Picture Postcards From Manchester
Picture Postcards From Manchester
Take a tour of Manchester with Mohan Sundar Rajan, head of Paradigm Shift PR, as he gives an account of his memorable trip
Had it not been for Tim Wrighton, I would have missed the connecting London-Manchester flight. A conveyor belt malfunction had delayed and complicated matters at the penultimate moment after I alighted from Mumbai. A good Samaritan who earned his living off sales and marketing, he literally emerged out of thin air and helped me negotiate the queues and barricades at Heathrow on my plea. He himself had another flight to catch and he almost missed this to help me get mine. He had no time for my profuse thanks as he himself headed for his goal at breakneck speed.
It took some time to recognize my childhood friend and host in Manchester, Upendra Chainani, in person, after 3 decades. True we had communicated via post, Skype and email, but you will agree that seeing is believing. He had greyed, sported a successful paunch and resembled all those beefy steaks and belly-distending beers he said he had been devouring in old Blighty after our lives as Bombay boys took different turns.
I chose to visit Manchester during Christmas and New Year. Many advised me against this, saying the weather would be harsh for someone living in a city with moderate climes. But I enjoy the cold and wanted to be in a country which is in a state of celebration for around a fortnight. This would truly be a holiday with people, places et al available and receptive to me during the entire length of my holiday.
Fun With Friends!
The fun began with a visit to the Manchester Town Centre. At dusk, the Christmas market was abuzz. Gypsies, fudge and mulled wine, masks, lots and lots to eat… It was very much like street food on Indian sidewalks, only there it was more hygienic. The last time I ate street food in Mumbai (35 years ago?) I contracted jaundice.
The myriad options that Upendra presented me with in and around Manchester, the traffic snarls on the major highways at that festive time and my desire not to expose myself too much to the elements, made me take a major decision. I skipped London, which was very much on my itinerary before I left, altogether. It was a tough call because of the halo around the capital. I consoled myself by saying this is not the only trip, there will be an encore!
Malcolm and Caroline Gillies called Upendra, his wife Carol and me for lunch at their cottage in Whaley Bridge, part of the peak district national park. It was a 45 minute drive from my host’s Stockport residence at Trentham Avenue. I can go on and on about the lunch, but I prefer to rave about the fairytale well in their estate.
You have to watch a funeral cortege go through a local road in a Western country to contrast their coming to terms with loss and grief, to what happens in India. You may say generalizations are not allowed and I partly agree. But the one I saw in Manchester, winding through small quaint villages, had a balming effect. From my car, it was difficult to tell whether it was carrying a young or old person. There was a stillness of death, the family had dressed appropriately for the solemn occasion. No tears, no breast beating, no loud bells… there was dignity in death.
After Upendra was installed as a Freemason Worshipful Master of King Edward VII, Lodge No 3329, we had a celebratory lunch at La Cicchetti. Then we walked in the biting cold of Manchester City Centre searching for a tram experience, but our luck was bad, so we had to settle for a cab.
Sights, Sounds & Tastes Of Manchester
I am someone who prefers landscapes to the gory remnants of war, but decided to experience the trials and tribulations of war, albeit in a museum. When I walked into Britain’s Imperial War Museum at Manchester, I expected only to see monuments of military glory like tanks, airplanes and ack ack guns. Though the subject was war and how it touches the raw nerve of both armies, it was so complete that boots, guns…everyone who took part in war and the minutest of things, was in it. Verily it was not a monument of military glory, but a record of toil and sacrifice.
Christmas day found me driving through Glossop, the capital of the peak district. Our car meandered through the hairpin bends of Snake Pass. We ate at Snake Pass Inn and I, for once, substituted whiskey or ale, with Cinnamon Cider, warmed to weather the cold.
Driving back to Manchester, I chanced upon a Church which had a cemetery by its side. No doubt, it had the deserved silence of the graveyard. But human activity, cars and even the strains of music from the other side of the road, helped me make the connection between life and inevitable death.
Getting a little adventurous by straying out of Manchester proper, I visited Chester, a Tudor Town. I got separated from my friend in a 1,000 year old cathedral and, being the only one, as far as I could see, in the cathedral while it was getting pretty dark, made me get in touch with the frightening reality that I may be locked inside for the night. I was reunited with my friend, thanks to divine intervention.
Dinner was at the Cheadle Royal Pub. Compared to the poor toilet hygiene in the pub, similar conveniences in India are definitely better!
Warwick Castle was next on the agenda. Treading carefully through Britain’s Ultimate Castle, I bumped into a bunch of live knights, or so it seemed, till I realized they weren’t for real. The initial shock gave me a minuscule glimpse of the Castle’s tales of battle, siege, murder and power struggles and famed murky, winding alleyways.
Dahyabhai Maisuria (alias Karson), an Indian accountant who had migrated to the UK years ago, told me how he collects a pension of 3 pounds each month, thanks to the largesse of the Kenyan Government. An industrious man, he has toiled to see his daughter through college and continues to work even at 80. He regaled me with stories of how, after the war, many Britons had no proper toilets in their homes and had to trudge for a furlong or so “to have a shit, shave and shower”, his choice of words, not mine!
About The Author
Mohan has had an extremely stimulating professional career and is now the head of Paradigm Shift, which he had initially established single-handedly and that today has 11 executives and 25 clients both Indian and international. Media is his core strength area and Mohan’s expertise with the Indian press has benefited organizations across a wide range of sectors, particularly by leveraging the editorial media as a strategic tool.
Having handled the in-house PR activities for J Walter Thompson, Tatas and Britannia, he believes that PR is a soft skill and hence requires more tact and a personal equation with media carefully built and nurtured over the years.