Visit to United Kingdom- England, Wales and Scotland

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The United Kingdom is the country where I spent longest period of time abroad. I visited England for the first time to study MBA at Hull University in 1991. Like other civil servants my name was also sponsored by the Department of Personnel and Training of the Government of India for a British Council scholarship. After doing MBA I returned to India in 1992. But later on I got several opportunities to visit United Kingdom.

The British Council on behalf of the Overseas Development Administration of UK organises training courses in Britain. On the request of the government of India the officers working in government sector were offered full scholarship. I was among those selected for MBA full time course at International Management Centre of the University of Hull. The course stared on the 7th October 1991.We were instructed to reach UK latest by 27th September 1991. I was sent an air ticket by the office of the British Council in Delhi. My British Airways flight departed from Delhi on 1st September at 3.20 am and arrived at Gatwick airport, London at 7.30 am GMT. The temperature outside was 9 Degree Celsius.  The offer letter mentioned that no family accommodation was available but some of us called our families soon after the course started. Some of us called our families soon after the commencement of course. I was given $408 for monthly maintenance allowance in Britain which was reasonable for a person like me who is a teetotaler. The fee for one year course was $ 8,900 which was paid to the institute directly by the British council. Most of the scholarship amount was deducted by the university towards hostel accommodation. I lived in room no.6 on first floor of  27, Salmon Grove on  Cottingham Road.  Though there were four rooms in the house with two students sharing one room. But it was a sheer coincidence that we were only two Indian students in the house except for a short period when one room was occupied first by an African student and later by an Irish student. I chose my room which gave me ample sun light right from the morning to afternoon, a boon in cloudy weather. However, the University Club was situated just in front of my house. I used to frequent the club when nothing else was in hand. For me cold drinks and snacks were enough. At the club some boys and girls used to get drunk and they used to create scene.

Description of Hull University days.

The University College Hull was established in 1927. It became England’s fourteenth university upon grant of a Royal Charter in 1954. It is located at Cottingham Road and its address is HU6  7RX. Hull is also called Kingston upon Hull as it lies on river Hull.  The town is situated  40kms inland from Noth Sea.

My time at University was quite fruitful. The MBA course was quite useful to understand roles played by marketing forces in economic growth. The book on strategic marketing by Philip Kotler remains a classic treatise for all time to come. The students were kept busy throughout the week with home work and assignments followed by presentation in the class room.Every individual student made presentation at the end of the course. I was adjudged the best presenter by the professor in charge of presentations, Professor Toad. My past experience in debating  was of great help to me.

In the world of economic development market plays vital role. My view is that concept of management along with business management should be taught in every discipline at the undergraduate level.

The President of Hull University union wrote the following letter.

17 October 1991

Mr. M. A. Ibrahimi

27 Salmon Grove, Cottingham Road


Dear Mr. Ibrahimi

Further to our conversation yesterday I have great pleasure in inviting you to the first meeting of union council  on Monday, 21 October, at 6.30 P.M, in the council chamber, third floor, University House. I will be very happy to receive on behalf of Hull university union the replica of the pillar of Vaishali, an ancient symbol of democracy.

May I take this opportunity to thank you on behalf of the students at Hull University for your kind gift.

Yours sincerely.

Warren Morgan

I gave a gift presentation speech on the occasion. The speech was recorded. The speech verbatim was as follows:

  1. President Mr. Warren Morgan and councilors of Hull university union.
  2. I am Md. Ashiq Ibrahimi of the Indian Administrative Service. The IAS is the legacy of the Indian Civil Service which used to be mostly manned by Britishers and Europeans till Indian Independence. Presently, I am doing MBA as in-service training.
  3. I belong to the state of Bihar in India. It is famous for political movements. Mahatma Gandhi launched Freedom movements from Bihar. After India’s Independence, political movement started from Bihar which resulted in change of Government of India.
  4. Bihar occupies a most prominent place in ancient history of India. The ancient history of India is largely the history of Bihar. It the land of Buddha and Mahavira. Probably the oldest university of the world, Nalanda university, was located here. The Chinese traveller Hiuene Tsang had studied at Nalanda in 7th century, AD. The mighty empires of Asia Mauryan dynasty and Gupta dynasty ruled over India from Bihar with capital at Patliputra, that is present day Patna.
  5. Even before the Mauryan Empire and Gupta Empire, Vaishali in Bihar occupied most prominent place in ancient Indian history. The world’s first democratic republic with elected assembly of representatives flourished in Vaishali in the 6th century BC, in the times of Vajjis and Lichahavis. Buddha visited this place frequently and preached his sermons there. To commemorate the event and to highlight the greatness of Vaishali, Ashoka the Great of Mauryan dynasty erected a famous Lion Pillar at Vaishali. The lion pillar is symbol of democracy, spiritualism and mighty power.

