! Smell, feel, sound and touch of music etched in every nook and cranny of the house! Managed to persuade her sit at her piano for a couple of minutes to play, and I clicked a few photographs! Sad, I lost those photos when my six-year old Lappy felt exhausted, and refused to wake up, and I had to format her!

And now, I am back in India. Refreshed and renewed. Moreover, having experienced a peaceful, enriching year. The year-and-a-half is always at the back of my mind; I find that experience cushioning me now!

Like a newspaper, these are only memory-headlines. Not detailed experiences! To explain/ narrate my experiences in the UK, it would take a few volumes!

Thank you all at Warwick; thank you Mr Jose Arroyo (my personal tutor), Dr Martin Pumphrey, Dr Alastair Phillips, and Prof. Charlotte Brunsdon (my module tutors), Prof Stephen Gundle (the PG Director and my Thesis supervisor), Dr Rachel Wheately (Admissions), Prof Victor Perkins (Prof. Emiretus), Mr Richard Perkins (Asst Librarian & Film & Television expert), the Film & Television Dept, and its office staff! It was great!

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