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Farrukh Dhondi

51
Queen Victoria famously refused to believe that lesbianism, the physical love between woman and woman, could exist and her disbelief was the reason that the preference and practice weren’t outlawed in the statute that made male homosexual acts a criminal offence. It was under this Act that Oscar Wilde was sent to Reading Gaol.
The Act was repealed only in the 1960s and it took a generation before Gay activism began to demand the rights that heterosexual citizens enjoy, including the right to legally recognised partnerships. Even so, under the Conservative Thatcher government of the eighties, a sub-statute named ‘Clause 28’ forbade the use of public funds for the propagation of homosexuality. On the face of it this could seem a perfectly reasonable injunction. What resulted from it, to take but one instance, was that teachers in a sex education class could not list homosexuality as ‘normal’ for homosexuals. A hundred inhibitions came into play.
David Cameron, now PM, assumed the leadership of his Conservative Party with a promise to ‘rebrand’ it. The Party, after Thatcher and John Major had lost three consecutive elections. Cameron apologised for his Party’s initiation of Clause 28.
Now in power, albeit in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats who have made noises off in the left wings of the public stage,  he has promised a soft stance on social policy. Before Cameron the Conservative Party was seen as the nasty Party, the Party of floggers, hangers, racists, anti-working class and alienating of all charitable, generous or equitable instincts. He and his Cameroonies fought hard to change this perception over the years and their partial success in  the elections is certainly owing to the fact that they are not now seen as the Party determined to set up discriminatory barriers against sexual, religious and other minorities.
This week the Supreme Court of Britain heard the appeal of two asylum seekers, one from the Cameroons (the country, not  journalese for the kitchen cabinet of David Cameron) and the other from Iran. Both appellants, who lost their case for asylum in a lower court, are gay and have declared that they face persecution and possible execution if they are deported to their native countries. The lower court ruled that they were not necessarily in mortal danger if, on being sent back to their countries, they behaved with discretion and disguised their sexuality.
The Supreme Court, in overthrowing the decision and allowing them asylum in Britain, contended that their human rights required that they did not need to forcibly hide their natural sexuality.
The judgement, which has nothing to do with the Cameron government as the courts and the executive are, in theory and in most of British  practice, independent, may pose a headache for the new coalition.
There are 68 countries in the world which, under their law, persecute homosexuals. The persecution in some countries includes the death penalty. Britain’s Supreme Court judgement is seen in some quarters as an offer of an open door to gay asylum seekers from any or all of these 68 countries.
The judgement will inevitably lead to more applications from people under the threat of persecution for their sexuality.
For the government, which needs to demonstrate to a questioning, bewildered or sceptical and even bigoted British electorate a firm stance against immigration, it’s a dilemma.
Their compassionate Conservatism demands that they support the Supreme Court’s stance without question. Their immigration policy however is committed to limiting numbers to entrants who are demonstrably useful to the country.
On a radio chat show on the issue, to which I listened for an hour, several callers came on to ask the same question: what test will the courts or the Home Office, in charge of the processing of asylum seekers, use for determining whether a person claiming to be gay is telling the truth? How can one prove that you are under threat of persecution and death for being gay? There’s no DNA test. Do asylum seekers have to turn up in loving pairs? To present duplicate warrants of arrest with their names and alleged crime of being gay? Will the absence, apart from personal testimony, of any criterion for determining a human being’s sexual orientation or preference stop Britain and other countries from extending civilised shelter to those who declare themselves victims of this essential human right?


52
My mo-Bile phone is an old fashioned one without ‘apps’ which, along with twit and blog and chat is for amateurs. Now don’t say I don’t know what I’m missing because I do.
I am missing out on some bore going on for hours about how his phone can train the dog, read minds and give him X-ray vision. Appsters behave like long-married couples who have nothing to discuss but dinner.
Now I am told by a gay friend that I really am missing out. There happens to be a new facility called Grindr (no misspelling), an app with photographs and details which, at the touch of an icon can tell you how close to you another gay user of Grindr is. It may be on the next cafe table or walking ten yards behind you on the street, or if you are on top of Mount Everest he may be  either two hundred miles away or he may be the Sherpa who is carrying your bags and is already tied to you by a rope. The purpose is to put the two or more of you in touch so you can, how shall I put it, interact.
