February 25, 2004
More Slough

The commuting to and working in Slough opens up a whole new feast of interesting visuals - some of which I will share with you here from time to time. But whilst I’m in acclimatisation mode - I couldn’t resist snapping up a few on my third day in a new place.

The train from Ealing Broadway in West London to Slough (which is about 10 miles West of the West of Greater London) occasionally stops at another West London town called Southall. Some Indian/Asian readers may probably already be aware that Southall is sometimes known as “Little India” here in London - as the town is almost over 90% Punjabi - and you cannot help but notice this the moment you step off the train - for the signs welcoming you to Southall station are written in both English and Punjabi!

Southall: known as Little India.
(Apparently - even the timetables at this station are printed in both English and Punjabi!)

Click here for some pictures of the main drag: Southall Broadway - which is where, amongst blaring Punjabi music, you will find some of the most delicious North Indian food in the country - at the most ridiculously cheap prices. If you want tandoori style (chicken, lamb, kebab etc.) or chaat (stuff like bhel puri, pani-puri, chole, samosa etc.) - then this is THE place to come in London.

I occasionally do go to Southall - but I never have by train - I almost always go by car - and that’s because I know quite a few people (friends and friends of family) who live there. So - no time to jump off the train and explore - I had work to go to!

Later on in Slough I took a walk at lunchtime to soak-in some of the vibe. And I hadn’t gone too far into the nearest shopping mall when I stumbled upon a sewing machine sale taking place in an open area of the mall outside Woolworths. A sewing machine sale? I was amazed. And then it made sense - Slough is the largest town around here for several miles - and is therefore a shopping capital for a large part of the West of Greater London as well as other nearby towns in Berkshire and Buckinghamshire. With a relatively high ethnic Asian population in the surrounding areas (including Southall, Hayes, etc.) it kind of made sense really - as every Indian/Asian family has a sewing machine - and some older-generation Asian women form an army of “work-at-home” mothers for local textile and clothing companies.

Sewing machine sale in Slough shopping mall.
(Just look at that hi-tec Singer machine.)

And finally - as I headed back to the office following my lunchtime stroll I spotted some interesting graffiti on a wall right in the heart of the shopping district. I subsequently spotted the same “tag” in several other places. The tag goes by the name “Master Gurpal” - and is accompained by an extremely original graphic that almost made me laugh out loud. Perhaps “Master Gurpal” is the Slough equivalent to West London’s Fume? The graphic is obviously dubbed using spray-can and stencil:

Even the graffiti here is Indian style.

Posted by jag at February 25, 2004 09:51 PM

So many Indians in London. Partly uneblievable by me. Even though it is true.
Almost every Asian house does have a sewing machine. Its a characteristic trademark of an asian household.
The South hall broadway - does remarkably remind me of an Indian shopping street - minus the grime and garbage and what not

Posted by: sat on February 26, 2004 04:17 AM

Master Gurpal is a bit more than your average tagger. He’s got a BA in design and is training as a tattooist! http://www.mastergurpal.co.uk/

Posted by: Nigel on February 26, 2004 09:54 AM

Sounds fascinating. I must take a trip down sometime. Northern Indian food is more sweet, less hot spicey, isn’t it? Yum.

Oh, and I have always had a sewing machine at home - couldn’t live without it. Nothing better than to be able to whip up a Tudor costume the night before “Tudor Day” at the local primary. ;-) Kinda sad, though. It looks like the ability to sew is another of those skills that most westerners are losing.

Posted by: Lisa on February 26, 2004 11:05 AM

Sat: There are over 1 million Indian/Asians in London!

Nigel: re Master Gurpal - that’s amazing! From what I can see on his website though - he sure is “a man of mystery” - and claims to be “Lord Hardcastle of Slough” ! - sounds a bit dodgy to me! :-)

Lisa: actually - North Indian is more “wholesome” - i.e. less exotic - more use of basic veg and pulses - and chicken, lamb. I wouldn’t say sweet as such - more spicy than sweet - but prob not as spicy as South Indian. I think you must be thinking of “Goan” style food - which is definitely more sweet owing to more use of coconut, tamarind etc.

As for sewing: spot on - I think the ability to sew is fast becoming extinct with Westerners. Also - with Asians/Indians it is because the tradition of buying fabric and making your own clothes (especially girls speciality clothing like saris and Punjabi suits, lenghas etc.) is still very strong. Hence every Asian household having an ageing sewing machine by Singer, Brother, Pfaff or Toyota.

Posted by: Jag on February 26, 2004 10:00 PM

Rite on JAg,
South Indian food is spicy. Especially the food in Telugu-land - Andhra Pradesh. The spiciest among all South Indian food.
Food in Kerala has lots of kokonut and hence it is slightly sweet. In Tamil Nadu - lots of kokonut, ghee, sugar jaggery - giving the sweet edge and spices (including pepper, cardomom), Gharam masala, Chilli powder and artificial coloring. That gives the spicy edge. A generous dose of Coriander and mint also livens things up.
PC. Maybe, I should also start putting South Indian Cookery recipes. Not that I am an expert in it

Posted by: sat on February 27, 2004 04:32 AM

oh, southall visits used to be a regular feature of my stay in London.… for chaat and jalebis and alu parathas.….and of course, Indian groceries :)… walking down southall gives one a eerie feeling of time-warp.… of time having frozen in Delhi of the eighties or soemthing like that.…

Posted by: Charu on February 27, 2004 11:55 AM

Sat: I love to have South Indian occasionally - esp as near where I live is large South Indian/Sri-Lankan population - very cheap and tasty dosas, sambhar, idli etc. and lots of different varieties to choose from. Unfortunately - I have never tried to cook South Indian - but will certainly try to do so one day! (Maybe this weekend!)

