An extract from Ours Are The Streets

07 January 2011

Sunjeev Sahota's Ours Are The Streets is a chilling examination of what drives young people towards religious fundamentalism. In this exclusive extract, you can really get a sense of the direction this incredible novel will take you in.

 

Not long to go before dawn and then maybe I can get some sleep. He were in the kitchen, were Charag, gathering up the tins rolling across the lino. It makes me so angry to see him in that stupid yellow pizza uniform with that shameful hat that looks like a boat got turned over on his head. Serving drunks who only give him grief. I keep on telling him to quit.

What's the point any more? But he says we should keep on acting normal, so people don't suss. But I think there's something else too, something he's not telling me. I think he just wants to keep on sending money back home for as long as he can. He'll want to make sure his abba has enough to cover Qasoomah's wedding.

'Sorry, bhaiji,' he said, pushing the tins back up onto the worktop. 'The bag was splitting.'

'Take that stupid topi off at least. You're not a servant here.' I shut the door to. 'I phoned Aaqil today.' I waited, but Charag didn't say nothing. 'Aren't you even going to ask how they're doing?'

He apologised. 'How are they?'

'Don't you miss it all?'Again, he said nothing.'Because I do. Loads. I wish I were still there. Do you remember when-?'

'What did Aaqil say?'

'Nothing much. I just wanted to talk to him. He'll be going through with it soon, Inshallah. Another month. Two, tops.'

'Right. That is good,' Charag said quietly, and started putting the food in the fridge.

'They've paid one of the guards. He said it should be easy from now on in. Just driving up to Islamabad. They've already found out which days the embassy's busiest.' Charag twisted round, smiled, nodded, then ducked back down. 'He asked how far we were from being ready.'

He closed the fridge, keeping hold of the handle. 'What did you say?'

'I said we're always ready. What else were I going to say?' I took out a piece of paper torn from a notepad. 'He gave me the number of a brother in Bradford who says he can make the vests. Do you want to come with me?'

He looked at the number and shook his head like a frightened child. He's so nervous about it all. So am I, if I'm honest, but one of us has to stay strong.

'Okay. Don't worry. I'll go alone.' I smiled at him. 'But you'll have to come for the fitting, acha? Try on your new clothes.' He said he would. 'And then we need to start sussing out where, okay?' I turned the paper over. 'I've made a list. You know, the kind of things we need to think about.'

'A list?'

The door opened behind me then, and Rebekah stood there in her grubby long-sleeved top and quick-wrap black headscarf. Me and Charag stared, wondering how much she might've heard. 'Sorry,' she said. 'I heard crashing.'

'This clumsy fool,' I said. 'What were you shopping for, anyway?'

'Just some things bhabhiji was asking me to get.'

I looked to Rebekah. 'I was joking,' she said. 'You didn't have to.' He shrugged and went to lift the next bag. His skinny arms jerked down with the weight of it.

'For Godssake, just leave it. I'll put them away in the morning.'

You know, B, you can be really ungrateful sometimes. 'He were trying to do you a favour. You don't have to snap his head off.'

'Please, it is fine,' he said.

She turned to go, then stopped at the doorway. 'Are you coming?'

'Soon. I'll be there soon. I just don't want to miss fajr. And I'll only wake the baby if I come in now.'

'I doubt it. That walk tired her out.' That were me, Noor. I took you to the masjid so you could meet some of your uncles. 'What are you doing holed up in that room at night anyway?'

Writing this, B, writing this for all of you. 'Nothing. Just du'a. Don't want to miss the dawn call. You can join me if you want.'

'Maybe.'

I never meant to lie to everyone. But now you know what I were doing all along and you'll understand why I couldn't tell you. I do want to. I want to say let's just be as good as we can together in these my final months with you and the baby. Let's not argue like we have been doing. But I weren't totally lying. Because all this is just a form of du'a, isn't it? That's what these pages are all about. A form of prayer. Wanting to be found out, which is only another way of wanting to be known. Sometimes, when I'm out the house, I wish that you'll be in here going through this desk and finding these words.

The night's beginning to lift and I need to bathe before dawn. After that I'll come and join you, Rebekah, and slide quietly in beside Noor, just like you asked. Because you're not going to come and join me, are you? Like you said you might. I guess you must've had a change of heart. Ameen.

 

 

 

 

 

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