The app registers people who are up for it. My friend was quite aware that I wouldn’t feel I was missing a great deal because I really have no desire to know, at any time of day or night  how close the closest willing sexual male partners are and what their exact dimensions and preferences may be. He did say that Grindr has become an instant hit and has made its inventor a millionaire.
He also said the inventors are working on a ‘straight’, which means a heterosexual, model of the app. I am sure the idea of this technologically facilitated promiscuity will appeal to millions of males all over the globe, but there’s the rub. Will it ever appeal to any woman at all? Isn’t Grindr invented on the premise that for very many gay men – perhaps a minority and perhaps not, but still millions as the subscriptions prove – promiscuity is not just desirable it is possible. Will it work for the man-woman interaction or is there more selectivity operating in that process?
Perhaps my story can be taken in evidence: I was once invited in Delhi to appear on a TV book programme on which I would converse with a young lady, a psychologist or analyst I think, who had written a book called The Kama Sutra for Women.
I accepted and consequently read the book.
It was to be recorded in the outdoor patio of a famous restaurant and the audience contained very many women of all ages.
We took our seats. The elegant and accomplished writer seemed  willing to be questioned about all aspects of the book without inhibition.
The first thing I wanted to know was why for women? Surely the activity the sutra describes involves both sexes? The author gave interesting answers but most of them were inclined towards the contemporary feminist view that the sex impulse is, for males and females, naturally the same and the rest is social conditioning and inhibition. This seemed a very popular view with the studio audience and the liberated women cheered her on.
Following instruction to converse I said “In my short and limited experience, and though it’s a vast generalisation, men give love to get sex and women give sex to get love.”
The reaction to my small observation was instant outrage. Women in the audience began to boo and jeer and shout their violent disagreement. I thought they’d throw benches. When it subsided I said “I am very happy to have had that reaction for my remarks. Will any women who want sex for sex’s sake please leave their names and phone numbers with my friend who will be waiting at the studio door.”
There were no takers.
Can hetero-Grindr work?


53
The British always took liberties with our names, abbreviating Chattopadhyay to Chatterjee, as though the clan were talkative and entitled to some mocking respect, or Bandhopadyay to Bannerjee, like someone advertising themselves. And then there were the distortions of Mumba Devi to Bombay, Kanpur to Cawnpore, Thiruvananthapuram to Trivandram and even, quite absurdly, ‘Chennai’ to ‘Madras’! I ask you!
Pronunciation was never their forte. It’s only recently after hundreds of westerners have been killed by them that the British have learned to called the pathans ‘pathans’. For centuries they called them ‘pay-thnz’. And even after winning two world wars for them they call the Gurkhas ‘ger-curs’ as though they were some kin species to gherkins.
And now, as the feeble playwrights of the Indian diaspora say, The Empire Strikes Back! David Cameron, British PM recently made it to India to meet Manmohanji and other luminaries in policy and business. He took the opportunity to issue a sideswipe at the Pakistanis, calling that nation an exporter of terror and saying that their Inter Services Intelligence wing, a state within a state, ‘faced both ways’ in the Afghan conflict and the war on terror. What he meant was that the ISI publicly wanted the world to know that the army was attacking and keeping the Taliban at bay, but in reality had parts of the army supporting, arming and even controlling Taliban activity in Afghanistan and in the border regions of Pak itself.
His words brought widespread condemnation and mobs emerged in demonstration on the streets of Pakistani cities carrying banners which said “Kamrroon is Lyur” and “David Cammroon must Death”. Some of the banners I spotted on the TV were in perfect Urdu, but the ones composed in English, presumably for the consumption of the international community, took their revenge on both the Prime Minister and the spelling and grammar of his native tongue.
After meditating on it for several hours I came to the conclusion that these misspellings and the accompanying enthusiastic mispronunciation of the Cameron’s name were not deliberate and conscious stratagems to belittle the man who they thought had insulted them. They were the general difficulty we subcontinentals have with the names of British politicians.
