blessed plot


 

 

On the top of the flats it was always windy. Even then, when the pavements were hot and the dogs were  asleep  in

the shade, there was a strong breeze blowing up there and you had to hold on to the rails running round the edge. Looking out across the city the young man’s eye caught the flight of swallows below him swerving and swooping between the tower blocks. Across in the far distance, beyond the river and the railway lines shining in the haze of the afternoon sun, were the glass walls of the new tower blocks winking their codes back and forth: the secrets of the city dispatched on sunbeams.

More parochially, almost as though he could drop a stone on them, he saw the map of streets with their compact shopping parades and tiny creatures weaving in and out; car doors shutting but not a sound reaching his ears. Over to the left was the church with its needle spire aiming for God but not even reaching the fourth floor, humiliated by plate glass and the concrete mixer. He thought how convenient and sensible to put the hospital near the church. They were an example of what every shopkeeper understands: each feeds off the other; you go straight from one to the other, or vice versa. Craning his neck in the other direction, he could see the station and nearby the school, playing fields dotted with figures listlessly sauntering about, no doubt waiting for the bell to let them back into the cool of the classrooms.

Long ago, at the same time that the proposed church was going to promote the piety of the new middle classes, they had planned a public park for family diversion on the day of rest and beside it a playing field for the new proletarian team games of cricket and football. The park was still there: its lake, ducks, flower beds, band stand and sedate lawns with their superfluous warnings to ‘Keep Off The Grass’ aimed at old people sitting on benches dedicated to folk long gone. He knew from many hours watching that this place only woke up when the teenagers took over in the evening.

The field had been a gift to a charitable almshouse made by Lady Bracewell in the eighteenth century. It was held in perpetuity by the residents of the said almshouses or those who were appointed trustees. The almshouses had been converted and modernised but the deed remained intact and any resident of Bracewell Close who chose to do so could work the land or permit another to do so on their behalf. Only by unanimous vote of all the residents could the land be passed to the local authority. The field had been converted to allotments when they made another playing field outside town, together with the new-fangled swimming pool. This was at the time when they were building the solid, sensible houses for the new commuters with their greenhouses and ornamental trees, fishponds and garages for their cars. To complete the picture the remaining section of the boundary was a row of shops finished in what the builders had described as ‘the Tudor Style’ meaning they had adapted their normal design and faced the fronts with a pattern of stained wooden boards. In fact the boundary was not the shops, but a rear delivery access lined with storehouses and vans, plastic bags straining with refuse, dustbins and piles of storage crates.

 

Between the chemist and the estate agent was Mr Chandra who had come into his own as the proprietor of the newsagents and confectioners. He had bought it as a steady going concern with no local competition and the unpretentious name of ‘Whites’ which appealed to him and which he saw no reason to change. He was slight, middle-aged with thinning hair lying limply in stray strands arranged in no particular way, not even to hide the onset of baldness. Behind heavy frames he sadly followed the passing day’s events as they unfolded in his shop and with a sigh or deprecating little cough acknowledged each transaction. He was assisted by his wife, a comfortable lady of generous build with tightly bound hair swept back to a bun, very fond of gold ornamentation and invariably gorgeously displayed in traditional wear. Her function appeared to be to sit on a stool at the end of the counter and keep an eye on the sweet counter and the goods in general and especially the ‘top shelf’.

Mr Chandra had good cause to be despondent. His father had brought him to England from Uganda when his family was ejected by Idi Amin and, as was his way, he had laboriously and successfully striven to establish himself once again. His father had come from a smallholding in India and had risen to owning a petrol station and now he had followed his father and done it all over again in England. But not without help. He had borrowed some money, not a lot but enough, from relations in London and he was gradually paying them back; very gradually, because they asked for more than their money. In fact they said with many gestures of generosity that the money they could do without, so long as he would help with the family back home: and family obligations were strong, more powerful even than the call of cash especially as he owed them money. So he did what he could, when he could and in what way he could even though he felt uncomfortable when he thought about it. And he had good reason to think about it just now as he sat pondering the shelves of newspapers opposite. Every headline seemed to be screaming about immigrants. He was an immigrant wasn’t he and nobody bothered him? Was he taking someone’s job? Who wanted to be a newsagent? He couldn’t take someone’s job because he didn’t know anything except his shop and growing things.

