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Sex, death and a transvestite Muslim punk band – can Sukhi find a life-life balance?

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.

Nirpal Dhaliwal is a writer and journalist, whose work has appeared in The Sunday Times, The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Mail and India Today. He has been a columnist for The London Evening Standard, as well as Arena and Grazia magazines. His first novel, Tourism, was described by Julie Burchill as 'The best debut novel I have ever read…sexy, seriously shocking and touched with genius’.

Praise for Tourism:
"A bracing debut that sizzles with sexual and racial tension... Brilliant... A terrific book" (Daily Telegraph)

"Completely scabrous and immensely readable" (Evening Standard)

"Accomplished... Witty, insightful... Beautifully written" (The Times)

"Brilliantly paced, sexy and hilarious... An awesome debut... I can't wait for his second novel" (Big Issue)

Economy is his second novel.

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.

“Tell me.”

“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.”

Sharon Walker
Sharon Walker asked:

Does he shag her?
And when do I get my book?? x

Nirpal Dhaliwal
Nirpal Dhaliwal replied:

The lady at Southbank? ... That would be telling... Don't you want to read and find out?

When we hit target we go to print, and yours will be HOT off the press. Thank you for your support darling. xxx

Sharon Walker
Sharon Walker asked:

OK. I will wait. Patience was never my strong point! Lovely to see you on Saturday. xxx

Nirpal Dhaliwal
Nirpal Dhaliwal replied:

Lovely to see you too. xxx I don't think this website is the best place to keep in touch. Hope to get this book out to you soon. xxx

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