London Plane

London Plane

London Plane
London Plane

 Sycamore, Poplar, Oak; it has taken me weeks to remember their names but I can now.  London Plane is the tree I like best with its spiky round brown nuts dangling from its branches; it reminds me where I am and who I am.

Repeat, repeat, repeat.  They refuse to understand.  But I have no choice.  The questions they ask me.  I look at their faces and though they think I can’t see; I can.  How many times?  I can’t count.  England; I thought it would be different here, but just like Karachi; always the same look; they don’t believe me.

The first week I was in London, I only went out to the shop to buy milk, dhal, rice and bananas.  When I came home, I sat by the window, looking out at the small park, surrounded by tall trees with emerald green grass in the centre and watched the rain and cried; how I cried.

I don’t know why and how that morning, in my second week, I was able to walk out the door and instead of turning left, I went right, and right again into the park.  There was no call to pray; just birds singing.  Perhaps that helped me.  When I got into the park there was no one there.  I walked past the trees: strong, thick, brown, red, grey almost black; chopped branches; knotted, chipped, flaking bark; jade green leaves and tiny flowers at their bases: white, yellow, purple.  As I looked across I became frightened.  Someone was walking towards me.  But then I saw it was an English woman with two small dogs, fluffy and white as though they had just had a bath.

‘Good morning,’ she said and before I could open my mouth she and her dogs were gone.

The next morning I wasn’t sure; all I could see were heavy, grey clouds raining down; by seven o’clock I decided it was too late; there would be too many people.

On the third morning the sky reminded me of the bright blue dupattas Razia and I wore at St Joseph’s before Senior Fikree confiscated them.  Thinking of those crazy times in Karachi I smiled, as I walked out of the house.  When I entered the park it was light but earlier than before so the woman and her dogs hadn’t come yet.  There was no one there so I walked slowly round the park looking at the trees, tapping them as though I knew them which I didn’t then.  As soon as I saw someone enter the park I walked quickly home.

On my fourth day the singing was joyful, as though the birds were teasing me.  That was how I learnt to go out.  I kept my head down if there were any men there but I didn’t mind to say good morning to the women.

By my third week I was less frightened and sleeping better.  My new friends woke me at six and they welcomed me like the St Patrick’s Cathedral choir.

Every day I see women’s faces: old, young, brown, red, dark, light just like the barks of the trees; English, Chinese, Turkish, African.

One morning a young woman stopped me and said, ‘isn’t this just wonderful.’

I didn’t understand why she stopped me.  But it was true for seven days it had been raining.


Migratory narrative from women at Heba Oct 2013