I present the replica of the famous Lion Pillar to the Hull University Union. I would request President Warren Morgan to kindly receive the memento as a gift of friendship from the youth of India.

Before I went to Britain, I enrolled myself as a member of International Youth Hostel Association. The Association runs youth hostels throughout the world at important tourist destinations in order to promote awareness among youth about various cultures in the world. It provides affordable accommodation which invariably has facility of self cooking in the kitchen. After joining at Hull University I was issued National Express Coach Card for availing of student concession on travel by bus in UK. The group photograph of students at IMC was also taken on 14.10.91

During the period of study at Hull University I along with fellow colleagues used to go out of the town in Friday afternoon to different places and return to Hull in Sunday night. By regularly embarking on such tours I could see most of the important cities and towns. The United Kingdom comprises England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. I could extensively visit all the regions of United Kingdom except Northern Ireland.

Blackpool : Immediately after the start of our course the University organized first day trip to Blackpool on 4.10.1991. It is tourist place and centre for carnival and conferences.

London :  London is a great metropolitan city always vibrant with various political, cultural, economic and diplomatic activities that are acknowledged worldwide. It is most sought after place for exiled leaders of several countries. It is among the most important centre for international travel.

On 26th October ’91, I visited some important tourist places of London. I saw Piccadily Circus, Trafalgar Square, 10, Downing Street, Buckingham Palace, West Minster, Parliament, White Hall, Big Ben, Hyde Park, Commonwealth Secretariat, etc.

London Tube, Metro : To travel in London the metro tube is the safest and cheapest mode of transport, almost the life line. I realized its importance immediately after my arrival in London. I studied its network and system of operation. I enjoyed travelling in London. Occasionally, I used London bus and London taxis as well.

London by night : During my several visits to UK and stay in London I got several opportunity of seeing London in night which does not sleep.

London: Madame Tussauds : During my several visits to UK and London I could see this world famous centre for wax sculpture twice. It displays models of celebrities from all over the world but mostly from UK, Europe and Hollywood. There are models of leaders of the Indian sub-continent and even Bollywood film stars.

Westminster : The Parliament of UK is located on the bank of  River Thames at the city of Westminster in central London. Its architecture is unique in the world. It has been instrumental in shaping the destiny of Britain and the erstwhile colonial empire. I went inside the House when it was not in session.

Buckingham Palace : When any tourist comes to London, a visit to Buckingham Palace is compulsory in the itinerary. When I visited the palace first time in 1991, Prince Charles and Princess Diana were the centre of attraction. When the latter was killed in a car crash in Paris, I visited the British High Commission of New Delhi and wrote my condolence in the book.In fact when I was about to write in the book Sonia Gandhi arrived. I gave up my turn for her to record her condolence.

Trafalgar Square :Trafalgar Square is an important tourist attraction in central London. It is named after the place in Spain where British army defeated Frenchand Spanish army. Its hero was Nelson whose column is also erected there. I enjoyed seeing flock of pigeons.  I used to roam around, spend time or just relax there.

Tower Bridge:Tower Bridge is an iconic structure on river Thames. It opens up to allow movement of boats. London has been established on both sides of the Thames that are connected by an underground network of roads metros.

London Eye :During my later visits to UK I saw London Eye, among the most important icons of the city. It is a giant wheel located on the south bank of the Thames.

During my university days in UK on the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr I offered namaz at the famous London Mosque. In the same area I also visited the Oval cricket ground.

As I am an admirer of Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective Sherlock Holmes I visited 120B, Baker Street the address given in the detective novel and purchased some souvenirs of the famous fictional detective.

I visited Greenwich in London and stood at the line dividing the time zone.

Oxford : I visited Oxford University which is one of the top universities of the world.

Cambridge : I visited Cambridge University which is among the oldest universities of the world. There I saw statue of Isaac Newton sculpted in the posture of observing apple falling from the tree. This empirical observation by Isacc Newton gave the fundamental physical law called the “Newton’s law of universal gravitation”.

