Article published on March 15, 2012.
It is New Year’s Eve, 1982, and the whole gang is at Victor and Nandini’s house. The Godfather is on repeat upstairs. Baila music is blaring from the record player in the lounge. Poppadoms are frying in the kitchen. And Preethi, tipsy on youth and friendship and covert cigarettes out the window, just wants to belong.
But what does that mean, to belong? Is it: paying over the odds for a bottle of whisky? Getting lost with your impassive grandmother on the way home from school? Mourning for Elvis? Adopting a child whose skin is darker than yours? Marrying an English boy? Learning how to speak in a voice that doesn’t remind you of your father? Feeling awkward at an office barn dance? Losing your lover, twice? Vowing to destroy the world and then changing your mind?
Is it something else, just out of reach?
From that New Year’s party to a family funeral, via ghetto blasters and growing pains, through 7/7 and the world according to Charlie Chaplin, life in all of its complexity happens to Preethi, Nil, Lolly, Rohan, and their tightly knotted Sri Lankan families in south London.