My first real awareness of this came in the late 1960s — in 1968 to be precise. I lived in Leicester at the time, doing a post-graduate thesis on Rudyard Kipling. I lived, because  through a subtle racist bias, no landlords would have Indian students as tenants in the non-Indian parts of town, in the Indian part of town: the Narboro Road. I used to frequent a pub on the corner of my road when I saved up for half a pint on a Friday and there met with a jolly bunch of Indian workers whom I befriended. As a super-literate member of this gang or community I was soon asked to write letters to factory managements on behalf of one or other of my mates, and then progressed to writing leaflets for the Indian Workers’ Association to which they all belonged and thence to being asked to be an honorary secretary.
As such I was party to organising a demonstration against the then Home Secretary, James Callaghan’s denial of British citizenship and entry to the Ugandan Asians who had been expelled by Idi Amin and against another politician called Enoch Powell who had delivered an inflammatory speech against immigration. The demonstration was to bring together thousands of members from all the cities of the Midlands to march through the centre of Birmingham and make known our opposition to Powell and Callaghan.
We marched, maybe ten or twenty thousand strong carrying banners which misspelt their names and shouting “Chall–aa- ghun Hai Hai!” and “Eenuk-a-pole Out out!”
It was a heartening and solid march but I was convinced that the good citizens of Birmingham were absolutely perplexed as to what this mob of angry Asians was shouting about. But we knew, we knew!


54
A friend is the proud owner of the iPad, the latest electronic gadget on which he says he has downloaded a library full of the titles. He shows it off, carrying it even to parties and steering conversations round to how brilliant the wretched thing is.
He urges me to buy one. It will make life so much easier and one of the models, he says, allows you to turn pages with your fingers to simulate ordinary reading. I believe the screens can also look like paper print and present you with other  joys of actually reading a book.
There are other virtues. If one has ever talked to the parents of upper class Indian schoolchildren, one has heard the endless refrain about how many text books the poor mites have to carry on their backs in their designer backpacks each day to school. The liturgy of moans against the volume of subjects thrust upon these young minds by the competitive schooling that India under rampant capitalism has evolved, usually lists the subjects: Sanskrit, Marathi, microbiology, brain surgery and Bhagwan knows what! Now the iPad or The Amazon model called Kindle, or future models called ePlod or eXtinguish, arrives as the answer. One device, weighing less than a lunchbox of idlis and a banana, can contain ten thousand of these text books. An enterprising software team and a progressive capitalist can, I am certain, make an Indian version which wojuld be the cheap equivalent of the Nano, the people’s car. It would save an entire generation of Indian schoolchildren from chronic-spinal-strain syndrome or ponderus rucksackus, to give it its proper medical name.
Even so, I remain unconvinced and am not rushing off to buy one of these toys. I am not against the march of technology. I was given a mobile phone by the TV company for which I worked long before any of my friends and associates had one. They would demand to see this brick-like structure and I was quite proud of it because the TV channel paid the phone bills. I have to admit that I was quite reluctant to give up my manual typewriter for an electric one until I was convinced that the carriage moving at the touch of a button rather than being pushed by my right arm was fairly convenient. Moving from electric typewriter to computer word-processor took a little more convincing, but my cousin Dorab Chiselmaker finally persuaded me that ‘x’ing out words in a second draft or typing the whole thing again when modifying it was more trouble than correcting as one went with the delete button. (I find the Apple keyboard which only allows you to delete backwards an awkward tool).
I will of course mourn the passing of the paper book. I like the smell of books and don’t mind if coffee from a knocked over cup or sand from the beach gets on them. If a book falls in the bath it doesn’t mean the loss of a thousand pounds. Also, a library in one box means only one person can access it at a time, whereas with shelves of books, hundreds of readers can read them simultaneously.
But the main reason I would resent the passing of the Gutenberg Gift is that I have always used the covers of books to mark my distinctness from the herd and the iPad would deprive me of this facility. Ever since we were adolescents, a few friends and I made it a point to carry on the pillions of our bicycles titles such as Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, Marx’s Theories of Surplus Value or Santayana’s Aesthetics when most of our colleagues were reading Peyton Place and thumbing through it looking for the dirty bits. Even today I feel just that bit superior reading V.S.Naipaul in the tube when all about me are carrying something called Dan Brown.


55
In my boyhood a film called The Robe, featuring the life of Jesus Christ came to our local cinema the West End. There were two cinemas in Pune which exhibited western films. The others were devoted to Hindi films and occasionally screened Sunday morning shows of the cheaper American variety.
