I have always thought of London to be a strange but incredible city. On the one hand it can be a terribly lonely urban jungle but on the other it can be a warm and safe home where you can feel embraced by the love the city has to offer. If you have ever taken a night bus back home after a night of boozy partying you would have probably noticed the large number of accents and languages being spoken on the bus – it’s always like a United Nations Security Council meeting, with a lot of alcohol and fries! However where there is diversity, there is always prejudice and I found myself in the thick of a strange situation a few years ago.
I was traveling on a bus in the east end down Bethnal Green Road. It was a warm summer’s day and the bus was sweltering hot with about a million people packed into it after the working day. I was returning home with a bag full of groceries. These were the days when I was dating J and I was preparing for a romantic dinner at home since my flatmate was traveling. J loves kebabs and I was going to make him a lovely summer dinner of Skewer of Tikkas with Spinach, Radish and Pine-nut salad with copious amounts of Rose wine!
Anyway, I digress. I was sitting at the back of the bus reading my newspaper and listening to music on my iPod when two young kids got on the bus. They were about 14 or 15 years old, jeans down to their knees, disgusting boxer shorts peeking out, noisy, and obnoxious! They had been drinking and were getting louder and more annoying as we drove along. The boys came up to the back of the bus and sat down next to me and began playing loud music on their mobile phones. Now I can’t understand why people who insist on inflicting their tunes on the rest of the public always pick the worst music in the world to blast away on their phones. I was obviously physically uncomfortable because they started getting really loud and talking about me. ‘Look at that Paki in the corner’ one said to the other and then they burst out laughing and pointing. I thought to myself that I should get off at the next stop or perhaps move seats. I didn’t want trouble and who knew whether they were carrying knives.
At that very moment the bus stopped and a whole lot of people got on and got off which took the attention off me for a while. As the new passengers started settling down I looked up and saw this gorgeous gay couple walking towards us. They were in their mid-twenties, very out and proud and obviously very much in love. They had just been out shopping (or so I assumed from the number of bags they were carrying). They were wearing wedding bands and I sighed to myself wondering if I would ever find that! One said to the other ‘Honey there’s space here’ pointing to the seat in front of me. I thought to myself ‘Boys don’t sit here if you know what’s good for you’, and just as I finished this sentence in my head the two boys next to me began shouting ‘Look at these fags. You gay fuckers, you are disgusting.’
The boys were amazing, they sat there stoically looking forward and chatting to each other like they had not heard these two, which was quite impossible considering they were sitting right beside me. It was a really horrendous situation. The two idiots kept shouting out abuse and the two men in front of me bore it silently without saying anything. And I kept thinking if I don’t say anything I am indirectly condoning this behaviour, but if I did say something and was attacked would anyone come to my rescue? It was a surreal feeling to be in a bus full of people who were all slowly getting uncomfortable with the yelling but no one was doing anything about it. In a moment of temporary insanity and extreme bravado I turned off my iPod and turned around just when one of them had begun shouting the word ‘Faggot’. And then they turned on me.
‘What are you looking at?’ one of them shouted ‘You Paki faggot’. For a moment I was hugely intimidated. It was ridiculous, I was scared of two 14 year old boys who were half my size and drunk. But I had reason to be, considering the crazy stories the newspapers had been carrying. The boys in front of me turned around and gave me a knowing look almost to say ‘Thank you, but don’t do it’.
At that very moment out of nowhere, almost like the Genie of the lamp in Aladdin, this massive guy appeared. He was perhaps a bouncer going to work, dressed in a black jacket shirt and jeans, the size of a Rhinoceros with vicious gold teeth and a massive shiny earring. He walked through the crowded bus and up to the two yobs sitting next to me. He caught hold of the really loud irritating one. ‘Who the hell do you think you are calling [him] a faggot? Do you even know what the word means?’ he bellowed at them. The two yobs looked like little babies in front of him. He then reached out to the nearest button to stop the bus and rammed it a couple of times. Turning around to the boys again and growled ‘Get off this bus, you don’t deserve to travel on public transport if you can’t respect the public you travel with.’
As the bus pulled up to the next stop people made way for the two to be escorted off the bus. As they walked off followed by the big guy, the bus erupted into a roar of clapping. We pulled off leaving the two yobs behind and the big guy got back on. He came back towards the couple and me and asked us if we were okay, then sat down on the seats beside me. I was so moved by the whole episode that I almost forget to get off when my stop came.
As I was cooking for J that night I could not help thinking about the crazy experience I’d just had. I guess that’s the beauty of London, just when you don’t expect it, it finds a way of wrapping its warm embracing arms around you. Needless to say we had a great dinner that night four years ago and till today every time I make Tikkas I think of that bus ride on the Number 8 to Bow.
Mixed Tikkas, Raita and Spinach, Raddish and Pinenut Salad
You will need (for 2 people)
For the Tikkas
250 gms of chicken cut into cubes
250 gms king prawns shelled
2 red onions into 8 pieces each
1 pepper cut into small squares
250 gms mushrooms halved
1 tbsp chilly powder
2 tbsp lemon juice
3 tablespoons yoghurt
1 tablespoon garam masala
4 cloves garlic pressed and then chopped fine
1 cm ginger chopped fine
Part C – for garnish
1 Red onion cut into rings
1 tbsp finely chopped corriander leaves
For the Raita
250 gms of plain greek yoghurt
1 small red onion diced fine
1 teaspoon of corriander leaves
1 small cucmber diced fine
salt to taste
1/2 tsp cumin power
1/2 tsp chilly powder
For the salad
1 packet of baby spinach
1 handful of pine nuts
4-5 small raddishes sliced fine
1 handful of green and black grapes halved (optional)
Salt and pepper
2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
1-2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar
- Mix all ingredients of part A with all ingredients of part B in a large bowl. Mix with your hands for maximum effect. Leave in the fridge to marinate for a minimum of 4 hours in the fridge. Add extra chilly if you want them super spicy.
- If you have metal skewers thats a bonus, if you are using the wooden ones from any supermarket make sure you have soaked them in water for atleast 30 minutes otherwise you will end up burning them
- Make your skewers alternating the chicken with the vegetables and the prawns. Make sure its all coated well with the marinade. You can use the excess marinate to baste the skewers while they are cooking.
- For dinner parties I do my skewers on the grill but they are perfect for barbecuing as well. Make sure you turn it and cook all sides evenly
- While your meat is marinating mix all the ingredients into the yoghurt. The chilly powder is optional. The main thing about the raita is to have something cooling incase the tikkas are quite spicy. Leave it to cool in the fridge and serve cold.
- Chop the raddish into thin slices
- Cut the grapes in half
- Toss all the ingredients into a salad bowl
- in a separate bowl mix together the celery salt, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. You may need to add more of either if you are making larger salads.
On a plate place the well mixed and dressed salad in the center. Place 2 – 3 hot skewers on top of the salad and spoon out a circle of raita around the salad. You should have a green salad topped with very colourful skewers and a ring of white raita around it.