Piyush Roy studied an MA in International Journalism at the School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies in 2003/04. He is currently working as a Special Correspondent in The Indian Express.…
Piyush Roy reporting from the set of the mythological TV series Ramayan
Never even in my most far fetched dreams had I ever thought that my first outing outside India would be to Cardiff (if one discounts the touchdown at Heathrow). I had even contemplated arriving a bit early and spending some time in London before commencing my MA course on September 12, 2003; but then Cardiff, it had to be – my first international date.
I strongly believe a place becomes special because of the people you meet there. They are the ones who make lifelong memories and now when I look back at my Cardiff days, I find myself cocooned in warm anecdotes, occasionally leaving one a bit misty-eyed.
The first thing that intrigued me was the triple security at my halls of residence, the Senghenydd Court (Welsh nomenclature does throw forth quite a few tongue twisters for the uninitiated foreign student).
The other, was the presence of at least one student from Pakistan in every flat of five that housed an Indian. Even if it wasn’t a conscious decision to mitigate our ingrained sub-continental hostility on a neutral third platform, it worked – most of us Indian students did return with some life long friends from across the border (read Pakistan) made in ‘distant’ UK.
There was a myriad of international student welcome parties and forums, one in particular at a house whose doors opened every Friday with interesting events and smiles galore for a new international face on every visit.
Another fond memory, which happened pretty early into my stay, is being tended and walked back to my hostel after a bike crash, well past midnight, by a complete stranger, a local Welsh lad. I could never thank him enough as my worried flatmates rushed me in and rushed him out, though I always hoped to bump into him sometime during my stay. Finally, when I did see him, just days prior to my leaving Cardiff, he did recognise me. Perhaps that’s the way with good Samaritans. They never leave their visiting cards.
Talking of farewells, I think, I was one of the most ‘farewell-ed’ foreign students! Three teary ones happened on various dates and times from my Cardiff International Office pals alone. Rhian, Fiona, Anna, Martin, John, Simon … (I will stop and not turn this into a thank you speech because the list could fill in a whole page). Having worked at the International Office as a UNIstaff, I have to admit that the folks there amazed me in their patience at holding such a warm and enthusiastic gateway for every nervous foreign student with a million queries.
Then came the personal good byes from some of the myriad student societies I was part of, not discounting the individual dine-outs with my local and international classmates.
I also had my life’s first experience of snow in Cardiff; the white carpet raising a shining toast to the white snow washed pillars in the centre of the Bute Park made a memorable makeover of a daily sight.
The only non-university society that volunteered to be a member of was the Poetry Circle. My friends wondered what I was doing there, listening to its members read out vignettes of lives from another era. My favourite was a chirpy old lady, whose tales of a young girl’s first date off St. David would give Bridget Jones’ diary a run for its fame. I always listened and never read my private attempts at novel writing, until the last meeting, when I finally overcame my shyness to read to ample encouragement. Now that effort is a published book. There are so many more memories – all tender and gossamer-like.
Perhaps I could write a book on my Cardiff days too. Someday!