He loved to have his feet on the soil and to smell the earth in the evening after the shop had closed. His wife knew he would slip out as soon as everything was made safe and he would only return when he had fussed round all his seedlings under the glass and done some hoeing along the rows, more as a ritual than to cut down any weeds. As he shuffled to the door she would nod her head and cluck contentedly from her easy chair in front of the television and when he came back she would give him a brief glance and shake her head as if in disbelief but he knew that she shared his deep atavistic need to bring life from the soil.

Yet though he was absorbed in his plants and gave little thought to anything or anyone else on the allotment, he nevertheless was unable to prevent thoughts of the boy from India, the son of his cousin, who it was rumoured had arrived and was living somewhere round about. Nothing precise had been said but enough to tell him that he was going to be repaying that debt again. Young Vikram would need help.   

    

From where he was on the highest point in the town the allotments were right below. Leaning over the railings you could spit on them. Had anybody ever jumped from there? It would be so easy: the railings were not quite challenging to the exhibitionist who wants his name in the paper, to make a splash so to speak, but certainly not a deterrent to the quietly determined end-gamer. He picked up a twig and tossed it over the side and watched it with tightening muscles as it spun and whirled and disappeared. The rectangles were neatly laid out as though drawn by a surveyor’s rule in the Council Offices, which no doubt they were. Each was separated from its neighbour by a grass path, those running longitudinally being narrower than those running at right angles to them. In the centre was a sizeable hut with various items lying about, impossible to identify at that distance. Scattered across the plots in a seemingly random fashion were minute, obscure structures which would have a purpose but one not easily identified by him.

Even at that distance he could see that there was a marked difference between the plots. Not in their size or shape: that was not to be expected; but in what he could only describe as their quality. From where he stood it was clear enough that in the bottom corner, though he could see no detail, there was nevertheless a considerable gathering of neat orderly plots where rows were meticulously arranged and whatever structures were in use were carefully erected and maintained. In the centre, round the hut, there were more of the same though here and there he saw the odd eccentric which certainly appeared to be cared for but perhaps in a less dedicated way. As his eye wandered away from the hut and towards the outer extremes near the park, it became quite obvious that this part was less desirable because the cared-for plot became a rarity and finally at the boundaries the pathways between the plots had disappeared under a ravage of wilderness.

Leaning with his elbows on the railings, gazing for the umpteenth time at this fascinating embroidery below, he for the first time considered venturing beyond his flat and perhaps just going as far as that patch of ground so carefully set out in rectangles. It was only the other side of the road and people always seemed to be wandering in and out and no-one stopped them so why not? He was not in trouble, he was not a criminal, he had done nothing wrong, he had nothing to fear so long as he did what his uncle had told him and so far there had been no problems. But staying in the flat all day watching television and reading magazines was miserable and he’d been there too long. So he boldly stepped out along the balcony, passed the red and blues of the other front doors, swung round the corner and down the steps to the stairwell where there was a lift. He heard the lift coming up, the door opened and out tumbled a large West Indian woman struggling with a boy of about ten who seemed determined to resist whatever she had in mind. They were far too wrapped up in their intimate family diversions to notice a young Indian doing his best to be inconspicuous, and he slipped away to the bottom of the tower without any intrusions upon his private imaginings and plans.           

He stepped out onto the street and was immediately alarmed by the immediacy of sensations all round him. He had lived alone in that flat for three weeks save for irregular furtive visits by a cousin who came with food and drink and a change of clothes. The clattering, booming traffic; bodies weaving and dodging their way along shadeless pavements; the pungent smells of exotic foods; just the sensation of suddenly being caught in a driving, endless, overwhelming uproar: all this left him disorientated so that he instinctively withdrew into the corner of a doorway and closed his eyes. He needed time to come back to noise, people and smells: to the excesses of life in India. He had left his shaded rooms and now like a patient taking the first steps from bed after an operation, he had to keep his eye on the end of the corridor, be brave and determined. So, carefully looking both ways to avoid being barged, he sauntered out as casually as he could and made for the road crossing so that he could reach the gardens he had seen from his flat. Crossing the road was easy. The traffic was so dense that it had come to a standstill; the drivers leaning out of their windows waving and shouting or drumming with their fingers on the roofs of their cars. It could have been any town in India!

