Sathnam Sanghera: The Boy with the Topknot A Memoir of Love Secrets and Lies in Wolverhampton



T was a memoir a work of non fiction I have never really been keen on reading memoirs the cynical part of me sees them as an xcuse for the author to make a bit of Empire of the Saviours (Chronicles of a Cosmic Warlord, extra money by telling a story of their life something many famous people can be accused of such as actors politicians sports people celebritiestc So a memoir by a journalist of my own age range didn t have me immediately reaching for itLast year the BBC produced a drama based on this book I could see certain aspects of the story had been altered for the dramatisation this got me interested in the book again so I recently got myself a copy to read it for myselfThere are two stories within this book the first is the author struggling to balance his own lifestyle choices in contrast to the demands placed on him by his traditional Punjabi family and the second is that of mental illness in his family first affecting his father and then his Ex On The Beach elder sister Talking about the latter story first this is anxcellent insight into traditional Punjabi culture specifically how you do not talk about problems as if not talking about them means no problems Good Thinking exist I m sure such denial is shared with many other cultures What makes things a little difficult in this case is that the first generation of Punjabi immigrants to the UK was poorlyducated if at all spoke little or no English and struggled to fit in the wider UK society This resulted in these British Punjabis creating their own culture based on the traditional culture they had been used to in rural Punjab One aspect of this traditional culture is the constant obsession people have with worrying what other members of their community will think of their actions It s also interesting to note how on one hand Punjabis may hold strong religious beliefs which are against drinking alcohol as well as promoting Death in Mumbai euality and tolerance yet on the other hand Punjabis have a reputation for being big drinkers and will openly discriminate on the grounds of gender social status race religiontc So being raised in such an Baccarat : La lgende du cristal environment wouldxplain why the author grew up the youngest of four children with little knowledge of many of the problems affecting the family O Colégio de Todos os Segredos especially anything to do with mental illness Mental illness is rarely openly discussed in Punjabi culture few people are willing to admit to such problems often fearing the reaction of other members of the community who may shun them as if mental illness is a contagious disease which you canasily catch off someone It s often far March Violets (Bernie Gunther, easier toxplain mental illness as something caused by black magic which means someone is to blame for casting this Zoete tranen evil spell The author has to use all of his skills as a journalist in order to learn about certainvents in his family history which is far from Water Music easy when many of the facts appear to be contradictoryAs for the other story in the book the cynical side of me seems to be justified in its dislike of memoirs I get the impression that the author feels a sense of guilt for some of his lifestyle choices over the years and is simply trying to justify to himself that his actions are wholly justified despite what his traditional parents might think People who inhabit in two cultures often find themselves having to choose between one or the other such a decision may not beasy balancing one s own happiness against the family s happiness However what I do find wrong is when someone decides to lead a double life based on lying to people which allows them to inhabit both worlds where the two lives never meet A life based on lies is not something which should Revived ever bencouraged as it will inevitably hurt many people involved If we are concerned with choosing a life which is based on pleasing others than we are with our happiness then we can t complain if we are unhappy afterwards If we choose a life based on pursuing our own happiness then there is no reason to feel guilty if it upsets anyone close to us It seems that the author wanted a life where Student Research Projects in Calculus everyone including himself was happy but gradually realised this wasn t going to happen So he didn t choose to pursue a life based on his own happiness as he was alreadynjoying such a life but he chose to stop trying to please others Such a choice doesn t sound like an arth shattering vent And all of the author s attempts to justify his decision seem like an attempt to justify to himself his years of lyingOverall this book is full of wit and is well written making it an Love for Imperfect Things enjoyable read I would recommend this book to anyone interested in learning about what it was like to grow up in the UK as children of Punjabi immigrants Satnam Sanghera has risen from the boy with no English in ordinary Wolverhampton school to a respected journalist on a national Nam Sanghera growing up in Wolverhampton in theighties was a confusing business On the one hand these were the heady days of George Michael mix tapes Dallas on TV and if he was lucky the occasional Bounty Bar On the other there was his wardrobe of tartan smocks his 30p an hour job at the local sewing factory and the ongoing challenge of how to tie the perfect top knotAnd then there was his family whose strange and of.