Wales :        I visited Bristol, Aberdare, Bath and Cardiff in Wales. I was guest of Dr. Shah Imtiaz who hails from Patna but settled at Aberdare, where besides being a physician, he was a member of Labour Party and was elected Mayor of Aberdare Borough. He showed mearoundWalesextensively. I saw the Roman bath at Bath. At Cardiff, a relation of mine runs a students’ hostel at Column Road in front of the gate of Cardiff University. Tulips and other flowers were in full bloom. The castle in the city is an important landmark.

Scotland :   I visited Glasgow and Edinburg in  Scotland. I also saw smaller cities of Inverness and Aberdeen. There is always a running debate on supremacy of culture between England and Scotland. The Scottish people are considered simple people with adherence to old cultural values. They claim Glasgow to be cultural capital of Europe. In heart of the city there is spaghetti type of road crossing. I also saw a sign board in market area in Urdu. There is substantial population of immigrant Muslims mostly from Pakistan. The local MP was of Pakistan origin. It is worth noting that Hindus of India and Muslims of Pakistan live with unity and friendship in UK, Europe and America. These people prefer to live on rent in houses belonging to them due to cultural affinity. Scottish is separate nationality on the basis of which they participate in international games besides political forum. When a referendum was organized Scottish people reiterated to remain with Great Britain as it opens up greater opportunity to the Scottish people. While I was visiting the Edinburgh Castle I told a member of the staff that earlier Scotland used to be independent on which he was offended and replied to me that Scotland remains an independent region in Great Britain.

Wordsworth and Shakespeare, Brontes : I visited the house of the famous poet William Wordsworth, at Cockermouth in Cumbria. Tickets had to be bought to enter the house of the famous poet. I did not have time to go inside the house;henceI took photograph of the house from outside. The staff posted at the gate objected to my taking photographs of the house. He wanted me to purchase a ticket to see the house from outside and for the purpose of photography. I did not waste my time and left the place soon, with a souvenir photograph already captured in my camera. I visited the house of William Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon. I spent a few hours at his house. I wrote comments in the book kept for visitors. I saw one of his plays at the theatre there. During my stay in England I also visited the village of the Bronte sisters. At a London theatre I saw a beautiful play Miss Saigon, based on the relationship between an American soldier and a Vietnamese girl. The play even showed landing and taking off of the helicopter on stage. The play was fast moving. However, it showed a perspective of America and Western world in Vietnam War. Later, a film was also made.

In England almost in a horizontal line are located from west to east Liverpool, Manchester, Bradford, Leeds and Hull.Birmingham is located between London and Manchester. I visited these places and still I cherish my memory associated with these places. I also visited smaller cities such as York, Leicester, Sheffield, Doncaster, etc. I saw UK so thoroughly that I still say that I saw it as good as I have seen Bihar, my native state in India. It was satisfying to see people of Indian origin living in substantial number in various cities of UK. London has more than half a million Indian population followed by Birmingham and Leicester. Birmingham and Bradford have also a large population of people of Pakistan origin. I found that people of Indian subcontinent are doing economically well along with the preservation of their cultural identity. But UK is also cultural pot of the world. I know some Muslim and Hindu girls from religious families marrying local white boys against wishes of their parents. Indian or Pakistani girls prefer to be girl friends of local white boys also. Perhaps it gives them ascendency and power in local white society. The white boys often adopt to indian cultural tradition by caring for family needs and remain loyal to them even when such boys have several other girlfriends.

During my stay in UK I got an opportunity to be interviewed on BBC London Hindi service. I was asked question on development issues and corruption in reference to Rajiv Gandhi’s famous statement. There I met Parvez Alam and Pachauri who later became media advisor to PM Manmohan Singh.

During the course I decided to avail of the opportunity to visit numerous European countries. I met Consul Talmiz Ahmad IFS at Indian Mission in London. He was helpful in obtaining Visas for Belgium, Netherland, Luxemburg (Benelux), Germany, Austria, Italy, France, Monaco, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. He arranged visa note from Indian embassy which helps in obtaining gratis visas from concerned countries easily without payment of any fee. I booked tour by Cosmos tour and travel.

On 6th April 1992 Cosmos tour bus departed from London at 8 am. My bus along with several other buses was loaded on the ship Sally at Ramsgate port which departed at 11.30 am and arrived at Dankark port in France at 2.45 pm local time. From there I crossed into Belgium by the bus. The details of the visit of European countries are given under respective chapters.

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