Finding the entrance was easy because he had seen it from the roof. With no shops on that side of the road the footpath was quieter and he was able to stroll, almost with an air of belonging, towards the double gates. He hadn’t worked out in any detail what he was going to do or what he would say if anyone spoke to him, but if the worst happened and he was stuck for words he could just turn and run and hide in the crowds. Nor had he thought through why he wanted to go there. He knew his uncle went there regularly and he wanted to see his garden and of course some of his family had land back home and he had helped when he wasn’t busy in the workshop. More than all that though was that from his roof he had watched people digging and planting and carrying water and when he looked round his horizon, they were the only ones in all the roads and spaces who were doing something that he recognised as real and honourable and worthy. He knew he wouldn’t meet his uncle at that time and he was glad not to fear embarrassing him, so as purposefully as he could he made his way past the cars parked inside the entrance and moved towards the far corner where he knew there would be few people and he would be left to think about his next move.

He was as close to the corner as he could manage. He could see it defined by a high hedge, but this in part was obscured by an entanglement of thorns and blackberry bushes and thistles and it seemed every weed the land could grow. Suspended in the bushes was the wheel of a bicycle. Turning towards the line of the hedge as it dropped away towards the park, the confusion of undergrowth and garbage continued though with curious tracks and tunnels winding through from the park towards the open ground and the cultivated land. The depth of this wilderness was generally that of each of the allotments running the length of that side. This land had been abandoned though it wasn’t clear why. The mystery continued along the other side running from that corner, but as he walked along in that direction he saw that the devastation tapered away to stop at a place where there was a crude construction of plywood and posts which was filled with rotting vegetation. Beside this was a water tank which itself was set upon bricks. From that point, in contrast to all that he had passed before and marching in immaculately parallel rows were the orderly components of a defiant statement – ‘This rubbish must stop. No more and no further!’ It was easy to guess what sort of person had made this splendid outpost of green and vigorous civilisation.  

From that point onwards there was an intriguing, random array of gardens and he had a happy time imagining what sort of characters worked on them. There was the slightly dotty sort who specialised in artichokes, poppies, rhubarb and marigolds. Then the peasant kind who grew plenty of what was essential for life with no frills and in abundance: potatoes, cabbages, beans, leeks and onions. Of course there was the dilettante who flaunted his exotics, gambling his aubergines and peppers and the like against the English summer. Here and there was the lady (somehow he was sure it was a she and he could see her in sunglasses, a straw hat and flowing cotton dress) who wasn’t quite sure what she wanted to grow but absolutely loved being there planting half a row of this and a few of those and here and there a clump of those lovely things. All England seemed to be here and it all was so different and strange.

Containing, directing and controlling it all was a network of grass footpaths, for the most part well kept, and there was a broad central track which ran the length of the area in the centre of which stood the shed. He approached this with some diffidence because this he supposed would be the headquarters where someone in authority would be sitting and controlling things. So he was a little surprised to find when he turned the corner that there was no-one inside but an elderly man standing with a wheelbarrow as if about to move off. He put the barrow down, gave him a quick glance, evidently changed his mind, gave him a nod and trundled off leaving a delightful trail of tobacco smoke drifting behind him. Beside the door of the shed was a notice board with a large official printed notice in small type. This was in numbered paragraphs all about the rules and regulations for this place.

By this time he had seen as much as he dared, and he was anxious not to try his luck too far, so he made his way back to the entrance and out into the raucous town again. By now he was acclimatised to life outside and he made his way uneventfully back to his retreat, closed the door and gratefully absorbed the silence. It was too soon to reflect upon all those exciting, agitating impressions and the disturbing associations which they brought to mind. He didn’t want to think about his home and family, he didn’t want to think about what he thought when he was there. He just wanted to remember what he had seen and let it all come before him in its own time, when it was ready, like a replay. So he lit a cigarette, curled in the comfortable chair and tried to stop thinking.

