Once upon a time, more than four decades ago, our prelapsarian adolescent days were spent anticipating nights that marked sleep-overs, which were still uncommon back then.
Our sleepovers were spent poring through Linda Goodman & our weekends —displaying culinary skills with the forlorn tunes of Bollywood playing in the background. The common wall still stands mute witness to shared secrets, the shirts & stoles that flew past our compound wall & the books that exchanged hands. Then, marriage & the seven seas separated us, albeit emails & eventually WhatsApp kept us bound, not to mention our reunion during my friend’s annual trip to India.
So, my recent trip to the UK found Cambridge added to my itinerary. How could I not meet my childhood pal? We hoped to relive our heyday & meet with our families. Life had been interesting but we did miss each other. A tight schedule decided that we meet over lunch. So, a stay-over plan went off-kilter. Nevertheless, we wanted to make the most of that one day. So, post-lunch, we decided to go sight-seeing & punting.
It was a quiet, chilly afternoon & the sunny weather served as a timely salve.
With the River Cam at her feet reflecting many of her halls of ivy, the city of Cambridge stood staid & splendid; imposing & esoteric, with stately bridges bridging the gap between the past & the present.
Wending through the labyrinthine streets, we chanced upon the city’s baronial edifices that annually throw open their gates to cherry-picked candidates, whose enviable erudite wisdom is further polished to take on the world.
Cambridge City Centre was the locus, where edifices of baroque phrontisteries lay scattered.
Our eyes were glued skyward, for so magnificent were the structures.
And not once did we have to mind our way, for the streets were clean & the sidewalks —neat & even.
Natives & students hobnobbed together & yet the merry milieu did not seem uproarious. It was as if we had stepped into a time-warp!
Each structure was chiseled to become a unique masterpiece.
I wondered what secrets they beheld, what mysteries they kept under wraps; about the elitist of alumni churned out, the summa cum laude graduates & their didactic preceptors.
Christ’s College, Cambridge
Great St. Mary’s University Church, Cambridge
Among the many architectural wonders, was the Corpus Clock encased in glass. Its burnished gold disk bearing a grotesque grasshopper, lent it another name —The Grasshopper Clock.
It seems this chef-d’oeuvre was featured in the Hindi film Pa (unable to recall that) & ever since, has become a hub for Indian tourists.
Surely, punting in River Cam is another drawcard in Cambridge.
Rowing our boat was this fair, light-eyed, auburn-haired man with a pony-tail & flowing beard. There was an unmissable Indianness that was hard to ignore, although his white skin & British accent belied his patent race.
Clare College Bridge
Our curiosity was quelled when James Timothy Bright Aiyya Thuraisingham Subramanian, our punter, recognizing our Indianness, broke the ice & introduced himself. 🙂 Of mixed parentage —Indian (Tamilian from Singapore & European), Subramanian was indeed a winsome young lad.
Adroitly rowing the canoe, he regaled us with historical facts that the town was famed for; about the University of Cambridge, its various illuminati, its past heroes, the present highbrows & the royalty that forms the crème de la crème of alumni.
When he paused his narrative, it was only the swashing of water that was audible.
We passed by the many hoary facades lined up on the banks.
We sailed along willowy banks & bridges, soaking in the ambiance of many an ivy-swathed facade & attempting to revisit a bygone past.
Bridge of Sighs
Named after its Venetian counterpart, which derived this strange name from the sighs of prisoners, the Bridge of Sighs in Cambridge is rumoured to have been christened by weary students, who often let out a sigh before their exams! 😉
Anything that’s ancient, often lacks facts to corroborate its status & the myths surrounding this bridge is no different.
My suggestion-take a local guide along & you’ll get to the facts.
This strange name came to stay, as this was the bridge used to transport victuals to students. The New Court Building did not have a kitchen back then.
This quaint little town was so enchanting, with its old-world charm. People seemed to have time to smell their coffee!
We found the townsfolk bimbling around merrily, while some paused for an intimate causerie.
A few stole the opportunity to lie back & woolgather.
Where the campuses ended, the blue space took over. The distant whistling of a lone gull & the churning of water were the only sounds & we sailed along, lost in thought.
We had a lot to catch up on but were loath to shatter the sanative silence.
Our punting round came to an end & as a closing ave, we exchanged emails with James Timothy Subramaniam.
We were famished & were yearning for homecooked & familiar taste. My friend took us to this authentic South Indian restaurant, which is known for its distinct Tamil flavour.
The Tiffin Truck with its sure-enough Tamil vibe & aromatic filter coffee, dancing dolls (Talai aatu bommais) & traditional wooden statuettes (Marapaacchis) as remembrances, seemed like a chip off the old block.
Slowly, the day came to a close & along with it —our reunion. Sadly, we had to return to London. Yet, we had fond memories of a day well spent. Surely, Cambridge may not be your standalone trip but a sojourn is highly recommended.
‘What’s so exceptional about the cityscape?’, you’d ask. Nothing really. Yet, the vibe of the place is certainly magical.
Dedicated to my childhood friend of 40+ years..
Wow!!! Great piece of literature. The fellow at Cambridge may be keen to offer you “Fellowship”, once they go through this very descriptive essay of experiences at the Cambridge. You are certainly blessed with language usage skills that most of us would want to have. Seemed like I just lived in Cambridge, the last 30 minutes. What’s your next destination???
Thank you for your kind words😊. Haha..Hope he gets to read it. But glad that you took the time to read & comment. Still planning our next holiday. Keeping fingers crossed that the prevailing virus doesn’t stanch our plans..
