The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota - review by Philip Maughan

Philip Maughan

Rich Man, Poor Man

The Year of the Runaways

By

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‘This life,’ wails Gurpreet, the eldest of thirteen legal and not-so-legal Indian migrants sharing a tiny flat in north Sheffield, ‘it makes everything a competition. A fight. For work, for money ... And it doesn’t matter how much stronger than everyone else you are, there’s always a fucking chamaar you have to share the work with, or a rich boy who can afford a wife.’

The chamaar he has in mind – chamaars being the loathed ‘untouchables’ who sit beneath the Indian caste system – is Tarlochan Kumar. The ‘rich boy’ is Randeep Sanghera. A third addition to the ensemble, Avtar Singh, is a ‘scooter’ (he has a student visa), while a fourth, Narinder Kaur, is the British woman who agreed to marry Randeep, not out of a desire for financial reward (she was raised in relative comfort in Croydon), but out of devotion to her Sikh faith.

No less than in Jane Austen, this is a world in which every major life choice has an ascribed value, a system complicated by an ingrained sense

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