Thursday, 23 September 2010

26 Minutes of Hell...for a South Asian in Britain...

10.00 pm. Wednesday, 22nd September 2010. It wasn’t a good time to be South Asian in Britain. Huw Edwards – along with his dynamic upper lip – has been replaced on the BBC’s 10 o’clock news by the normally unflappable George Alagiah, son of persecuted Tamil immigrants from Sri Lanka. How ironic. And what bad timing, particularly given the people around my table, the Daily Mail-reading, white, middle-England parents of a (consequently Socialist) friend; here to enjoy my attempt at fusion cooking; Lamb Ghosht with er...mashed potatoes and some horribly deflated Yorkshire pudding.

The bulletin begins with the New Delhi Commonwealth Games fiasco. The reporter gleefully pointing out a newly built water fountain in the Games Village spewing a liquid that has a suspicious yellow tinge to it. The camera cuts across the gleaming facade of newly built apartment blocks and rests on an adjacent body of water that looks utterly foul; its putrescence seems to crawl out through the TV screen and envelope my carefully cooked Lamb. Then follows video of the Commonwealth Games Moron...sorry Commissioner...stating with not a hint of insincerity that “Hygiene Standards are different from country to country. Athletes shouldn’t be worried. Arey baba, that’s not excrement on the tiles, that’s called ‘shit-effect tiles’; the latest rage na!”

As the icing on the cake (or should that be excrement on the tile?), the report cuts to an Indian news channel discussion involving an anchor with tremendously hirsute pectorals, a sports writer and a morbidly obese, barely awake, government servant with a 1000 Rupee note hanging out of his left nostril. They’re having an animated discussion about how one construction worker at the Games Village, having unsuccessfully looked for a place to empty his bowels, reportedly did the business underneath a newly installed mattress, which the Steeple Chase champion from New Zealand will sleep on for the coming two weeks.

Thankfully, the reporter spares us details about the kids working as rubble-movers and being paid in plastic bottles; workers dying of heat exhaustion and any worker who gets out alive dying a few years later as a result of inhaling some sort of chemical on site; and dozens of people pocketing the money that should have gone towards installing portable loos. ‘Bring on the games’ I say excitedly (and hopefully) as my guests do a double take of the Lamb.

Alagiah’s eyebrows are now on an inexorable march towards each other. He then moves on to Afghanistan. The story is about a dispute between Barack Obama and his generals. The highlight of the piece though is Hamid Karzai – the puppet...sorry, president...installed by the CIA...sorry, the Afghan chief collector...sorry, leader of Afghanistan – is reportedly (and unsurprisingly) a manic depressive who refuses to take his medication. This, I surmise, is perhaps because medication usually brings clarity, which would enable him to reconsider purchasing his 78th luxury apartment block on the Palm Deira, Dubai, which will in turn provide affordable housing for his expanding harem of astonishingly beautiful students...who only accept Apple iPads as payment.

My head swirls with images of Karzai’s physician bringing in a little tablet on an oversized, gold-plated tray only to find Karzai pacing furiously around his palatial room, muttering to himself and wearing nothing but his Karacul hat – incidentally made of the uterus of a woman recently stoned to death. The Lamb’s not going as fast as I’d have liked.

The news promptly moves on to Kashmir where more than 200 people have been killed this summer alone; mostly bored young boys armed with nothing fiercer than plastic bottle tops, shot up by equally bored but petrified young soldiers, wondering when the next silly bugger will come walking up to them wearing C4 instead of a pair of boxers. The report then proceeds to show streets emptied by curfew, a grieving widow repeatedly bashing her own head and a 12-year-old boy with a couple of entry wounds on his stomach. How pleasant.

By now, Alagiah’s forehead shines bright, like a school boy who’s overdone the saliva-hair gel and has walked out in the mid-day sun. He tries to force a smile through gritted teeth and introduces the sport.

Now, in spite of all that’s gone on this summer, I wanted Pakistan to win the final ODI on Wednesday and try to go out on a high. And, despite being favourites going into the match, they made a complete hash of it, unable to provide some cheer after a dark and distressing summer. Worse still, Shoaib Akhtar makes an utter mess of trying to conceal the fact that he repeatedly tries to open up the seam to gain a bit more reverse swing on the ball, which had accounted for a third of the English batting line up, which was eventually saved by Irishman. “Dodgy to the end” is how one of my guests described the Pakistanis.

The horror however, didn’t end there. After the news, I switch over to BBC 2 to see who Paxman will impale on Newsnight, only to find the lead report is titled “Why is Pakistan so messed up?” or something along those lines. The report starts with a clip from a Pakistani TV show where a government minister states that corruption is a way of life in Pakistan and those who refuse to join the bandwagon, man!

A man from the Pakistan High Commission is sitting opposite Paxman, trying to look confident, but you can tell he’s never watched that John Howard interview or seen Newsnight in his entire life. It is a given that Paxman is going to make meatballs out of the man and send them to Ikea restaurants around Southern England to be served with chips and strawberry jam. The man flips his left leg over the right, and begins with “Well...” Oh god.

Unable to watch and having already downed half a bottle of cheap, supermarket brand ‘French’ brandy (conveniently placed in one of those crystal-effect decanter things) I look around; my eyes trying to focus through the haze, as my guests sing “Shame...shame...puppy shame...your Lamb Ghosht is truly lame!”

Silly buggers.

- Vijitha Alles

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