To visit Brick Lane once a year or so is to watch the tide recede on the East London area’s Bengali culture.
It’s not a particularly new observation to point out its hipster feel, but it feels so much pronounced in the area these days, or it did today.
It’s certainly not the only place to be more ‘Instagram-able’ than ever before.
It’s just that sometimes you look up and the tide’s halfway to going out without you quite realising when it began moving away.
Some of this should be filed under ‘the way of the world’.
Sure, the shop I once brought bootleg Satyajit Ray DVDs from is long gone, as is the book shop that sold Bollywood soundtracks and Bengali pop CDs. But then record shops are hardly a booming business these days.
And many of its cultural signifiers remain – from the mosque to street signs I *still* get a kick out of being able to read. (Even when all they say are ব্রিক লেন.)
Or picking up spiced tea bags from the Taj supermarket, though not hot pickles anymore, because you can buy them almost anywhere now.
Or buying a shingara to snack on straight away, and jilibi and shandesh to have with (spiced) tea later.
I did also pick up the version of Talking Heads’ debut album I’ve been looking for for a while from Rough Trade, so I’m far from anti-hipsters – they’re all well and good in their place 😉
So, for all the tattooed youth hanging out and graffitied walls waiting for a camera phone lens, perhaps the tide will only go so far out on Brick Lane. I hope so.