Tickets at the time sold at 5 annas, 10 annas, a rupee and four annas and one rupee and ten annas. There must have been tickets which were priced higher but we had no business with such denominations.
On a good day, having saved some of my pocket money or managed to swindle my sister out of hers, I was a ten anna client. Otherwise my friends and I were denizens of the five anna benches, so close to the stage that one had to crane one’s neck to see the bottom half of the screen over the ledge of the theatrical stage. Luckily Western directors mostly shot the action in the top half of the screen.
It was the habit of the Pune groundlings, the five anna clients of cinemas to shout their approval or disapproval of events on the screen and to make prolonged, vibrating obscene sounds by placing their palms against their lips when the hero took the liberty of kissing the heroine.
Then those who had lined up for the five anna tickets and found them sold out and had to pay double for ten anna seats would, seated behind us, in the throes of their envy and in a mood of revenge shout ‘Paanch anney mey goop choop!” – ‘All quiet in the five annas!’
When The Robe was being screened a very novel sound overcame the West End theatre. The film attracted the Christians, mainly Goans of the Roman Catholic faith of Pune in droves. They came as pilgrims do to shrines, patient and respectful.
Inside, as the action progressed their hearts journeyed with it. When Christ was tried by Pontius Pilate the audience railed loudly, vociferously against the callousness and the injustice of the man as though they were part of the crowd in Jerusalem. When Jesus struggled with the cross up the road from Pilate’s Hall unto Calvary, there were cries of anguish and pain.
When the Centurions nailed The Christ to the cross the wails of the audience were uncontrolled.
“Oh God, look at the cruelty of these people, men!”
“What are they doing to him, men?” the voices cried.
It was a display of innocence and devotion and, though me and my friends made it a point not to waste money on seeing a film repeatedly, we went back to witness the same agony again.
Now a South Indian film maker has announced that he is going to produce a life of the young Jesus. It will be performed or dubbed into four languages. He said – oh, oh! – that it will contain songs.
Now leafing through my New Testament, using the principle of the old musical rather than the ‘item number’ of the later Bollywood, which is that song ought to be introduced into a film when there is a natural setting for a song as part of the action, I can see very many occasions for it and so also for  dance. Remember the wedding feast where the Master turns water into wine? (A prophet after my own heart! and though films, for tawdry dramatic effect, show clear water turning into red wine, I have always been convinced that it actually converts into white — preferably of the Sauvignon Blanc grape). There would have been dancing at such a feast.
And then there was Salome and her veils and the head of cousin John the Baptist. Imagine what an Indian director will do with that!


56
Einstein famously said that ‘God doesn’t play dice’. He meant that the order and predictability of the natural universe negated the idea of luck or chance. The disorder, cruelty and sheer amoral destructiveness of the world of the living convinces me that God may not play dice but he does play video games.
Even the insurance companies designate freak tornadoes hitting your house in the middle of London (as happened to my distant cousin Homi Feromonewala) as ‘acts of God’. And so with the ground opening up under one’s feet, tectonic plates under the sea colliding and causing fifty-foot high floods etc. Any modern kid who fiddles with computers will be able to tell you which video game God has his thumbs on. It is bound to be one that, at the speedy push of a button, can bring on floods, earthquakes and hurricanos, give rise to babies with crippling genetic defects, cause wars, famines, pestilence and even the general injustice of socio-political systems such as capitalism.
Semitic monotheistic religions, from Zoroastrianism through Judaism, Christianity and Islam, conveniently contend that God has set the mechanism of the universe loose and allowed its humans free will so that they can be tested by choosing good or evil. These religions have no explanation for why a little baby is born without arms or is born blind and deaf. Other religions which believe in karma may say that the blind and maimed baby must have done something in its last life to deserve being born crippled in the next. A logical but devastatingly cruel explanation.
These metaphysical thoughts are occasioned by a shocking family tragedy that reached the courts in Britain this week.
The tragedies of families are of course two a penny. No specific statistics exist for misery, but billions of pounds are spent by the Welfare state of great Britain on caring for the families that have fallen apart or on hard times owing to sickness, alcoholism, drug-addiction, sheer ignorance and the choice by parents of an unsuccessful criminal life.
In the case that came to court, a single mother with three children aged 13, 11 and 9, was charged with criminal neglect of the children.
