; Sukwinder-loves-MJs-music-and-hell-always-have-an-argument-to-
Learning Center
Plans & pricing Sign in
Sign Out
Your Federal Quarterly Tax Payments are due April 15th Get Help Now >>




More Info
  • pg 1
									* On the way to the Gurdwara, Sukwinder stops briefly when he sees a street football game. He steals the ball from the teenagers and then flicks it back to avoid the humiliation of being tackled. One kid looks set to unleash some put-down about Sukwinder‟s age or his paunch but, following the others‟ lead, he shuts his trap, and Sukwinder moves on.

He passes the spicy smells of the West Indian take-away, the video shop with its tinny Hindi soundtrack spilling out through the door in a sudden slice and Sukwinder appreciates it all. A part of him has always enjoyed this dusk-life, against the background of the summer setting-sun.

He rounds the corner and the Gurdwara looms large in front of him, the Sikh flag flying from the spire. He enters the main room and approaches the elders who have clustered around the Guru Granth Sahib. The group of white bearded men wearing kurta opens up to accommodate him and sat sri akals are exchanged. One of the elders pulls him aside.

Sukwinder realises that until now, the evening has been all lull, it has been exquisite slow sedateness. At this moment, however he senses that it will change, he feels action pull at him like a dog at the leash.

“Sukwinder it is pleasing to see you,” says the round faced sirdar, called Jagjit, in formal Punjabi, without moving a muscle in his face to back up the flattering greeting.

“We having same problem,” he says, breaking into English, perhaps a sign that he is distressed.

„The same problem‟ means a problem with Sikh youths, who have been dealing drugs. A cocky group, they have started flaunting their activities outside the Gurdwara. Now the Gurdwara has been broken into, nothing really taken, but things have been messed up.

“We haven‟t told anybody,” says Jagjit. “You must know some of them from your work?” said Jagjit: He meant the drug and alcohol centre. “Why don‟t you speak to them?”

And so, it had began.

Sukwinder, even at the end of the chain of events, hanging from the first floor window, didn’t feel he could have rejected the request for help. After all, his life revolved around the rehab centre and the youths of the area. It had felt good, too, being asked by Jagjit. Of all the Sikh elders, Jagjit was the one who had been the last to accept Sukwinder. People didn’t change in Jagjit’s book. All the ex-gamblers, drunks and drug dealers that made up Sukwinder’s old friends; well… they were tainted. Hiram.

Sukwinder often felt, when he was pierced by Jagjit’s unusual blue eyes, that he was a teenager again, that he hadn’t moved on in 18 years. After all, he was still living in the same house and still bumping into the same people, though whisky was his only

real vice now. Sometimes when Sukwinder patted his stomach he felt he could no more turn the corner from his past than he could un-make the fat that had crept up on him. He felt that he was at the end of all things and that he would always face those blue eyes asking for more.

So, all in all, it was good that Jagjit had come and asked for help. Acha.

Or so it had felt at the time.

The teenager, outside the Gurdwara, spits at Sukwinder‟s feet. He is known as Bud, for unknown reasons, and from his posture to his face he looks like pure stunted nastiness. Sukwinder makes the most of his six foot two bigness as he talks: “I‟m worried for you. That‟s why I‟m giving you this one chance, to come and talk to me before it all boils over.” Bud doesn‟t stop a second to consider Sukwinders words: “Fuck off, boodaa,” he says. Suki bridles at this. “I‟ll make it clearer for you. If you have to deal drugs, don‟t do it here. In fact, you... and him and him...” indicating the two youths behind Bud, “... had better take your business outside the area. Or I‟ll make sure you regret it.” He turns and walks away.

Bud calls him before he is ten metres away.

“I know you, bruv,” he says. “You work at Boy‟s Club.” He is talking about a youth club where Sukwinder works part-time. Sukwinder waits; waits to see how Bud will back down, now, and still try and keep his dignity. Bud speaks: “If you talk to the police I‟ll fucking kill you.”

Not the answer Sukwinder is expecting or hoping for.

He walks away, clenching his fists hard, fighting with the old urges to do whatever he wants, to feel that primal joy.

Two days after his brush with Bud, Sukwinder burps as he pushes away his plate. In the gap between finishing the final chew and swallowing it seems that a million memories flood into him, as they have been doing at intervals recently.

He remembers crashing out after an all-nighter in Park Royal… and even the feel of the grease spot on the arm chair in the living room, where his father‟s head had rested for years.

