I went to Luton the other evening, just a few miles from where I live. Its a place innocently referred to as ‘London Luton’ by international travelers flying into this country, but it actually bears no resemblance to the city of London – and its nowhere near the capital at all, except if you’re traveling at the speed of a jet aircraft. A smallish town, with a largish car factory, several mosques and a shopping mall – and the airport. Very convenient if you want to get to Tel Aviv in a hurry, or many of the other short haul cut-price European destinations.
But there is a group of enthusiastic Bhagavad-gita students there, and I go there once in a month to see them and have a discussion. Our students also come down to the temple and take part in the different festivals and functions that happen there. We also take part in the annual Luton Carnival, one of the biggest outside London, and 150,000 people line the streets and get the devotees of Krishna on parade (pictured above)
We used to meet up in a place known as the Hat Factory, which goes back to the 1930s when the town was the centre of straw hat production for England. So Luton also once made hats of some note – and in some quantity. But straw hats fell out of fashion, and now the old hat factory hosts a variety of clubs, gatherings and entertainments. It is also the office of Pulse magazine, a periodical dedicated to south Asian dance and music. My daughter Jahnavi writes reviews and the occasional article for the magazine.
There’s one thing quite unique about Pulse, and that is that it comes with microscopically encoded ‘hot-spots’ on its pages where, if you have a device known as a ‘talking pen’ you can actually hear the music that the article is describing. When I first saw it work I was struck by its ingenuity. You just place the pen on the spot and the music begins.
The pens are provided by a company called Mantra Lingua which also creates books about – amongst other subjects – the stories of India. I have just recorded some soundtracks for children’s books about King Pariksit and other personalities from the pages of Srimad Bhagavatam.
So there you are – something interesting about Luton.