Dear Dr. Shihab,
I am grateful to my lost and recently found friend, Dr. Farook Murshed, for scanning the attached photos of our student life days in London, England in the late 60s..
These are photos in London (One Hans Crescent, Knightsbridge -1968) of Farook Aman, Farook Murshed and the late Mohamed Bafagih plus a staff member of Hans Crescent. The other picture is for a relatively current sharp looking Mr. Farook Murshed at his office, BP Refinery Medical Lab.
My memories of the city of London focuses on the comparison of the simplicity of Aden life and the complexity of London on those schooling days. The grey regular rainy Fall (Autumn) season was certainly a shocker for a new kid on the block arriving from Aden and wondering what had happened to his sudden upside down new life in London? This is how I witnessed London rush hour traffic in 1966. It was no consolation either not to write home about.
For as far as the eye could see on buses, trains and the underground subway system, there were waves of men dressed in dark business suits, black shining shoes, fully starched removable white color shirt, a necktie that was artistically sticking out of the white color, a black round (polar) hat and an umbrella.. All were evidently rushing to get to work and would have nothing to do with a foreign student attempting to stop them in order to ask for directions!
In addition, every one seemed to carry the morning newspaper. Once riding, they also seem to be hiding their faces with those bulky newspapers invariably staring around with inquisitive eyes towards whoever was apparently guilty and dared to speak a foreign language loudly..
Women on the other hand were covered in rain coats, leather boots and holding colourful small-sized umbrellas, visible heavy load of facial make up, colourful glistening lips stick while smelling with pleasant perfume fragrance. They would either stand up quietly on the transit system staring intensely and aimlessly at one object or another or examine the displayed advertisements (Pinta Milk a day keeps the doctor away!). Yes..once seated the newspaper or a book would be opened and the apparent serious and focused reading began, as if they had exams to prepare for!
"This was a society that hardly spoke on the public transportation system," I often told myself. The peaceful and quiet air would only be disturbed by foreign language obliviously spoken rather loudly followed by a burst of group laughter!
I quickly learned to imitate the London Transit Riders, especially when I hosted new arrivals from Aden to promptly exhibit the acquired knowledge of living in London; to educate them on the important trick of how to avoid the inquisitive quiet but piercing looks of other riders when a foreign language was spoken rather loudly. A friend of mine once commented that there should be a sign that read : Whispers allowed only, loud foreign language strictly forbidden!!
My morning ride to college would require a little over an hour starting with an underground hike ride from Knightsbridge Station, then to a surface train ride from Waterloo Station and then try and catch a bus ride to get through to college grounds, otherwise walk the wet 15 minutes distant. This was certainly foreign life style compared to the friendly few minutes morning dry walk to school in Crater, Aden, wall to wall sunshine. While the Koranic recitation blared off from Radio speakers of various local restaurants, some toothless smiles greetings would be flashing from neighbourhood residents and sincere greetings of sabah al khair were offered!
The contrasts in the London's and the Aden's life style spoke loudly to this new kid on the block. Confused but determined to spend whatever numbers of years dictated to finish the schooling in London, grab the necessary qualifying certificate and fly back home to where the proud parents, the tearful happy eyes of family members as well as of friends' wouldn't miss the opportunity to volunteer a Bear's hug accompanied with wet honest kisses upon arrival at Aden Airport upon the back ground traditional noise of Qatareef..then to the lamb scarify at the home door step and/ or the traditional breaking of eggs too to ward off the evil eye!
Priceless moments, that evidently could not be matched in gold, for a well deserved Aden boy graduate who had just set foot back on home soil. While no resume' was needed to be handed in search for work, a job awaits you and all lined up smiling staff members yarn to shake your hand to welcome you. A cup of sweet hot Nescafe' mixed with Carnation milk would await you every morning.
The Conspiring parents at home would be busy preparing a list of names of attractive neighbourhood young girls of what was perceived to be of good families to choose from for the lifetime journey of the golden cage...those were the days; Simple but Effective.
Yes...the Aden College experience then and the London rail life might have provided us with the necessary basis for education, we were also shockingly ready, instinctively willing and positively determined to compete with other world students in a foreign land to prove that although Aden was but a small dot in the world map, yet it had (& has) competitive brains to graduate with honours!
Written by : Farook Aman