Sukwinder cleans the pasty last mouthful from around his gums with his tongue and shakes his head.

Stupid berk, he thinks, can’t even eat properly nowadays.

Normally on a Thursday he would spend some time reading his holy book. But today he has an appointment. It is Bud‟s mother that Sukwinder is off to see now, which is why he wears his suit. Any overflow from his recent nostalgia seeps away as he leaves the house. He leaves it behind him in the darkened corridor.

He jumps into his Ford Orion and five minutes later, he pulls up in Denzil Avenue. Jagjit is waiting for him outside his house, immacuately dressed Punjab-style, but with trainers as a concession to his bad feet. Sukwinder thinks that even if Jagjit were dresssed in a full clown suit he would carry his dignity just as carefully as he does now. He would hold it like an egg in a spoon.. “Sat Sri Akal”, Sukwinder greets him. He makes the mistake of trying to start a conversation.

“Ready for a fight, eh?” he says. Behind Jagjit‟s beard, his face re-arranges itself noncomittaly.

Throughout the journey, Jagjit strangles Sukwinder‟s attempts at small talk ruthlessly and effecively.

Sukwinder finds himself seated in a living room, nicer than his own, recently redecorated. Despite the pure white leather sofa, however, despite the fact that wallpaper has been stripped down and the walls painted for a modern clean feel, the house is still terraced Victorian. „Asian heartland‟ housing as Sukwinder calls it with

its small front yard and rough cement wall. The sadness is external, but somehow permeating.

Manjit, Bud‟s mother, is thin, and Sukwinder thinks that there is a certain toughness about her. Perhaps simply in the way that her hair is efficiently tied-back. Perhaps it is only the fact that he knows she is a single mother. She is dressed smartly in blouse and knee-length skirt, but has no make-up. A worker, then, thinks Sukwinder.

The three of them chat briefly, avoiding getting down to business while nibbles are laid out and tea prepared., but Manjit seems to change the mood when she sits back after five minutes, surveys the two men in front of her and lights a cigarette, boldly. She is a nurse, Sukwinder remembers, so yes, probably a hard worker and probably not afraid to face the unknown. That is a good thing Sukwinder thinks. Whenever he has fraught encounters with parents, he always knows that behind it all is fear: Fear that admitting a problem would mean losing their child forever to the institutions of this country, who seemed to spew nothing but scarred, hardened adults and reoffenders from their clinics and prisons.

He presumes that fear will be less of a problem with Manjit, the nurse, with the semimodern house.

She speaks.

“You came here for a reason,” she says. “Anu. You came to talk about Anu.”

Of course, „Anu‟ is Bud. Even a little shit like him deserves a proper name, Sukwinder concedes. He breaks the silence. He starts to talk about his work, the variety of kids he deals with, from those sent to him by the YOT‟s to those that he counsels himself.

“Anu used to smoke a little bit,” the woman interrupts, “Hashish, I mean. So, what… is he causing some kind of trouble?” Her voice is strident now. It is no-nonsense. Sukwinder thinks he recognises a little West Indian in it. He wonders whether she would hold his gaze now if he chose to lock it on her.

“It‟s more than that, I‟m afraid,” says Sukwinder. He adjusts his posture on the sofa, squeaking on the leather as he does so. “You see, not is he only still smoking but…” he looks to Jagjit for a second, grateful now for the comfortable weightiness of his presense. “He‟s been selling hash… some other stuff too, we think, on the streets. He‟s dealing. Not huge amounts…” Sukwinder holds up his hand “…but it‟s causing bad feeling. I‟m worried for him.”

There is silence. Manjit looks calm at first, but her knee jitters up and down. And now, she won‟t meet Sukwinder‟s eyes. Her head is inclined slightly away from him as if she were baring her neck. Behind lowered lids her eyes scan up, down, left, right. She‟s weighing up the possibilities, which Sukwinder is glad to see, so rare is pure logical response in his line of work. He feels a surge of powerful emotion as he watches her. It is confusing, a mixture of wanting to protect her, and wanting to feel the warmth of her strength even closer.

The silence becomes charged and Sukwinder wants crazily to to hold her, to merge with her in one swoop like two raindrops on a window.

She holds the silence effortlessly. Jagjit speaks up, offended by what he sees as Sukwinder‟s over-caution.

