West of No East by Bobby Nayyar packs into a small book many of the issues facing people in multicultural, contemporary Britain today. It tells of difficult relationships, be they marital, friendships, work or parental. Difficult economic times increase pressures on already fragile relationships. Clashing cultures add extra heat into the mix.
Disappointments abound as Tarsem, an only child, fails to reach his potential not only in his own eyes but those of his wife, his parents and his in-laws. His parents dreamt of more: more children, more from Tarsem, more for their retirement, more grandchildren. Tarsem’s wife Anita’s parents want better for their beloved youngest daughter. Tarsem wants better work, not to be stuck in a call centre to supplement another job that fails to recognise his potential.
Into this world, throw in: marches, protests against library closures, home governments, uprisings in Egypt and feared protests in the Middle East. David Cameron states that multiculturalism has failed. Parents who are not what they seem to be momentarily play second fiddle to appearance of a beautiful stranger.
Amidst all this, there is a yearning for home. An emotion everyone can relate to. The hope that things will improve is something else that connects us. And beautiful words like: ‘a reassuring warmth that reminded me that as distant as we often were, we were never completely alone’ keep us reading on to find more in a story which shows the importance of language, love and home in our lives.
Bobby Nayyar, West of No East (London: Glasshouse Books, 2011). (Please Note: Glasshouse Books is now Limehouse Books.)