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It all began in London in the early sixties, when I was introduced to F.N. Souza, a Goan artist, whose paintings inspired me to strike out on my own and thus begin a new voyage of self-discovery.

I joined a group of international students and au pairs in a hostel run by the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary nuns at 22 The Boltons, South Kensington, just off the Brompton Road. We didn't realize it at the time but we happened to be living in an extremely posh area of the city. Judy Garland & Douglas Fairbanks Jr. were neighbours. (The nuns sold the property in 1975 and today - 2012 - the Boltons is listed as the most expensive real-estate in Great Britain!!) I used charcoal, pastels, pencils and oils to capture everything around me, the Gothic church that I faced from my window, the crazy friends I got to love and the landmarks that defined London in the 60's. I was a music student at Trinity College at Mandeville Place behind Selfridges, spending hours practising for competitive examinations and struggling to keep up with English students who knew so much more about Western classical music than me. I remember clearly when it was my turn to conduct the orchestra on stage, fear overtook me. Trembling, I feigned sickness and rushed out of the hall, never returning to conducting class again. I took a correspondence course on the science of the mind called PELMANISM, which helped me to focus my thoughts and empty my mind. I used to stare at the Pelmanism advertisements in the tube stations until I finally decided to enrol. Each week, little pale blue booklets would arrive in the post for me to complete by hand and mail them back. It felt as if I had my own private guru. I probably did.

After graduating and saturated with musicology, I took a secretarial course in South Kensington learning Gregg shorthand and then 'temped' for an agency which took me to all the nooks and crevices of London. One of my unusual assignments was to be a secretary to Lady Guinevere Gould, a relative of the royal family, who lived in a gated manor in Chelsea, walking distance from where I lived. I was responsible for ordering the day's produce which included various gourmet cheeses and wines, the names of which I could hardly pronounce and feeling quite humiliated when I did. Another first - warm ruby red Ribena served in a tall glass was brought to my desk each morning at exactly 11 a.m. by a black maid. She seemed like the only human person around. I enjoyed the intrigue when Lady G's teenage daughter Clarissa frantically asked me to get her a ticket to Paris and her mother was not to know ! After 2 months, Lady G. refused to pay the Agency and that ended my brush with the royal family.

After doing a few stints at the Great Ormond Street Hospital as a runner - I ran from one department to the other delivering medical photos - in 1965, I got full-time work with the Institute of Urology in Covent Garden (10 Henrietta Street) working for Dr. D. Anderson who was doing research into gallstones in women in Turkey. Covent Garden then was still bursting with fresh fruit and vegetable sellers who flirted with me in Cockney every morning on my way to work, all so reminiscent of "My Fair Lady". Dr. Andersen was a kind employer, high up in the Salvation Army and always wore his stripes to work. I remember wondering how and why a holy man could be dressed like that but then accepted it as a matter of fact. Since I was due to return east, he asked if I could accompany a young Cambridge researcher to Ankara, Turkey to help her with statistics. Rosemary Chadwick and myself spent 2 months in Ankara gathering data on diet from village women where the incidence of gallstones is very high. They ate a lot of lentils and pulses in the poor villages. It was an interesting experience. The hotel was very primitive with spiders and cockroaches creeping out of the drains, but we had a good time trying the different foods, the grainy coffee and visiting Istanbul together. I still dream of the translucent blues and pinks we saw in the poetic mosques there. I have tried on Facebook but have never been successful in finding Rosemary and hope one day she sees this.

On my way back to Lahore, my flight was stranded in Beirut as a violent air war had broken out between India and Pakistan. Telegrams to my parents resulted in a bevy of nuns from the convent of Jesus & Mary high up in the Lebanon mountains of Beirut arriving at the airport to pick me up. I spent 10 days with them, attending daily Mass in a small chapel and helping in the cooking and teaching chores. The convent looked down on a spectacular vista of Lebanon with the bay and a turquoise sea shimmering in the distance. I loved the nuns. They were always so kind and caring. Mother Pierre Chanel insisted on conversing with me in French.

I finally made it to Lahore, where my parents insisted I get a job even though I had no intention of working. I had a vision of living in our Braganza Hotel and basically doing nothing, the prodigal daughter having returned to a life of luxury. This was not to be. I worked as a secretary to the Chief Librarian, Ivor Goodacre, at the British Council, driven by a chauffeur in their Volkswagen van to and from work, like all the other personnel. Through the Council, I met a lot of new people including young English students from the Peace Corps. We travelled together to Rawalpindi and to the beautiful untouched valley of Swat, where I completed some very small paintings of the local shepherds standing precariously on the jagged rocks with their flock. I was fascinated by their simple lifestyle. At Christmas Stephen Quigley of the British Council put on a nativity play at Kinnaird College - I was the angel Gabrielle who had to suddenly perch on to the stage, pretending to lose my balance and utter "Oh, I thought I lost my way!" It was my first foray into acting and loved it. During the year, I completed over a hundred paintings, had a solo exhibit in Mangla, selling just one large painting. A year later, I returned to London, staying in a rooming house at 57 Onslow Gardens in South Kensington, a few blocks away from the hostel. (I believe part of Downton Abbey is filmed there !) My supply of shillings often ran out while feeding the gas heater forcing me to sleep in several layers of clothing. I wrote 12 poems and met Ken Kini who now hosts the Asia Major blog.

August 1966, I boarded the "Empress of Canada" crossing the turbulent Atlantic to arrive in Montreal just before the opening of Expo 67. Working on the 37th floor of Place Ville Marie in the office of the Senior VP Sales, W. Gordon Wood, I was constantly inspired by the magnificent view from the top. Montreal to me was "nirvana" and I loved everything the city offered. I took sculpture courses at the École de Beaux Arts on Sherbrooke Street and entered art contests wherever possible.