 

Mr Chandra waited for the shop to close as usual and, as usual, left for his allotment without wasting time on tea or food. He could eat and drink when it was dark so he would have at least three hours up there seeing to his beans. They needed a frame and he’d been held up because he didn’t have any sticks and they were getting ‘leggy’. This was a term he had learnt to use from his friend Mr Picket who had the plot next door. Mr P. as he was generally known, was a retired dealer, though in what was never established. Mr Chandra believed he must have been very successful and would have been very successful in whatever line he chose because with a repertoire of winks and nods and looking over his shoulder as if always being under surveillance, he gave a convincing impression of being ‘in the know’ and wise to all possible manoeuvres in whatever situation. There was, however, one quite extraordinary aspect to his behaviour which seemed entirely inconsistent with the model of the secretive manipulator talking in confidential undertones. Mr Chandra, in his normal subdued manner, had been describing his problems with a row of pea seeds which he thought had been decimated by mice and Mr P. was telling him of his experience which it appeared was similar. “I’ve tried all sorts of ways. Some said to LAY BAIT ON TOP. OTHERS SAID put it with the seeds. The nursery said they HAD A NEW BREED OF SEED WHICH MICE WOULDN’T touch. In the end I found it WAS BEST TO SOAK THEM IN paraffin.” The change from normal conversation to parade ground bawling was so sudden and inexplicable and shocking that only the disciplined good manners of Mr Chandra’s upbringing prevented him from staggering back. Not only was he shouting at the top of his voice but his eyes were staring, the veins on his neck were protruding and his face was contorted. Even more disconcerting was the equally sudden and inexplicable return to the usual confidential tone, all done without any apparent reference to a perceived change of subject or context or an awareness of anything unusual having occurred. Mr Chandra never referred to his friend’s idiosyncrasy and so never discovered whether he was aware of it. In time, though he couldn’t anticipate an onset since they followed no discernable pattern, he learnt to stand his ground and concentrate on what was being said. He did wonder though how this mannerism had been acquired and received by his customers. Perhaps it had developed in the course of his career. He imagined him with a stall beside a motorway or a railway line where, in an instant, shouting and pursuing an intricate negotiation at the same time would be irreplaceable assets.

On this occasion Mr P. was not there and Mr Chandra was able to get on with the construction of his bean frame without distraction. He got a peculiar satisfaction from this job. It was part gardening and was essential for the growing of good beans, but it was the one occasion when the skills of architecture came into play. He would never make such grand claims out loud, not even to his wife, but it was true that to build a good frame to withstand all weathers and at the same time to be elegant, you had to have a regard for tradition, you needed to understand the qualities of materials, you needed to be resourceful and the finished article had to fit the purpose for which it was designed. He thought his frame would bear comparison with most of what had been put up in the roads round where he lived. He was standing back, less to admire than to check upon his work, when Miss Rusher gave him a gentle “Good evening” from the footpath behind him. He knew her voice, as who wouldn’t? He gave her the same in return even before he had turned round, so he was somewhat startled to see that in place of the expected gracious smile revealing a row of startlingly even dentures there was a grey haired slightly stooping lady with drawn features a distinctly tight mouth and her spectacles had slipped to the end of her nose. As she spoke her tired eyes scrutinised his face for every small sign of his reaction to what she was telling him.

“They’ve been again you know. I don’t know what we’re going to do; I don’t really. It’s too bad. It was never like this in the old days. I remember when we used to leave the gate open all the time and no one as much as thought of interfering with us. Now look at it. Nothing’s safe anymore. I sometimes think I’m not safe here never mind the stuff. What are we going to do?”