Charu: It’s funny you should say that Southall seems to have frozen in a time from the 1980s - because I would have to agree that Southall seems to have remained the same ever since I remember it as a kid! Ah - aloo parathas - my favourite weekend brunch! (You may have seen the aloo-gobi paratha variation feature in my “food” section on my left-hand side-bar from a couple of weeks ago.)

Posted by: Jag on February 27, 2004 03:20 PM

There mite be a hurdle that you mite have to face while preparation of the idli batter.
Usually, after the batter is made in the grinder, it is left overnite (or overday) to leaven. Only thed will the idlis made would become soft (As soft as JAsmine - goes an old Tamil Saying). But for this, it should be humid (not a problem in London) and warm (that is a problem). If not leavened properly, either the idlis mite turn out thin, or rock hard. The batter is then fit for dosas only. We have a problem here too, in winter, it may not leaven properly and we do not get good idlis.
You are better off buying the batter than making it.
BTW, do have the requisite plate to make idlis ?
Check this out - http://innoconcepts.com/idleez.htm

Posted by: sat on February 27, 2004 05:05 PM

For some reason can’t seem to put comments in from work. Can read them but not post any. At least it’s better than last week when I was either greeted with CNS unavailable or Occult Site, access denied.
All this talk about food would have made me very hungry if it wasn’t for the special treat we got today for lunch. One of the ladies in the canteen made her lamb biryani (spelling ?) and it was lovely. I think it’s making it on my top 20 comfort foods, tender meat with loads of flavour, enough heat for interest but not so much you can’t taste the other spices and loads of fluffy white rice. If only we could persuade her to make it more than once a month.
Raked my brain to find redeeming features to Slough. Could not find any.

Posted by: stroppycow on February 27, 2004 10:04 PM

Hi Strop: Lamb Biryani - my absolute favourite biryani. I am adding that to my “to-do” list!

Posted by: Jag on February 28, 2004 10:15 AM

my friend and i were walking down andheri Lokhandwalla the other day. A part of mumbai that is so like southall that its not funny. the area has mushroomed in the last 10 years. and you walk down the main street and you are transported to a chunk of Greater London. The accents, the smells, the sounds and the activities are so like Southall, tz not funny

Posted by: harini on February 29, 2004 06:18 AM

Hi there Harini - that’s really strange! Why so I wonder? Perhaps many migrants from UK there?

Posted by: Jag on February 29, 2004 09:15 AM

I appreciate the attention but I would like to point out that I am in actual fact a white man.…although some of my best friends are indian.


Master Gurpal
(Man of passion)

Posted by: master gurpal on March 15, 2004 01:21 PM

Hello Master Gurpal - thanks for commenting here! (How do we know that you are the real Master Gurpal?)

No matter whether you are white, black, brown or yellow. The stencil is great by the way!

Posted by: Jag on March 15, 2004 01:36 PM

Thank you my good man, I aim to please, unfortunately I no longer reside in Slough and so Maidenhead has become my new artistic scratching post. They are, however, much less lenient on us creative types round these parts and as a result I spent 12 hours in a cell the other night for my contributions to the town centre. Facists!


Master Gurpal

(Oh and you can tell it’s me by the bindi on my forehead and the swagger in my step)

Posted by: Master Gurpal on March 17, 2004 09:40 AM

i am a resiedent in slough and i have also seen these tags around on my travles i have seen them under subways and by the main postoffice.It is obvious that it has been sone with stencil but thats not what puzzles mw what i want to know is “if you are the master gurpal” what is the point in using graffiti normaly people use it to put a point across but yours seems pointless and obstructive.… also if you are white why would you have a bindi

Posted by: cloud on May 21, 2004 06:02 PM

Hey Cloud interesting point you make re Master Gurpal. I think of it this way: Master Gurpal may be a gora - but he’s a “man of passion” (so he says) and my theory is that he celebrates the fact that “passion” is an inherent feature of the Indian spirit - and the bindi symbolises this passion!

Good day to you!

Posted by: Jag on May 21, 2004 09:31 PM

hello nice site u ahve can u help me at all please i ave moved from brum to slough have no idea how to get from a to b/////i want to go to southall from slough which is the easiest route.…

Posted by: simi on February 13, 2005 02:54 PM

Hello Simi - the easiest route by public transport is to get the train (First Great Western Link) to Southall from Slough train station. It’s just a few stops down the line - you might have to wait around for a train though. The other way is to drive - basically you find your way to Junction 5 or 6 of the M4 from Slough - and then go towards Heathrow - I would normally aim for the A312 (Western International Market) - and from there you can get to Southall via “Old Southall” - or else you could get the M40/A40 down towards Greenford - and get to Slough from there. By train it shouldn’t be more than 15 mins. By car it might be around 20 to 25 mins.

Wishing you well! I know Brum quite well. Used to live in Handsworth - Douglas Road - Soho - and West Brom: Hill Top. Cheers!

Posted by: jag on February 13, 2005 09:53 PM
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