City comes up trumps over country

PTI | ByNavta Vij, London
Jun 19, 2004 06:04 PM IST

It was a typical English day with grey clouds. Navta Vij recollects her interview for Cambridge.

I can still remember the day I went for my Cambridge University entrance interview. It was a bleary, typical English day with grey clouds and not a smiley face in sight. Even the interviewees looked like the weather bug had bitten them. The town is said to be a form of heaven on earth; lush countryside, tiny buildings, small roads and a limited but fast crowd. For me it was like hell.

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Having gone through two tough interviews that included questions better suited to a thirty year old academic than an eighteen year old girl, I immediately knew I had failed. For a city girl like me, nothing was more satisfying.  No matter how important an institution Cambridge is, nothing can be of greater importance than trying to save your sanity. Unfortunately, Cambridge is not the place to do that.

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The comparison, I believe, is quite simple. As a student, cramped shops and moany customers on Oxford Street rank a lot higher than exaggerated green fields with a few healthy looking cows for company. Travelling in one of the cities infamous black cabs and inching along beside Piccadilly circus provides greater entertainment than riding a bicycle on a small pavement.

Conversations about Jordan and her growing assets is a lot more interesting than Jack Straw and his failing foreign policy.

Maybe I am being too judgmental. Or maybe, I am highlighting an important difference in lifestyles, beliefs and, above all, intellect.  How a typical comprehensive schoolgirl from Hayes, where street lingo is the norm and designer wear a 'must have', is supposed to succeed in Cambridge is beyond me.

It isn't that she can't.  But she will be up against a rigid (pompous) structure that mocks a cockney accent, looks down at street wear, and alienates anyone whose sense of humour isn't up to their standards.

And that is what makes the city so appealing.  There is an opportunity to meet people from all backgrounds. Rich or poor, black or white, accent or no accent, designer chick or Camden town junkie-the city opens the door to all. 

Imagine standing in Covent Gardens, surrounded by coffee shops and dancers performing in the central park.  There are people of all ages and from different backgrounds.  But what they witness is the same and the joy they share as a result is unified. It isn't dependant on speech, appearance or economic standards.

And that is the essential difference between the country and the city.  No matter how high the intelligence levels, how fat the bank balance or how expensive the handbag, the city is home to everyone. It is the one place that breaks down these barriers.

Until the countryside can do the same, it leaves a lot to be desired.

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