by Vinay Patel
True Brits was produced by Rich Mason Productions in association with HighTide Festival and had its premiere at Assembly Hall, Edinburgh on 31 July 2014. This production was directed by Tanith Lindon and performed by Sid Sagar.
Flashback to early August 2005 during the aftermath of the 7/7 attacks. Eighteen-year-old boisterous Rahul speaks with an estuary accent as he travels on the bus to his girlfriend’s family home for dinner. He holds a bunch of flowers for his girlfriend in his hands.
Rahul See-through backpacks – a sign of cowardice, an admission of guilt, or just a plain old fashion disaster? Seen them about in the last couple of weeks, and I can’t decide.
The sight of the park and the stench of piss on the bus combine to hit me with an unexpected wave of nostalgia. It may be a shithole, but it’s my shithole and I know I’m gonna miss all this when I’m at uni. A kid gets on and sees me, sees the flowers in my hands and screws his little face up.
‘Who are those for?’
‘My girlfriend.’ It’s fun to say that.
‘Does she like flowers?’
Hadn’t actually considered that. But everyone likes flowers.
‘Course. Everyone likes flowers, so I’m giving her flowers.’
‘Why? Did you try to blow her up?’
Woah. I mean, I laugh, I do laugh, I like a dark joke as much as anyone, but tell him that it might be a bit soon. He makes a face and goes back to what I think passes for a Game Boy these days.
When I ring the bell to get off, the boy starts to sing, and he’s got this sweet soprano voice …
To the tune of ‘If You’re Happy and You Know It’.
If you’re a Paki and unhappy, fuck off home.
If you’re a Paki and unhappy, fuck off home.
If you’re a Paki and unhappy and you wanna go jihadi,
Just fuck off little Paki, fuck off home.
No one says anything. You don’t do you, on a bus?
If not quite ‘The Universal’ but it’s actually sort of catchy. I find myself singing it as I knock on Jess’s door but stop myself when she opens it. She’s had a hair cut. And she looks. Thinner. A lot thinner.
As expected, she’s got three As. Two Bs and an A for me but it’s enough. Dinner with ‘the in-laws’ is always a bit awkward, but no problem this time, ’cause Jess is back to her old self, doesn’t let 62
anyone get a word in edgeways. She’s excited about uni, about a future of possibilities, and as we get through starters – if you call a stick of Sainsbury’s garlic bread starters – her dad just lets her run on and on, his face stupid with pride and I’m glad we’re all doing
Jess pushes her plate away, hardly eaten a thing, and says she’s going to get some water, leaving me alone with the MegaBeard. Fuck.
‘You see the second Test, Clive?’ Expression noted. Don’t call him Clive.
‘Not been following it this year.’
‘Oh you should, it’s been epic. Scraped it by two runs!’
Clive cuts at his carrots.
‘How about the Olympics, you excited about the Olympics? Imagine the borough’ll go big for it.’
‘That’s all a long way off. Way the world’s going, we might not even get there.’
‘I nod and put fully half a pie into my face.
‘Are you a Muslim, Rahul?’ Pastry flakes from my mouth.
‘Muslim. Yes? No?’
‘I, um … well … why are you asking?’
‘It doesn’t really matter, does it?’
‘You are then.’
‘Would you prefer it if I was, or if I wasn’t?’
‘I don’t have a preference, of course I don’t. I was just curious is all, you seem a bit evasive about it.’ ‘Not trying to be evasive, Mr C.’
‘But trying to make a point?’
‘No point, never a point, an eternal broken pencil, me.’
‘Well, it’s a pork pie we’re having here, so … thought I’d check!’ He snorts out a laugh and dives back into his veggies.
‘You can eat with your hands, if it’d make you more comfortable.’
The rest of dinner is torture and when I get in the car I let Mum know that for once I’m grateful for the lift. She tosses me a see-through backpack.
‘What the fuck is this?’
She belts me proper hard.
Apparently the windows at the shop have been spray painted with something obscene. And Mihir’s told her about some Asian kid, a Sikh, getting beaten up, five guys, forty-three stitches.
‘See!’ She says, starting up the engine. ‘You can be friends with the whites, but when it comes down to it, the only ones who’ll really care for you when it gets rough is us, our people.’
She’s been waiting to say that for years.
‘Spray paint’s not exactly a brick, Mum, and people get attacked all the time, it doesn’t necessarily – I mean, who’s to know? Not Muhir, he’s fucking simple!’
She smacks me again.
‘He wasn’t even one of them!’ She’s not listening to a word I’ve said.
‘Hey, maybe you’d be happier in India, Mum, back in Gujarat, I mean they only have murderous riots over there, much better than a couple of beatings.’
We’re in Britain, we should reset. I mean you don’t hear the Royal Family banging on about their German roots, do you? They don’t invite you to the Palace garden for tea and bratwurst.
Mum’s a coward and she can go wherever she wants.
Me? I’m sticking around, I’m making it work.
I’m the reset button.
This excerpt from True Brits by Vinay Patel is taken from Audition Speeches for Black, South Asian and Middle Eastern Actors: Monologues for Men, edited by Simeilia Hodge-Dallaway. It is available now at 10% off RRP.