Gungi Blues


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109 in stock


By Sanchita Islam

ISBN: 978-1-84747-259-5
Published: 2007
Pages: 172
Key Themes: family, growing up, widowhood, self-discovery,



Gungi Blues chronicles the trials and tribulations of a dysfunctional Bangladeshi family growing up in Manchester. The main character Mina, who after being widowed at 25 with three little girls, remarries and embarks on a journey that leads to self-discovery and final self-acceptance. It is only by re-visiting the country of her birth, the country she escaped, that she reaches this epiphany.

About the Author

Sanchita Islam is an artist, writer and filmmaker. She graduated in International History and Comparative Politics at the London School of Economics, Directing and Screenwriting at the Northern Media School and studied Fine Art at Chelsea School of Art and Design. She heads, a company that specialises in London based and international art projects.

Islam has exhibited and screened her films in London, New York, Paris, Germany, Indonesia, Malaysia and Bangladesh. She has also made films in New York, Bangladesh, Nepal, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and London for the British Council, Arts Council and Commonwealth Institute. Her writing and artwork have been published in New York, Paris, London, Mumbai and Bangladesh.

Islam has published six books to date, ‘From Briarwood to Barisal to Brick Lane,’ ‘Old Meets Young,’ ‘Hidden,’ ‘Connecting Kids,’
‘Avenues’ and the ‘Cloud Catcher.’ Sanchita Islam lives and works in London.

Book Extract

‘Bastard child, I wish you were never born’ screamed Mina, her eyes bulging, her hair in splinters, her face screwed up in wrinkles.

Ana remembered accidentally kicking her sister up the putki; they were just playing and her knee sort of slipped. Rimi bent over double wincing in pain. She was incredibly apologetic although Ana couldn’t quite contain her giggles. Mina walked in and demanded to know what had happened. When Rimi whimpered the story and Mina saw the smirk that stained Ana’s face she seized her pink feather duster and started whacking her daughter across her bare thigh. Ana tried to run away from her but tripped and landed in a heap at the bottom of the stairs. Mina stood over Ana, flaring her nostrils. She looked like a terrifying tough super human baddie. Bracing herself, Ana covered her head and prepared for another serious dosage of whacking. She saw Mina’s hand pluck a long thin plastic thing that lay dormant by the radiator and heard the rustle of her silk sari as she held her hand high before attacking the same spot of leg with the force of a warrior. She stopped hitting Ana after a while but she could still hear her heavy breathing. Ana didn’t move and her arms remained firmly wrapped around her head until the sound of Mina’s shrill voice made Ana jump. Nervously Ana wiped away the dribble that laced her chin with a shirt sleeve. Mina told Ana to get up, called her a ‘haramsada’, which means bastard in Bangla, and to stop crying because she hadn’t hit her that hard. Numb from pain, Ana sat up slowly and peered down at her leg. The skin was swelling a candyfloss pink in a nice stripy pattern across Ana’s outer thigh. Ana watched, with a perverse fascination, as the stripes began to bulge with a soft soreness and she paused before slowly limping upstairs to her room to sob discreetly in a pillow.

Ana lived in a cramped semi-detached house on 6 Whitebrook Road in Fallowfield, Manchester. The house stood on a long row of houses with neat front gardens lined with pretty flowers that matched the curtains. That is apart from Ana’s. Their garden was usually unkempt, dotted with dandelions, the hedge-row wonky, the gate covered in an abstract pattern of yellowed, hardened bird shit, the windows streaky from black paint that flaked messily onto the concrete paving and the rose bushes were wild sprawling things that gave birth to pink, white and yellow blooms. Ana always wondered why Miss Redfern, their nice grey haired neighbour, had grass that looked like lush green velvet and poppies, a deeper shade of blood.

Miss Redfern perennially re-painted her house the same shade of olive. The colour of the house was the only way to distinguish one from the next. Mrs Harrison, who lived opposite, painted her house in cool emeralds that blended with her potted ferns. Every Friday she played Black Jack with old Jim and in her green house she grew tomatoes, which she gave as gifts to the neighbours. They were the colour of peas and hard but with some salt and lemon juice they tasted all right. Miss Redfern and Mrs Harrison were two of the ubiquitous old ladies that lived on Whitebrook Road.

