October 2015 \ Publications \ Book Review
Immigrant Woes

By Vikas Datta

Among them, we follow three youth from different backgrounds - Tochi or Tarlochan, a former auto-rickshaw driver from Bihar with unimaginable horrors in his past, Avtar, who has paid good money to reach Britain as a student (and has to make regular repayments to a set of enforcers who threaten his family back home too) and Randeep, who has a “visa-wife” living in a flat on the other side of town where the cupboards have his clothes and some other belongings in case an immigration department suddenly drop in to check. But Narinder Kaur, who is from a family settled in Britain itself, has the most surprising story of them all, though it will not be new for regular viewers of Bollywood fare.

Divided into four seasons, the book chronicles a year in their lives beginning with winter, while Sahota also deftly shifts time, space and mood to chronicle the past of the three youth, while Narinder’s story comes within the spring part. Summer keeps to their daily struggles, the hardest of which is to protect their dreams from disappearing in the harsh circumstances they work and a momentous autumn in which events move towards a showdown. An epilogue set a few years subsequent details their futures.

Sahota, a third-generation British-Indian who debuted with “Ours Are the Streets” (2011) about a British Pakistani youth who becomes a suicide bomber, effortlessly captures the trial and tribulations of the immigrants, especially the unskilled illegal ones, who form almost a hidden community in their host countries, and have no recourse against exploitation and no access to the high level of rights and facilities available in these developed countries. And then there is no guarantee that their own compatriots will keen to offer much help, and as Tochi discovers, some prejudices can come over undiluted and even get stronger.