Her neighbours, suspecting that all was not well, looked through the letter box of the house, noted the sights and smells of squalor and alerted the social services – a branch of that same welfare state. The police obtained permission to gain entry to the house and found three starving children, the rooms in a filthy state of indescribable disarray and the corpses of two pet dogs which had died of starvation.
The mother, who attempted to stop the police discovering this shameful truth was not an alcoholic, drug addict, mentally or physically disabled or associated with crime.
What they did find was a high power computer loaded with games. The mother confessed that she had become addicted to these games and couldn’t force herself to abandon the virtual reality into which they led her even to wash, eat, feed her children or her dogs. She would, she said sleep an hour or two a day and then get back into the almost fatal game.
New technologies bring new addictions. This particular case is, we must hope, an extreme demented and unique example.
The courts, judging the woman to be sane, sent her to prison and took the starving children into ‘care’ which means the jurisdiction of the welfare state which will feed, clothe, school and entertain them as a foster parent. The judge said that one her release she could resume the care of her children under supervision or monitoring by the social services.
Now I am told by well-wishers that I am getting addicted to texting on my mobile phone. I have so far protested that the texts are strictly necessary ones — but I begin to wonder.


57
The Commonwealth Games, which are to be inaugurated in Delhi on the 3rd of October, have characterised by Indian commentators, as the biggest rip off scam that has been pulled off within Independent India, a tsunami of corruption that has laid waste at least to the coastlines of India’s izzat. No doubt, down the line, the journalists and some bureau of investigation will seek to get at the truth and then perhaps the tumbrils will roll. Or perhaps the ‘no doubt’ is a bit optimistic.
The International press and media have not been slow to contrast the Indian mess with the triumph and showmanship of China’s Olympic Games or of South Africa’s relatively smooth hosting of the Football World Cup. The Indian press, trying to divert attention from it, turned to  question of who should inaugurate the event.
The consternation, with TV footage and really disgusting photographs, has concentrated on the squalor of the unfinished accommodation which the athletes will occupy.
One much quoted incident involves an Indian boxing champion who went into the rooms allocated to him and sat on the bed. The mattress fell through the bed under his weight. He was amazed to find that it had been placed on the frame of the bed without any springs, planks or any other base to support it. I believe he has quit the games in disgust.
I describe the trivial episode in detail because it reminded me of the time when I was lodged in a Delhi hotel which had more stars than a North Korean General. The rooms were great, the air conditioning worked but had to switched off when a TV crew turned up to interview me for matters related to the literary event I was attending. As TV crews will do, they switched on some very bright and hot lights to illuminate my sultry features and after some time, this made me hot bothered and sultry. I proposed to Tavleen Singh, my suave and beautiful interviewer that we take a break and have a cold beer.
She agreed, I took one out of the well-stocked mini-bar and looked around for a bottle opener. There didn’t appear to be one in any of the obvious places, so I phoned room service and was very politely told that the bottle opener was fixed to the wall above the plinth of my washbasin in the bathroom. That way it became a fixture of the room and couldn’t be mislaid. Perfect!
I took the beer bottle to the bathroom and located the opener. It was a perfectly serviceable metal device but it had been fixed to the wall three inches above the marble plinth of the washbasin. It meant that no beer or any other bottle could be placed under it and levered open. I called Tavleen Singh to share the absurdity. She immediately wanted to bring it to the attention of the management as she knew them. She did.
Within ten minutes there were managers, engineers, architects and five other officials examining the anomalous bottle opener. ‘Mistrys’ were summoned. Apologies extended, pre-opened beer proffered.
The little mistake, worth a curious laugh and nothing more, was symptomatic of the larger picture. The mistry or his apprentice who had fixed that bottle opener to the wall had never used such a device in his life. The device hadn’t opened the bottle but it let loose the genii that told stories of the vicious class structure of India.
Which urban Indian has not experienced the toilet seat which can’t be raised because it has been fixed too far back under the flush cistern? Again, the workman has no use for such a toilet and can’t be expected to automatically appreciate its mechanics.
The Polish immigrants who build and plumb in London, poor petitioners in this land, wouldn’t make an equivalent mistake. The European class system has different characteristics.