Excellent travelogue as usual dotted with beautiful pictures. I miss reference to Harry Potter’s dining hall in Christ Church’s high ceilinged hall. You have nicely bridged instances with nostalgia. In all wonderfully and aptly worded taking the reader on a nice leisurely walk on the streets of Cambridge followed by a scenic boat ride. I appreciate and envy your observation skills ,usage of apt words and neatly packing them to describe the scenic view, and your experiences. Wish, next visit you make it a point to see the annual Oxford Cambridge boat race so that your punting experience comes a full circle.The Boat Race is an annual event between crews from the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge held on River Thames. The Men’s Boat Race was first raced in 1829.
Thanks for informing me. I never knew about the boat race but right now after reading this, I faintly recall that my friend did mention about a boat race while we were punting. I hope we get to make a revisit only to enjoy the boat race. Have you been there?
Nice. It’s always a treat to enjoy British architecture.
Superb clicks, added with your relishing eye for details and narrated beautifully✌️🌹🙂👏👏
Thank you for your kind words. It’s always a treat to write for readers like you..
Enjoyed my visit to Cambridge through this article, without having moved an inch. The narrative is excellent and makes you appreciate the uniqueness of the campus and place which I knew only as being a reputed place. The pictures are excellent as well. Hope to see more travel writing.
Hi. Yes, the town is pretty in its own way, with its old world charm. The pandemic kept me very busy but I plan to be more regular with my blogging. Glad you found the time to read & comment.
Beautiful work of art! Both Cambridge and your write up.
Thanks a lot, Deepa. Your words are always encouraging..
It’s always a treat to read your travelogue Shubrataji. Great selection of words and narration complemeting the pictures, drawing down the memory lanes. It was like a time travel, walking on the streets of Cambridge. Very nice.
Thank you so much. I’m so glad that you liked it & yes, it’s an enchanting town..
Dil mange more — Shubhrata, write much more – more details and story-line, would appreciate more
I’m so happy that someone is asking for more because I always felt that it was very lengthy & readers would be bored to death; hence made it concise. There will be more coming up & I am going to be more regular & shall write keeping you in mind. Thank you once again. ☺️☺️
Wow, this is so beautifully written! Thank you for taking me back to Cambridge, through your blog ♥️ The pictures are outstanding too! It’s one of the best cities I’ve lived in and has the warmth of home! Thank you again for penning your experience so wonderfully 😊🤗
Thank you for your kind words, Chaitra. Yes, your mom told me about you having lived in Cambridge. I’m glad that my post made you nostalgic & yes, it’s indeed a lovely town.
And, now I am glad to know one of those elite graduates 😊
This was a mesmerising trip….I was not reading but felt like real trip..I was in Cambridge. Shubs… ur simply genius
Thanks a lot, Rajesh. I’m so happy that you got so immersed. It’s in fact very encouraging to write for readers like you..
Loved the guided tour of Cambridge.. Nice.
Thank you, Meenal. There’s more to Cambridge than what meets the eyes, I’m sure. However unfortunately, we could spend just one day there..
Fantabulous pics and heart catching write up.
I’m glad you liked it. Thank you for taking the time to read & comment too.
Hey Shubhrata, it kinda gave me dejavu experience of my visit to this lovely town way back in 2000..good account laced with choicest words from lexicon.. a shutterbug in you has also done splendid job!
You made me open my thesaurus several times while going thru your punting!
Keep it up and well done. Yeh dil mange more!!!
I’m glad I was able to make you relive your experience. As I write regularly, the choice of words comes a tad easily.
Lovely write up Shubhrata. Super clicks as well. Look forward to more such blogs…
I’m glad Sonali that you enjoyed going through it. I hadn’t been regular in the last few months but want to be more regular now. Shall intimate you once I post a new one.
Thank you always, Neil.
There is so much beauty in Cambridge it is wonderful and so is your blog . Casual conversational tone makes it particularly interesting .
Great for your readers indeed !
Thanks a lot Dr. Bagwe, for taking the time from your busy schedule & going through it. Do keep an eye for more.
Wow, your writing and pics made me feel like I was there… Would surely visit some day
Thank you, Sabina. Yes, you must visit the place sometime. As I said, most would give Cambridge a miss in favor of other places. However, the proximity to London should make it certainly doable.
Superb really wonderful write up n pics 👍👍
Thanks a lot, Robin. Glad that you enjoyed reading.
Amazing write-up, Shubhrata. Loved the narrative and the pics. Looking forward to more! I’ll surely visit Cambridge during my next London trip, most likely in Sept.
Hello there! Thanks for reading & liking it. Yes, you must visit the place. As I said, it’s perfectly doable, given its proximity to London. Enjoy!
Yes, I shall be more regular now. And I’m happy to know that there’re readers out there who like reading my posts. That’s very encouraging..
Shubrata, very good narration of your trip to Cambridge with beautiful scenic pics . It is a virtual trip to Cambridge for us readers.
Thank you so much. I’m glad I was able to transport people virtually.. Keep reading..
I wanted to read your blog leisurely and glad to do so. Your narration filled with your choicest of words aptĺy describing the Cambridge City with universities spread over n numerous bridges unheard of before n not to miss the humerous way u have began the blog.By the way my niece passed put of Kings College last year. Looking forward to your blog of such from you. Keep writing as you have the gift of the pen n eye for the camera
Excellent journey, it was watching through the gates of Cambridge and lovely scenics Shubhrata. Shall love and expect to watch some more very soon.
Thank you so much for finding the time to go through it. Yes, shall keep you informed as & when I update. Do watch this space for more.