Sukhi – a thirty-five year-old kidult, has a beautiful wife he can’t bring himself to make love to, a film business that’s heading down the pan and a best friend who’s dying.
When his old college mate Jamie introduces him to Rashid, aka Jenni Jihad, a transvestite Muslim punk singer, Sukhi and his business partner Asif see a golden opportunity to revive their flagging careers by exploiting the youngster’s dangerous fury and taking revenge on the white liberal media types who want to pigeonhole their work. But Sukhi’s cynicism begins to crumble as his protégé, his friends and his family all pierce his emotional fog, and cause him to face up to his own actions.
As he struggles to make all the disparate elements of his life balance out, Sukhi suspects he might just be starting to grow up.
Asif brings us both another beer and sits beside me again. The beer is Italian, cold and sweet.
He sits in his usual aloof, urbane manner. One leg slung casually over the other, he rests a delicate manicured hand on his knee while holding a cigarette between thumb and middle-finger to his dark voluptuous lips. His face is unshaven; his thick black hair, tousled. A beige, lightweight pashmina is knotted elegantly around his throat. Wearing the uniform of the young global metropolitan – a canvas jacket, designer jeans and sneakers – he still looks distinct and exactly like who he is: an accomplished Bengali rake and film-maker.
“Are you still looking at her?” His accent has a clear New England lilt, acquired during an adolescence in Vermont, but within that is the whisper of his Calcutta childhood. His enunciation is elongated and quietly musical, somewhat louche. A beautiful voice: intelligent, assured and seductive.
“I am,” I reply.
“What is it about her?” He leans forward and stares, trying to share my fascination.
“It’s her face. It’s very sad.”
“She’s sad?” The tip of his cigarette glows as he sucks on it. “You’re right. She is.”
We watch her for a few minutes. Her smile is strained, eyelids sagging as she talks to those around her. Sat upright, she is meek, arms folded across her belly, shoulders slouched and submissive. Her table, maybe twenty yards away from us, is crowded. Her daughter, who looks about five years old, stands beside the young man who is sat opposite her. Wearing glasses, tastefully dressed in jeans and a sports jacket, he bends down to speak to the little girl who holds up a doll for his appreciation. Next to him sits a young woman, probably his girlfriend. She is brunette, also bespectacled and smartly dressed, and talks playfully to the girl as she presents her toy. The other daughter is an infant, dressed in a tiny lemon-coloured pinafore and matching bonnet. She sits on her father’s lap, beside her mother.
He is significantly older than his wife; his grey hair cropped with ostentatious style. Overweight and dour, he wears brown designer corduroys, a black polo shirt, and inappropriately fashionable tennis shoes – white, retro Fred Perry. His outfit, wife and children, loudly state his affluence, self-regarding cosmopolitanism and delusional sense of vigour. But his face is fat, pale and ordinary. He is, quite obviously, a mediocrity who mistakes good fortune as proof of innate greatness. I imagine the boring work he does – in banking or commodities. Maybe he’s a restaurateur.
“Do you know why she’s so sad?” I ask.
“Because she’s so beautiful … But her children look like him.”
Asif laughs out loud. “You asshole!” Clouds of smoke burst from his mouth and nostrils. “I fucking love you!”
“Wouldn’t that piss you off? … If you looked like her, but your kids looked like him?”
“It would,” he nods. “It really fucking would.”
These people are helping to fund Economy.