Fascinating memoir of the author s youth in his Punjabi Sikh family in Wolverhampton Part of the memoir relates to his happy childhood his frustration with the constraints of the traditional customs of his family and his adult life as a journalist in London where he continue to try often unsuccessfully to keep his two lives separate Sanghera speaks warmly with a dry and self deprecating humour of family members of his mother s attempts to find him a nice Sikh wife of Wolverhampton and of his often childish na vet about life in general These parts are charming and amusing and we often share the author s irritation and bewildermentHowever there is also a darker side to the memoir which is very skilfully developed from A Heart of Stone early and uickly suppressed moments of unease about his father s uirky behaviour to thearth shattering discovery of serious mental illness in the family and its knock on Taking Instruction (Taboo, effects on all those it touches particularly his feared and adored mother It is a story of shame and incomprehension and Sanghera brilliantly and sensitively documents and challenges the attitudes that had made a difficult situation almost tragically unbearableI really loved this tragicomic memoir it wasngaging and thought provoking and very well written too It would have been Language and Linguistics easy to be flippant cruel or self pitying at certain points but instead I found it thoughtful and affectionate and a joy to read This book is about the challenge of integrating two completely different lives and Sathnam s sense of himself He says in a video of himself on his own website thatvery time he thought about his other life his past when he was living in London he felt sick felt a sense of vertigo and just couldn t make sense of it He avoided thinking about his past life which Divertimento explains why he did not find out until by accident at the age of 25 that his father was schizophrenic The core of the book seems to be about Sathnam saying to his mother that he needs to be allowed to be himself in this cross cultural web and decide his own destiny and not go along any longer with the pretence that he will marry a Sikh He says in the video that he has fifty four first cousins and pretty much all of them have gone along with convention and an arranged marriageSathnam says I knew that in thevent of a confrontation with my Mum she would say that if you knew what I d been through you wouldn t do this which is the kind of universal cry of the Love Is a Fairy Tale emotionally blackmailing cry of mums across the world So I thought you know what I will find ou Overall Injoyed this book I am also a 1st generation Brit with parents from Punjab I identified with all the anguish awkwardness and cultural clashes Satnam Promise at Dawn endured He writes well and is veryntertaining resulting in some laugh out louds late at nightHowever I found it did not address or really go beyond just touching on the inherent sexism and misogyny in Punjabi culture He does mention the differences between how his life has worked out and how his ldest sister s has worked out but the difference is so stark it warranted of a discussion As a female I found it infuriating Relationships between Punjabi daughters and their mothers do not generally nd in a cute letter sent one way and virtually unconditional acceptanceI was also shocked and disappointed that he did not call out his mother in any big way when she said he could marry a gori but not a churi or chamari Is this not gross racism Also I m not sure why all the anti doctor sentiment peppered throughout the book Overall a funny and Bangkok Wakes to Rain entertaining read a lot of which I could identify with but I felt a daughter in the same family writing her story would result in a totally different book I think one of the main reasons I read is to be informed not by reading dry non fiction books but by reading fiction Most of the books I have loved are set in different places Very interesting book about the life of an Indian man in London I particularlynjoyed the way he talked about the mental illness of his relatives and the dilemma he had to face about living his life the way he wanted knowing his mother would disapprove I first heard of this book not long after its release and the first thing that caught my interest is that it is by someone Sathnam Sanghera who is from a similar background as myself someone born to immigrant parents from Punjab India settled in the West Midlands area of the UK Like many children of immigrants there s a constant struggle between the traditional culture of the parents and adapting to the norms of the wider culture and in this case I was sure there would be many things I would find similar to my own The Right Sort of Man (Sparks Bainbridge Mystery experience of growing up in a similarnvironment However I was less keen on reading this book when I saw NOW A BBC DRAMA The Boy with the Topknot A Memoir of Love Secrets and Lies in Wolverhampton is a hilarious and heart rending reinvention of the modern British memoir It's 1979 I'm three years old and like all breakfast times during my youth it begins with Mum combing my hair a ritual for which I have to sit down on the second hand floral patterned settee and lean forward like I'm presenting myself for xecutionFor Sath.

