Information about the author.
If you’ve approached Bains Stores recently, you’d be forgiven for hesitating on doing so. A prominent window advert for a discontinued chocolate bar suggests the shop may have closed in 1994. The security shutters are stuck a quarter-open, adding to the general air of dilapidation. A push or kick of the door triggers something which is more grating car alarm than charming shop bell.
To Arjan Banga, returning to the Black Country after the unexpected death of his father, his family’s corner shop represents everything he has tried to leave behind—a lethargic pace of life, insular rituals and ways of thinking. But when his mother insists on keeping the shop open, he finds himself being dragged back, forced into big decisions about his imminent marriage back in London and uncovering the history of his broken family—the elopement and mixed-race marriage of his aunt Surinder, the betrayals…[more]
“Stop laughing so much. You’ll only cry twice as much later”, my mother says. Mum is never more anxious than at a celebration, hovering around us with red chillies to frighten away evil spirits. I hate that I’ve inherited this attitude: sometimes I can feel the end of good things before I’ve even had a chance to enjoy them. But finally I understand why my mother was so fond of the phrase: that’s how life was for her. For years, for every one shot of happy, there would be two shots of sad.
When Sathnam Sanghera was twenty-four years old he made a discovery about his family that would both darken, and illuminate his life. It would set him on a journey into his family’s past: from his father’s harsh life in rural Punjab, to the terrifying early years of his parents’ marriage in England; from his mother’s extraordinary resilience as she brought up her young family in a foreign land, without any knowledge of its language, to the author’s happy memories of his own childhood—his obsessions…[more]