He knew what was bothering her because it was bothering him as well though for not quite the same reason. Since Christmas there had been a number of troubling incidents of vandalism in the allotments. The first had been some time in January when someone had come to pick some sprouts and found that some netting which didn’t belong to them had been strewn across the path and over part of their plot. It wasn’t reported at the time because there was no committee meeting due during that quiet period and few people were about anyway. When it was mentioned one Sunday morning it didn’t go far because it was such an inexplicable thing to do: it didn’t do much harm, it didn’t really even amount to vandalism: not in the modern sense anyway. So it was forgotten till when a week or two later someone noticed the chain link fence bordering the park had been prised up so that a body could crawl under it. That was a strange place to do it because it had been done at the edge of the scrub and brambles where it would be difficult to move into the allotments. But then perhaps it wasn’t so strange: they had come from the park. What was curious was that no further damage had been done though clearly this was the intention, so perhaps it had been discovered before the culprits had found the opportunity to do whatever they intended. The obvious response was to peg it back down again and to do it with long steel pinions which would be difficult to remove, and so a small working party organised themselves and a thorough job was made of it.

So far so good but it seemed to be no time at all before David Thomas was telling them all that the same length of fencing had been damaged again, this time by bending the top over. This time you could see the crushed undergrowth where they had landed after jumping down from the top of the fence. And what’s more they had beaten down a pathway through the brambles and made a sort of camp for themselves in the middle and there were food wrappings and cigarette ends lying about. So they had done more than just leap in and climb out; and oddly enough they hadn’t actually done any damage to anyone’s plants or property. Still, whoever it was had no right to be there and who could say what they might do next? And even if they hadn’t damaged property they had threatened it and they had bent the fence and that would have to be put right. Altogether the affair was beginning to be the talk of the place and all sorts of theories were put forward to explain what was going on. One thing was for sure. There were some pretty long-term folk there and none of them remembered anything like this. After many flasks of tea and much leaning on spades it was put down to the way things had changed in the district over the last ten years or so; what with the way they brought up youngsters to-day and the goings on in the park at night and then there was that block of flats that nobody wanted, right on their doorstep.

All of this may have been true and undoubtedly was so when you were standing with a spade in your hand, but David Thomas and Mr P. and Miss Rusher and the rest knew little or nothing about the high rise flats opposite and, except when they were denouncing them and their occupants, were glad of their ignorance. On the other hand Mr Chandra did know about the occupants, or some of them, or at the very least, one of them. And this is what made him uncomfortable; this and the undercurrent which he knew was there but never made explicit; that things would be better all round if they could all go back to the good old days which,  however friendly they were, he knew would exclude him. There was no question but that they were friendly. Never by gesture and certainly not by word was he made to feel unwelcome: in fact he suspected that they went out of their way to avoid any supposed sensitivities he may have, and that made him even more uneasy. They never seemed to mind making jokes about each other’s little foibles but they always spoke to him as if they had first considered what they were going to say.

He preferred this courtesy to the crude hostility he sometimes met, but he wished he could be accepted without a thought just like everyone else there. On the other hand it helped him a bit to know that they didn’t instinctively accept him because he knew he wasn’t truly one of them and didn’t deserve to be. He was betraying them. He had a secret which he had to keep and he was uncomfortable with it. It wasn’t illegal. At least his part wasn’t and he didn’t know about the rest because he was careful not to ask. He couldn’t see how young Vikram had simply arrived in England without any letters or phone calls. He didn’t know who had arranged it but he had been told that it wouldn’t be long before his papers arrived and then everything would be all right. Someone else had fixed the flat and as he was the closest to it he had the responsibility for the lad until he was in the clear. It wasn’t as if it was the first time. He didn’t blame himself anyway. He had to do it: family honour and the debt! And he wasn’t worried about it either. It had always worked out before and he didn’t even have to go to the flat: he had another relative who owed him something to do that. No, it was just that he didn’t think these nice English people would cheat like he was having to cheat; not just the Government but their friends.

Instead of standing around talking they agreed to call a formal meeting of the Association when everybody would be able to speak (strictly for no more than five minutes according to long established rules!) and constructive proposals would be welcome. This was agreed for the coming Monday and it was confidently expected that all would be present. In fact only ten took their places in the hut which had now become the committee room. All the wheelbarrows had been put outside, the fertilisers pushed together in one corner and a trestle table and an assortment of chairs set round. Being the sort of people they were, they were well used to the procedures of committees, they had an agenda with only one item on it, and they had a Chairman at the head of the table. Appropriately enough he was called Mr Wellcome and before retirement had been a senior civil servant at the Home Office. He was short, balding, pink-cheeked with a pendulous bottom lip and gleaming frameless spectacles; well fed and shamelessly pleased with himself. Supporting him were Miss Rusher (who had chosen a rather fetching flowery number with a flashing red scarf tossed round her shoulders), an anonymous secretive looking man who was rumoured to be in insurance, Mr Rice (who seemed to manage his personal relations on the allotment by reference to a manual, much as he did in the local hospital), a retired train driver, Mr P., David Thomas (a pharmacist who was always discretion personified) and a wiry widow who had inherited her plot from her husband and was generally said to be making a better job of it than her husband ever did. Sitting opposite Mr Wellcome at the far end of the table was Mr Chandra.