“He does everything just outside our Gurdwara, you know? It is disgusting… hmmm?” Jagjit is angry. She is not cowed by this attack, however, and her reaction is instant. She stands up smoothly, and Sukwinder sees her silver toenails paint a firework trail against a blur of brown as she uncrosses her legs.

“You cyan‟ talk to me like dat in my own „ouse,” she says, her West Indian accent deeper now.

“You come here with your do-gooding,” she points at Sukwinder “… and him who was a dealer „imsel‟ not so long ago…” Sukwinder curses Jagjit and rues his own past, not for the first time. “I don‟ believe you tol‟ me the whole story,” Manjit says. “You cyan wait here till he comes home and what you want to say you can say in fron‟ of him.” With that, she leaves, walking through, Sukwinder presumes, to the kitchen. He hears some clattering of crockery and thinks that she is making herself another cup of tea.

In the silence, Jagjit stands up, sits down again and harrumphs quietly through his beard. The blue eyes stare vindictively and Sukwinder senses that the older man wants to leave but is too proud to admit it.

Sure enough, Jagjit breaks the silence. “We should go,” he barks.

Before he even knows that a pivotal moment has come, Sukwinder feels it as his heart squeezes at his ribcage.

“No,” he says, hearing his voice sound thick, as if it was from a recording, “We wait for Anu. Both of us.”

Surprise and a momentary aspect of deflation seem to crawl across Jagjit‟s face.

Sukwinder walks smoothly to the hallway. At the other end he can see Manjit. For a second it seems that she is slumped, a little, over the kitchen table. But the hallway is dark, and Sukwinder blinks and sees her busying herself, apparently not noticing him.

He calls to her:

“If I‟m going to wait I need to use your bathroom.”

She replies without looking up: “It‟s upstairs. First on the right.”

Once in the bathroom he washes his face with cold water and waits for his heart to stop beating madly.

Stepping out of the bathroom, dew-like beads of water still clinging to his moustache, he breathes deeply and listens carefully for movement downstairs. He has no doubt that Anu would be cocky enough to keep drugs in his room. He doesn‟t even think that they would be that hard to find. He flatters himself that he knows how the teenage mind works.

He finds Anu‟s room on the second attempt, the back room overlooking the garden. It is neat but piled high with CD‟s and computer parts. Sukwinder eases open the drawers of a pine-wood new looking desk and finds more reassuring signs of a young adolescent, but no weed, scales or even plastic bags.

He is about to check under the bad when he hears Manjit running up the stairs. She thrusts open the door and the first look on her face is triumphant. “Now I see what you‟re really about, eh?” Before Sukwinder can reply, she is suddenly angry: “Paagal! Why do you have to come here?” Events are moving too fast for Sukwinder. “I‟m calling the police,” says Manjit. He sees a flash of hatred on her face.

Left alone, he‟s lost his motivation to search the room. He acknowledges that Anu is smarter than he looks, that there is probably no evidence here.

From outside, he hears the door being locked. He sits down on a chair and takes off his suit jacket, loosens his tie. That’s better, he thinks.

They‟ve all been playing different games, he realises. Jagjit, more wary about being made to look foolish than anything else. Manjit, in her halfway house, halfway to being the tough mother she thought she was. And himself…

… Sukwinder fingers the small plastic package he has been keeping in his pocket. It all comes down to choices, really, he thinks. It would be easy to put it in the boy‟s drawer, to wipe his prints off, if that was even needed. Harder to make it sound convincing, when the police got here, especially with the lack of any other kind of drug paraphanalia, but not impossible. In any case, it would be enough to do what mattered.

It would justify his actions in searching the room. It would bring Anu‟s activities into the light. In all honesty, Sukwinder knows that what also matters is his own reputation. Like an egg in a spoon, he thinks, wanting to laugh at the ridiculousness of his position: Sitting in a boy‟s bedroom, waiting for either humiliation or a dirty victory. Sukwinder pats his stomach absently, stares out of the window and wonders if there is ever any easy escape route.

Sukwinder didn’t have time to prepare his body for the fall, didn’t relax… or strain at the last minute… or whatever it is that is supposed to be done when falling from a first floor window, all of seven feet. The ground, as hard as reality, smacked his feet

and broke his knees, rolled the breath from his body before turning its attention to his head, so that he briefly felt the true weight of all that creeping bulk upon his neck. His skull, however, didn’t break and spill its contents of pain, regret and fear. Sukwinder laid still and waited for the running footsteps to rescue him, the burst bag feeling gritty beneath his hip.


To top