Speakers Corner

OK, it’s not in chronological order. So what?

Some of us decided to go to The House of Mirth. Figured it might be worth watching a movie at London. May as well see what the theatres are like. Besides, Gillian Andersen would probably be worth it. (Incidentally, I learnt that it’s pronounced ‘jillian’, not ‘gillian’ with a hard ‘g’. While we’re on the subject of pronounciations, I may as well admit that I learnt ‘buffet’ rhymes with ‘ooph-hey’, ‘genre’ is pronounced ‘jaan-ra’, ‘Renoir’ is ‘Ren-wa’, ‘deluxe’ is ‘deloo’, ‘Nice’ is ‘niece’, ‘rendezvous’ is ‘rondevoo’, and so on. England does teach one how to pronounce French 🙂

The theatres look pretty much like the small theatres in India. A student ticket is 3 pounds(almost Rs. 200), which by now, I actually consider cheap. Only thing is, people don’t like others talking to each other in theatres. We tried to chit-chat, but were shooed down — even before the movie began. The movie was OK. Worth watching once.

Incidentally, when the movie got over, I stood up, to find a bar of chocolate under my foot. At this point, a dilemma presented itself to me. Do I eat it, like I usually do, despite having stepped on it? I mean, it still had it’s cover on… or do I do in London as Londoners do? It was a nice chocolate, and all that. After pondering deeply for about 2 seconds, I took a small bite. It didn’t seem poisoned. I took a larger bite. Seemed tasty too. Maybe there is such a thing as a free lunch.

Then we went over to this place called the ‘Speaker’s Corner’ or something. It’s a corner of Hyde Park where anyone can come over, get on a stool, and start talking. The first guy we met, poor fellow, was just standing on a stool waiting for people to come over to him and talk. We figured he wouldn’t have much to say, so we moved on to a more colourful character.

The colourful character stood on a tall stool which said

Tony Alien
Advocate Heckler
Anarchist Parasite
Mixed-ability Shaman

First, of course, we took a photo of this guy, and then listened to him. He was expressing his strong opinions about drugs, and how one can’t live on 60 pounds a week. He was also calling the policemen around some names. In fact, just as he was doing that, the police were dragging off an African-American who kept shouting “This place is against the Muslims, man! You’re all against Muslims!” I later learned that he was not a speaker — just a member of the crowd who started beating up a speaker or something.

We moved on to another African American. His argument was simple. “We all know that Jesus is the son of God. But when we tell this to the Muslims, they say ‘No’. Why? Because we have no proof. Well, today, we have proof!” At this point, a few Jews and Muslims around him started fighting with each other. At least half of them were drunk. Then there was the ‘Brotherhood of the Cross & Stars’. An African-American in a white frock.

But the hit of the show was Stewart. Stewart was this guy wearing blue glasses and bunny ears, standing on top of a bottle crate. He looked funny, so we went over, to hear him say “… and Jesus Christ is here to save our ass. And if he’s here to save our ass, then by Holy Ass, it’s saved!” Clearly, he was making a mockery of the whole show, but just as clearly, he was the funniest of the lot. So we stuck on.

He had lunch that day with someone (he wouldn’t tell us who, because who she was was none of our business, and none of his either, for that matter) at an up-scale restaurant at Notting Hill. He had pizza, dessert, bananas, and all kinds of stuff, and as he was drinking apple juice, he just couldn’t stop himself, so he threw up. He didn’t throw up the pizza and dessert — just the bananas and apple juice, which were kind-of on top. Now, this up-scale restaurant was terribly upset that someone threw up their food, so they decided to waive the fee. Stewart and his friend (whose identity is none of our business, and none of his either, as he reminded us), felt that was great, and walked out. Then they remembered that they hadn’t tipped him. Stewart, by then, was on his way to Speaker’s Corner, and had put on his bunny ears. As a matter of policy, he doesn’t remove his bunny ears until he’s finished what he has to say. So he goes over to the restaurant to tip the waiter, in bunny ears, even though he hadn’t paid them in the first place, and had puked in the second.

At about this point, a gentleman with a deep growling voice comes over and says aloud, “You are talking utter nonsense. Those people talking over there, they have something to say. You have NOTHING!” Stewart claims that’s precisely the point. He’s saying nothing. You’re hearing nothing. There IS nothing. Growling voice goes on about how those who’re listening to him are wasting their time, when Stewart begins to go “Grrr, Arf Arf Arf.” It’s incredible how close he sounded to the heckler.

A slightly demented looking guy in the audience came forward, and said, “I have a question.”

Stewart: “Sure, go ahead and ask!”

Demented guy: “It’s for him,” pointing to the growling man.

Stewart: “Sure, go ahead.”

Demented guy to growling man: “Grrr, arf arf arf?”

The whole crowd burst out laughing, and Stewart turns to the demented guy and says, “You’re good. You’re real good, and you know it!”

The highlight of the evening was that we got to see Shahnaz Hussain. I even took a snap of her. She does look a little overdressed, though.

Incidentally, when the Palestinian trouble broke out (on 12th October), there was a march by Muslims in the UK to protest against the British stance on the issue. It was a sight to watch. I was walking along with Jean-Francois (a French exchange student from Kellog) from the Thornton computer lab to the main LBS building. The road was blocked. There were about 100-150 muslims walking on the road, shouting something. What impressed Jean-Francois and me was that they were surrounded by 100-150 policemen, and that about 10 police vans were following the crowd. Neither of us had seen such a high police-protestor ratio. Guess there isn’t much chance of violence, given such an entourage.