Life in London : From Jerusha’s Journal

September 23, 2013 , by Jerusha Rai, Leave your thoughts
Life in London : From Jerusha’s Journal » My Dreams Mag

For everyone that has asked me what my life in London has been like and is ready to put up with my verbosity, here is my personalized London experience so far.

I have sort of an embarrassing confession to make.

My friends thought I was so adventurous for going off to London to live on my own (well, with my little sister but under no supervision). God knows I came here for just the opposite. You see, when you’re plagued by incurable inconsistency and impulsiveness, what appeals to you is mind-numbing monotony and routine life. Save travelling to a new place and meeting new people for the stable nine-to-fivers. I was looking forward to university, working, filling forms, paying taxes, complaining about the low pays, bad weather and loud teenagers. And doing it over and over every single day. What a fascinating way of life!

Jerusha RaiIf it wasn’t for my immoderate interest and moderate aptitude for the arts, London would have given me all the dull drudgery that I had hoped for. But before that, I would have to go through the necessary first stage of emigration: helpless depression. It was not that I missed Kathmandu yet. In fact, I only hit an all time low, as several months passed and I was jobless. All through school to A Levels, I had been the top dog: academically sound, geeky but well-liked by peers, my days occupied by a job at a music studio, volunteering, church and a litany of varied interests. When you come out into the real world, particularly a part of the world where nobody knows or cares how awesome you think you are, you’re forced into some serious reconsideration of your own capabilities. I spent whole days cramped in a flat shared with a middle-aged couple emailing out my CV and trying not to cry over my first rejected applications. It did not help that I was still converting pounds to rupees. “Good god! That train ride took me 400 rupees! What? A Rs. 130 bottle of water? No, thanks. I’ll just die of thirst”. Quite naively, I thought taking up a job usually offered to full-time international students would give me back some of my dignity. How laughably wrong.

 A friend referred me to an agency. I was finally contracted as sort of a freelancing waitress. I found the job itself physically exhausting, mentally deteriorating and socially degrading. After a 10 hour shift serving drinks at a bar, and spilling a lot of beer on myself in the mad emergency that is getting a lager to a sober British man, I would get on the train home. I would stumble on aching feet, reeking of alcohol, my eyes red from tiredness. I could sense the other passengers observing this and thinking “This girl is plastered”. Pfft…I wished.  

It wasn’t all bad though. The job took me to a lot of places, teaching me fairly quickly to make my way around the city. I got to work at exciting places like the 2012 Olympics, the famous Chelsea Flower show, the Royal Ascot horse-racing, even a steam train (where I stuck my head out the window and yelled “choo-choo”). I caught a first-hand glimpse of the unbelievable disparities between the rich and the poor and also the diversity of British culture often overlooked because of the elite, monocle-wearing, pipe-smoking British stereotype. With my colleagues, I developed a solid working-class camaraderie by making fun of “posh w*nkers”, earning a bit of “street-cred” and the righteous pride of the marginalized.  


My best experience though was an extended period of work in Camden. This place is crawling with fascinated tourists, unsophisticated hipsters and genuine veterans of cool, walking among quirky, creative, vibrant food, music, clothing and knick-knacks from around the world. I wish I could say that I worked in some record store, tattoo shop, or exotic musical instruments showroom but it was a nice little Nepali takeaway. I loved working there though and it taught me one of the most important of life skills: cooking something other than noodles. The customers were usually people who had been to Nepal. After exhausting their entire Nepali vocabulary i.e. “Namaste”, guess what they ordered? I had a new reason to be proud: being from the same country as Momos. There were a handful regulars who spoke comprehensible Nepali and made references to the more obscure regions of Nepal, making me miss home dearly.  

Anyway, I did make more friends there. One was a record salesman. He sold jazz and blues vinyls and always looked clean enough for business, but dirty enough for business in Camden. I’d buy a Hank Mobley record off him with a discount, and give him a free cup of chiya in return. We would talk about the returning popularity of vinyls and music in general, but I was too shy to tell him that I was a singer-songwriter myself.


Jerusha Rai
Oh yes… while all of this is going on in the job front, the unwittingly uploaded Youtube videos of my music goes viral, thanks to the vastly popular Parcha-Productions. My first instinct is to get the hell out of the online world, to escape the uncalled-for attention and the discomfiting compliments from strangers piling up in my Facebook inbox. But then, my friends from Parcha along with some Nepali musicians I have admired for so long are nice enough to contact me and tell me to keep it up; so I am. I start playing gigs and have the privilege to meet musicians, artists, writers, fashion designers, activists. I learn a lot from this circle and make a few lovely friends. Meanwhile, my humility is kept in check by playing live shows among the Nepali diaspora in the UK, who, no matter how hard you’ve worked on your music, don’t think it worth stopping their racket for a few minutes.


Besides my own music, all the challenges here seem worth it when I explore the art hub that is London. Need I even tell you about the museums, the art galleries, the theatres, the libraries, the concerts… oh the concerts. I am studying Sociology, currently working as a Maths and English tutor, recording my music and writing for Dreams magazine. I am still quite far off but certainly on my way to realizing my plans to be a teacher/musician/writer. And that is mostly due to knowing what I want. Yes, London is harsh on international students and immigrants in general. But, in my experience, if you have the vaguest of idea of what you want to pursue and you go look for it, trust me, London has it all. Sometimes you are made to feel small what with ignorant racists yelling “Go back to your country!”. Just yell back “Go back to the 15th century!” and continue with your work. I sincerely hope, in the face of struggle, we can maintain a sense of humour about the daily perks and quirks of being an immigrant and appreciate the opportunity to learn, for ourselves, our people and for others as well.

Jerusha Rai



Text : Jerusha Rai

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