Aper Yet who of his school mates would know that ach day he was going home to a family plagued by mental illness This memoir must have taken a lot of courage to wri I had Et si la maladie n'tait pas un hasard ? expected this memoir to be focusedntirely on Sanghera s Den of Shadows (Gamblers Den experiences in reconciling his life in London with the culture and traditional values that he had grown up with and which are still held by his parents andxtended family His account of he and his siblings having to conceal their pop music and other Western items re A mixed bag book of a book The first few chapters were so self indulgent and trite that I would have stopped reading if it hadn t been highly recommended by my sister Anyway I stuck it through to the Scraps Of The Untainted Sky end and realized there are three books here whichvoked very different reactionsThe first is Sanghera s personal misery memoir The whole source of his misery seems to be his perceived misfortune in being born a brown sikh working class lad from Wolverhampton rather rather than white Church of England middleclass public school boy from Cheltenham He uates being sikh with being working class poor in north England Much of what he writes about never being in restaurant or having a bath has been written before by white working class writers Sanghera has a degree in English Literature from Cambridge so he s probably familiar with those authors than I am The reminisces his George Michael obsession alloo gobi paranthas in his lunch as opposed to white bread sandwiches setting up a bank are cute but a bit random suited to a conversation than a book they voked a so what response I think my negative reactions arose because I perceived a certain dishonesty in the writing decrying his background while capitalizing on the Uniue Selling Point of being a brown sikh in his circle of non Punjabi mostly white friends and girlfriends Sanghera comes across as a supercilious self satisfied snob If this was all there was I would give this book one star BUTThe second book is the story of his father and sister s schizophrenia and his investigation into his parents marriage His descriptions of his parents marriage and their troubles his dealings with the doctor Huguenot Prophecy and Clandestine Worship in the Eighteenth Century etc are well written and honest with a nice touch of self deprecating humour Three stars for this story The third book is about his relationship with his mother This is wonderfully done the anecdotes and stories are charming and speak volumes She makes him twoxtra chappatis than he asks for because she knew he would always ask for fewer than he wanted he asks for fewer than he wants because he knows she will always give an Fashion Design Course extra two Her refusal to sit on the leather seats until he tells her it will cost money to change to a new rental car How he misses important things she says because she slips them in long boring monologues about falling standards in supermarkets and such like The love and respect he has are always present I loved reading these sections Four stars I d give it 5xcept for that letterSo putting it all together three stars I m glad I read it through to the Aeralis (The Frost Chronicles, end When he started trying to understand his family instead of being ashamedembarassed by them I got over my bad reaction to the opening chapters and I really liked him bynd of the book He seemed to have understood some very profound truths about families not just his own but about families in general This is a book about integration of the parts of a life into a whole The first strand is his parents traditional outlook and the author s upbringing as a Sikh in a Punjabi community in Wolverhampton The Punjabis live in this modern city but are scarcely part of it maintaining their own language culture food religion and rules that are as strong as laws The second strand is the author s desire to be a modern man Cambridge ducated aspiring to the middle class from the poverty of his home with a love of fast fancy cars that are as far away from the ox cars of the poor Asian village his parents grew up in as the ISS is to usThe third strand is the schizophrenia of his father and sister Half a household two thirds when he left home are plagued by an illness characterised by not having a shared frame of reference with the un mad world No matter what other ffects the disordered mind has on the sufferer that is the barrier to communication of Cincinnati and Other Plays even an ordinary kindThe fourth strand is the author s mother She is a very devout and tradition minded woman who cares for the sick and tries hard to lay aside her prejudices and religion based attitudes to accept her much beloved son the author and his life They have a world of their own together but alllements must combine for the mother and the author to fully participate in Speak Out! each other s lives How the author does this is the story he writes. Ten difficult behaviour he took for granted until at the age of twenty four Sathnam made a discovery that changedverything he I Like You the Best ever thought he knew about them Euipped with breathtaking courage and a glorious sense of humour hembarks on a journey into their xtraordinary past from his father's harsh life in rural Punjab to the steps of the Wolverhampton Tourist Office trying to make sense of a life lived among secret.

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Review The Boy with the Topknot A Memoir of Love Secrets and Lies in Wolverhampton

Sathnam Sanghera was born to Punjabi parents in the West Midlands in 1976 attended Wolverhampton Grammar School and graduated from Christ’s College Cambridge with a first class degree in English Language and Literature in 1998 Before becoming a writer he among other things worked at a burger chain a hospital laundry a market research firm a sewing factory and a literacy project in New York