Mr Wellcome brought the meeting to order by holding his papers loosely between his fingers and allowing them to drop several times in unison on the table.

“I hope everyone has a copy of the agenda. I have a number of spares if you need one. There is only one item to discuss and I propose that we begin by asking each of you in turn as we move round the table to make any comments you wish and after that we shall see if any proposals emerge. It is obviously a matter of some regret that so few thought it worthwhile to attend but that is symptomatic of society at large. However, by the constitution, we have the authority to decide and to act upon our decisions and I think we should waste no more time.”

This was said with all the authority of the practised committee man and clearly no other way of proceeding was contemplated or would be acceptable. The effect he had was to overwhelm them as they tried to shape their thoughts and much relief was shared when Mr P. indicated that he had nothing to say. The Chairman’s task at the conclusion of the deliberations was simple though he contrived to clothe it in a certain impressive dignity. The unanimous conclusion was that the wire of the fencing which had been bent should be straightened, that the police should be informed by the Chairman and that the gates should be locked at all times and everyone should be given a key. To general satisfaction the meeting concluded and in a suitably confident, not to say genial mood, some of them repaired to the Wheelwrights Arms to congratulate themselves upon the conclusion of a satisfactory business-like meeting.

The following day Mr Wellcome looked forward to his meeting at the Police Station. After all, he was in a sense on home ground. He’d spent his life dealing with issues of law and order, police recruitment, crime statistics, drug control and latterly immigration control. He thought he knew a thing or two about negotiating with the police and this was a small matter to be dealt with in ten minutes. Breezing up to the reception desk he met a young female who was taking a telephone call, so he had to wait while she completed that and when with a cheery smile she turned to him he had led himself to assume that his manner and appearance would elicit a certain deference, unspoken but clear enough to one who had come to expect it.

“Yes sir. What can I do for you?”

“I would like to speak to the senior officer on duty.”

“I’m sorry sir, he has important business and I can’t disturb him. I am authorised to deal with members of the public on routine matters and if you wish to tell me what’s on your mind I’ll see that appropriate action is taken. If it’s a confidential matter we can go into the side office here.” All this in a matter of fact tone with a practised neutral air.

“But this is not a routine matter. I represent a body of people who have delegated me to come here to report on their behalf serious damage to public property.”

By now Mr Wellcome was becoming more than a little agitated. He had expected to meet the senior officer and couldn’t get past this silly girl who was so self-possessed. Now he sensed that she thought he had got things out of proportion. He thought of telling her he used to work at the Home Office and was friends with the Home Secretary but he suspected that she wouldn’t be impressed.

“Tell me all about it then sir and I promise you it will all be in the station log book.”

So he told her all about the fencing and their decision to lock the gates and their conviction that the police would want to be informed and would be glad to help them catch the intruders.

“Well, what you’ve told me is interesting and as you see I’ve made a note in my book. I can’t say that we have a pattern of this sort of thing in the borough but it might be the start of something. You have certainly done all the right things and perhaps you won’t have any more problems. When one of our cars is round that way, we’ll keep a look out and I’ll see the word’s passed round. Thank you for coming. You’d be surprised. Most people just don’t bother.”  And with that he knew he was beaten: and by a slip of a girl at that! Now he could tell her why people didn’t bother.

The next time he went to the allotment he told them he’d been to the station and reported the outcome but refrained from describing how he’d been out manoeuvred.