58
I was stuck this week in a lift in Southwark, South London, with five other people. It was after a tutoring session for the National Film and Television School. The session ended at five thirty on the fifth floor. We called it ‘a wrap’ and made for the nearest pub.
Some, gathering files and bags, took the stairs down and six others, four of the graduates, another tutor and myself sought the privilege of the lift.
It got stuck between floors four and five. We pressed the emergency alarm button several times. Everyone in the lift read the instructions on the walls. We had transgressed no rules of weight or number – the lift, the rubric said, could take 8 people and we were six, albeit one of us of a substantial size. We rang the alarm several times and heard it ring in the building below, but response came there none.
We each had mobile phones and reached for them to check if they were receiving a signal. My studies in physics had told me that there could be no electric field within a perfect metal enclosure. There was a field and a signal which, I told the others, meant that the lift was not airtight and, if we were stuck in it, we wouldn’t, at least for a few hours, die of a lack of oxygen.
No one panicked. We called Paul, the seminar’s organiser, who was already at the pub. He said he’d find the caretaker who was preparing for a party on the open-planned ground floor of the Centre and most probably hadn’t heard our alarms.
Twenty tense minutes later, Paul rang back to say that the caretaker, in a bit of a panic himself, was on the phone to the lift engineers who were twenty miles away outside London but were relaying instructions on what steps to take to get the lift moving again.
I wasn’t convinced. What would he do? As with a hung computer, would switching the whole infernal machine off and starting it up again do the trick? Apparently not.
We kept ourselves busy in the lift, crowded back against the metal walls, by telling each other jokes about people stuck in lifts and on desert islands etc. not all of them totally sanitised. But what the hell, one of the women in the lift began the dirty-joke game with a story that it would be inappropriate to reproduce in a family newspaper.
We banged on the doors and shouted for rescue. Some of our colleagues on the tutorial course had returned from the pub and were standing outside the doors on either floor, above and below us, themselves banging in acknowledgement on the doors and shouting encouragement.
After ninety minutes the fire brigade arrived and two burly firemen wrenched the doors open. They lifted us out one by one. As we stepped out, our colleagues applauded us. As we passed through the reception on the ground floor, going down the stairs of course, with two fire engines breathing noisily in the street outside, we were given the welcome reserved for heroes.
“Are you the lift people? Don’t go. Join the party, have some champagne.”
Part the talk in the lift had been about the Chilean miners, stuck for 65 days 2047 feet below ground without light and communication with the surface for the first 17 days after the mine collapsed. Even those of us who didn’t believe in God agreed that we should thank him for small mercies. There but for the grace….. my friends – but maybe the fact that lecturing on film in London is not quite like digging for gold and copper in Chile. It may be better paid, but it isn’t as hazardous. O tempora O mores!


59
I am in a restaurant called Ali Baba in Kalkan in southern Turkey on the Mediterranean, here to write and to relax.  The Ali Baba, a restaurant strongly recommended by travel-sussed friends, is deserted — except for six regular non-dining hangers-on of the restaurant and four very strong-vocal-chorded daughters of the house, aged three to perhaps nine.
The Mediterranean in autumn has restaurants open to the mild elements and to the street which is quiet though not unpeopled. We are the lone customers of Ali Baba with no forty thieves evident. There’s a kind of hush all over this tourist main street except for the burble of TV commentary from every other restaurant and barber shop and the hurrah and huzzah of the fans gathered around the TV sets in these establishments supporting one or other Turkish national team in some decisive gladiatorial football combat which is being televised through the nation.
We order our kebabs. The waiter who, being the owner, is the only one serving today, keeps glancing at the game on the screen as he takes our order.
Beneath the screen sit the wasters and the family children, shouting their approval at attempted goals by their team and expressing their disappointment in a falling cadence – ‘awwwhhhh!’ — when their strikers fail to score.
I have arrived on this Anatolean coast only today and have read the English newspapers on the flight here. Amongst all the angst about the economy and the government having to make cuts in expenditure to fill the hole left by the failure of international banking and capitalism in the last few years,   two items stand out.
The first is that Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones has written his memoirs and they are herewith serialised and the second is that a footballer called Wayne Rooney has just blackmailed his club, Manchester United, into giving him a contract which pays him £200,000 a week, which means he gets £10,400,000 a year. For playing football??
