The Son of Old Southall

He was born in a brick-built shed at the end of the garden, for there was no room in the rented house. (His mother never did shake off the rumours that she’d been expecting long before the marriage her parents arranged for her.) His mum and dad didn’t know many people round here, but still they had visitors – a couple of guys who usually kept watch on the corner of King Street and Norwood Road, three wise shopkeepers from the Broadway who brought gold, incense sticks and Bollywood movies. That night, his dad was warned of a raid by the Border Agency. So they fled to Hayes, and only returned to Old Southall once they’d got Indefinite Leave To Remain.

The boy grew and became strong. Once, when he was twelve years old, he went with his parents to Vaisakhi. He got separated from them in the crowd and they couldn’t find him anywhere. After much searching, they found him in the temple, talking about God with the elders.

He followed his dad into the family business and everyone expected he’d make it his own. But, just before his thirtieth birthday, he saw his cousin-brother in the Manor House Park, dipping people in the pond. He asked if he could go in too and, when he came out of the water, a pigeon descended upon him and a voice from Heaven said, “This is my son, isn’t it, with whom I am well pleased.” After that, he went off by himself for forty days to the patch of wasteland by Western International Market.

He came back a changed man. He started to make friends with the girls by the HSBC bank. He talked politics with the men on the Green. He played football with the lads in the Recreation Ground. He had dinner in the Baptist Church on a Wednesday night. He drank in the Havelock Arms.

And the respectable people said to themselves, “If he knew what kind of people they were . . . ”

He told stories, like the one about the good illegal immigrant, and the son who wasted his father’s savings, and the woman who lost a tenner down the back of the sofa. Look at the parakeets, he said. They do not work all hours at Heathrow, and yet God feeds them.

And the decent people said to themselves, “This is all very well, but . . . ”

There were crazy tales of people discharged by Penny Sangam because they genuinely no longer needed the medication, of residents with minds and memories restored at Martin House, of dealers unwilling to sell drugs anymore and nobody wanting to buy them anyway.

One day, he actually went berserk and cleared out all the bookies.

And the powerful people said to themselves, “If he carries on like this . . . ”

So they got one of his friends to help them arrange a little accident.

The night before, while having dinner at Roxy’s, he took mango lassi and naan bread and shared it with his friends, asking them to do this in remembrance of him.

The next day, at the crossroads of King Street and Western Road, he was hit by a car without numberplates that did not stop. The paramedics were called and he was taken to Ealing Hospital, but he died at the ninth hour. He was buried in Havelock Cemetery.

Three days later, some of his friends went to lay flowers on his grave. But the gravestone had been knocked flat and the ground dug up. A man, who they thought worked for the council, said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is risen!”

That very day he appeared to two of his friends on the 120 as they travelled to Northolt, explaining to them everything that had happened. Then he appeared to the rest in a locked room in a flat above Sira, where he ate fish pakora and explained to them everything that had happened.

Finally, he led them to the railway bridge and, outside the station, he lifted up his hands and blessed Old Southall.

As the sun set over the gas tower, he left them and was taken up into Heaven.

(With thanks to ‘The Christ of Crouch End’ by Tony Clelford and the Gospel of Luke)

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