Mrs Ballwinkle at number nine was seventy-two. She seldom left her house and kept her curtains drawn. Occasionally, Ana glimpsed the old lumpy figure through her bedroom window creaking down in her lilac dressing gown for her one-pint of milk before slipping back inside for hibernation.

Mr and Mrs Walsh were an Irish couple that lived in the next semi down the road. Mrs Walsh had white fluffy hair and always wore navy linen dresses. In their front room the only thing hanging on the wall was an elaborate family tree spanning six generations of Walsh’s. Their house wasn’t particularly tidy. They allowed the grass to grow just beyond its borders before dragging out the lawn mower. In the summer Mr Walsh mowed the lawn in a greyish string vest and his pale shoulders would turn a shiny pink with sweat and sunburn.

Auntie Pat lived in the only detached house on Whitebrook Road. She possessed a soft reclining chair in her back garden and a sun bed in the spare room. Auntie Pat was the youngest of the neighbours at fifty-nine, but looked older than her years with skin prematurely wrinkled from years of sun worship and too many fags. There were scores of other people who lived on Whitebrook road but Ana only recognised their rockeries, the type of car in the driveway, or the colour of their door. It was a street full of people walking their dogs, trimming their hedge-ways or sitting by their windows.

Once Ana saw a young couple rendez-vous outside Mrs Harrison’s house. They had a secret snog and then disappeared down the street. She rarely saw any other kids apart from a pair of Asian families that lived in the row of houses facing the back garden. Both families lived in two houses but treated them as one. Between them they had four kids who resembled one another and played together in their joined up back garden. Ana remembered watching them tie their pet Alsation to a tree and then take turns kicking its head in.

Beyond Whitebrook Road was the main road, the road that stemmed into Wilmslow Road, the road that led to Oxford Road and Manchester town centre. On Wilmslow Road was the Swiss bakery that sold chocolate éclairs and cinnamon buns; the Jabberwocky, a former church renovated into a bar to cater for the students that lived in the beige blocks of Owens Park; Malcolm Bishop, filled with elephant mobiles, fancy pens, Birthday cards and pretty hand painted useless things; and the Canadian Charcoal Pit that made burgers with whole chunks of gherkin and piles of fried onion rings. On a side street behind the Jabberwocky was a butcher’s store run by a Bangladeshi man called Tariq. He was a small, skinny man with a thick moustache that filled half his face. His girlfriend was blond and taller than him. She would often be left waiting in his battered white van listening to Timmy Malik on the radio. Lining his shelves were dusty packets of Rice Krispies, jars of Coleman’s mustard, toilet roll and an array of other goods that became permanent features of decoration. The shop smelt of sour meat and the floor was covered in soiled bits of animal. Tariq minced beef on the spot and gave away free chicken legs to regular customers; that’s why there was always a queue. Then there was the Newsagents at the top of the road. An old couple that never had kids ran it; they had a Chihauhau instead. They dressed him in a tartan jacket and tied his silky hair in ribbons. He barked like mad and scared Ana but he always kept his place under the counter in the shop. The couple boasted an impressive sweetie counter; Half penny Cola Fizzes, Flying Saucers, Black Jacks, Banana Chews and Bon Bons. And, if Ana was skint and fancied something substantial there were home made Vimto lollies at tuppence each.

Fallowfield was Ana’s neighbourhood and 6 Whitebrook Road was her first home. Ana’s house was a tiny miny house. Downstairs, was a yellow kitchen with marble patterned work-tops covered in clutter, a living room with stained sofas concealed under cheap material, a front room with nice clean sofas and a fake Rodin. Upstairs, there was a tiny blue toilet, a bathroom with chipped tiles, Ana’s parents’ room was crammed with a dressing table inhabited with Estee Lauder lotions and used tissue clumps, another bedroom with a nasty brown patterned linoleum floor and a brown carpeted room they called the ‘small room’. The house was bursting with plants, an Ivy in the hall, a Money plant hanging on the wall, a Cheese plant in the living room, potted Begonias and Fuchsias at every turn. With plants in each room, even the tiny loo, their house became a living organism crawling with leaves that sucked up the light, stretching stems that inhabited the walls and dead bits that eventually congealed into the flower patterned carpet. Then there was the back garden, overgrown with giant weeds and a bent swing. Beside it was a garage stuffed with boxes of rubbish and in a bag, under a broken chair, were old porno mags left by the previous occupant.

This was Ana’s house where she lived with her two sisters Rimi and Bela, her father Amit Bai and mother Mina.



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