Back in the Turkish restaurant, I would have politely enquired which teams were playing and who their favourite striker who had just missed the goal was, but this evening I didn’t want to know. I didn’t want to sit at the table facing the screen.
The game had revealed itself to me as a capitalistic obscenity.
Maybe the Turkish players were real sportsmen, paid as much as dustmen and bank clerks and with jobs they enjoy much more than the former. But now every time I see a footballer I would see the man Rooney and wish I was a Stalinist party official entitled to order his arrest and relegation to a gulag – At least until he gave back the £10 million, lived on the UK average wage and devoted some of his spare time to teaching ghetto kids how to kick a ball.
I said above that I read the memoirs of Keith Richards the rock musician with the Rolling Stones. The fellow is a millionaire. One meets a lot of empty headed idiots in print but this one takes the ganja-reinforced cake. He boasts about his penis being bigger than that of his band leader Mick Jagger. The proof, it seems, is a woman they shared, a pop singer in her own right, called Marianne Faithful (sic).
I remember rocking to the lyrics and rhythms of the Stones and thinking they, getting no satisfaction etc., were fellow Marxists in this alienated society. I was, of course, one of the mugs who fell for the idea that Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, John Lennon or any of those that wrote a melody or some incoherent lyric (“goo-ga-roo-ga joo, goo-ga-roog-a-joo!”)were part of what I wanted from society. They wanted the unfair capitalist triumph – lots of money for a confidence trick, money for an idea, money for kicking a football skilfully, money for a song.


60
A Punjabi British friend, married to a white male, both with high-earning respectable jobs, can’t have children.
Short of visiting durgas (perhaps they have tried that too and not told anyone) the couple have gone through every test and procedure known to medical science including IVF.
Earlier this year they decided to abandon the project of trying to generate a biological child and opted for adopting a child.
They duly applied to the agencies that offer children for adoption of which there are various sorts in Britain. There is the central pool of children ‘in care’ who have for one reason or other been put under the care of the local government authority. These are children who have been abandoned by their parents and have no other acceptable guardians or those whom the state has, through legal process, taken away from a criminal, drug-addicted, abusive or otherwise totally incapable ‘home’.
The children in care homes are then sent out to be ‘fostered’ by temporary families whom the state pays until the child comes up for full legal adoption.
The adoption procedure entails a lot of visits to the prospective home and family and several intrusive interviews to determine the suitability of the future family from every angle the bureaucracy can think of. Fair enough. The child can’t be handed over to people who are psychopathic, inadequate, have cannibalistic tendencies or want to emigrate to a far off land where they may sell the child into slavery. (One can’t be too careful these days?)
Years ago other friends of mine adopted a child. A council examiner turned up to interview me as a referee for the adoption. She asked me about the suitability of my friends as parents. The prospective father had several grown up children but his new wife couldn’t conceive. I was finally asked if, as the child was black of West Indian origin, she would have a ‘sufficiently supportive political environment’.
Having worked as an agitator and pamphleteer with both the father and the mother in what were then known as ‘black power’ organisations – political groups who fought for immigrant rights – I thought it an absurd question. The absurd question unfortunately became firm doctrine amongst the bureaucracy of the adoption agencies.
There is notion in liberal Britain that we live in a ‘racist’ society and that one’s racial identity is a central determining factor in one’s social being and hence one’s psychological comfort, confidence and happiness. The notion has, through several illogical leaps, metamorphosed into the policy that black children can only be adopted by black parents.
The policy has acquired rigidities: my Punjabi friend was told that they would have to wait for a child who was half Punjabi and half white-English. They couldn’t adopt a child of West Indian or even Asian or white origin. This nonsense broke their hearts.
And this when there are 24000 children in Britain waiting for adoptive homes to go to. At last someone has seen the absurdity of the policy. The Coalition government has proposed legislation to scrap the ‘ethnic’ adoption policy. Henceforth a child of any ethnic background may be adopted by parents of another ‘racial’ background or mix, if adoptive parents of their own racial mix are not immediately available.
Yes, one can see that a black child may get to the age of, say, five and may be asked by other children why his mum is Indian or white. Surely one can prepare a child for such a question and that this very awareness will contribute much more to his or her preparation for life and confidence than growing up in a virtual orphanage and never knowing the love and life, tribulations and all, that the parent-child relation endows.


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