Poor and Lonely in Thatcher’s London

by CHARLES R. LARSON

There have been other stories of poor and lonely students living in London, though perhaps none quite so poignant and profound as Amit Chaudhuri’s Odysseus Abroad. It’s Margaret Thatcher’s London, circa 1985, and Ananda, the main character, has already been in London for two years, attending a school that must be the University of London, though it is never named. He’s come to the United Kingdom to study English literature, although what Ananda wants more than anything else is to become a poet. His mother, who recently visited him, has returned to India. Ananda is homesick and often bewildered by English customs and English people. He has few friends–except for an uncle who also lives in London–and spends much of his time by himself in his claustrophobic room. Not so different from thousands of other international students.

Ananda watches too much TV (often programs for children), cuts many of his classes, and eats inexpensive but filling Chinese meals because that is all he can afford. There’s an Indian restaurant directly across the street from where he lives, but he doesn’t trust their preparation. Night after night he either orders the Singapore noodles or the fried rice from the Chinese restaurant and takes those meals back to his room, eating alone. Upstairs, there are other Indians in the same building, a couple who make constant noise, but he has no relationship with them. His loneliness is largely his own choice.

 

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