After that matters settled down and on the whole they were happy that they had found a solution. Needless to say, no one saw the police and much was made of the days when the bobby used to be on the beat and how he‘d have sorted them out. But there was nothing to sort out anyway except that inevitably people kept forgetting their key or losing it. One person left the rest speechless by trying to hide the key under a paving stone near the gate, but by and large the arrangement was agreed to be the best there could be in the circumstances.                   

Summer progressed, everything in the garden was lovely, the annual show approached and all was innocent delight apart from the odd jealous glance and scathing remark from the less optimistic. Then the school holidays began and this was always something of a trying time because families visited and grandchildren were fobbed off upon the conscience stricken who would admit, but only to themselves, that at this particular time their plot demanded all their attention and there might be better occasions for reunions. All these minor irritations were swept away one morning when the widow, who was invariably an early bird, arrived to find the entrance gates lying upon the ground with the lock and chain still in place! They had been lifted off their hinges. Now, this was not the work of one person. They were iron gates and together they would have been well beyond the capacity of two, never mind one. The lock and chain were removed but nothing further could be done until enough willing hands had arrived to lift them up, but it almost required another committee meeting to persuade the hinges on the gates and the posts to be properly aligned and then slotted home once more. After much heavy breathing and suppressed frustration, camouflaged by excessive courtesy towards the less adept, the job was done with only minor abrasions and bruising. When they each repaired to their separate plots worse was revealed. Some cloches protecting strawberries had been smashed and they had helped themselves to some carnations and marigolds.

Where were the police? How could this happen in such a public place? Who would want to do this sort of thing? How many were there? Amid all the hubbub these were some of the questions which rose to the surface. This was no time for reflection and a considered response. Something had to be done and the vandals faced. One way or another they would win. There was more at stake than just their allotment. It was at such times that Mr Wellcome showed his qualities. There and then he accepted the responsibilities placed upon him by his undeniable, widely acknowledged natural gifts and his vast experience in a senior position.

“I shall go back to the police. I shall demand to see the Inspector. We are outraged and we deserve better than this. We pay our rates and what do we get? Don’t you worry; this time he’ll do something.”

He did. He opened the door of his office, ushered Mr Wellcome to a seat and waited for the storm to burst. As soon as he entered the room and took his seat, Mr Wellcome recognised the situation as it used to be in his department. It would be undignified to try to bully and worse, it would be ineffective. People like the Inspector and him in his old job don’t respond to people who try to throw their weight about. You can’t do that because they have the whole organisation behind them and you only look inadequate if you threaten. So adjusting to the rules of the game he said, “I imagine you’ve heard about the incident opposite the flats last night?”

The Inspector, not wishing to reveal anything to an ordinary member of the public threw the question back, “If you tell me the incident to which you refer, I may be able to help you.”

“So there have been more than one then?” Mr Wellcome thought he had prised an opening.

“My officers record every minor incident, some of which you may think are unimportant?”

This could go on for a very long time if one of them didn’t grapple with the specifics, so Mr Wellcome came to the point: “I have already been to this station to report damage to the allotments. We have seen no evidence of police action as a result of that. Last night our gates were lifted off their hinges and damage was done to some cloches and some plants were stolen. This has to stop and I would like to know what you propose to do about it.”

This was meat and drink to the Inspector. “Well sir, I am aware of your previous visit. It was recorded in the logbook. You may be sure that note was taken of your concern and within the constraints placed upon us by the Home Office we have taken the measures we think are appropriate. Further than that I can’t go. I should add that we were aware of the incident to which you refer and as a matter of fact a car was going to call round to take statements. It may be that one is there now and if you want your observations to be included it may be a good idea to make your back there as soon as possible. I should add, sir, that we would wish to have a more positive profile but are limited by factors which we don’t control.”

The Inspector concealed his satisfaction with his performance but would have been quite content for the interview to continue. Mr Wellcome on the other hand recognised only too well the impasse he had reached because it was exactly that which he regularly contrived as part of his expertise at the Home Office. By the way: was this chap aware that he used to be at the Home Office? It sounded suspiciously like it. However, he had at least maintained his dignity and he understood how to extricate himself without embarrassment and withdrew in good order, though once more conscious of a disappointing performance.

When he next went to the allotment and met some others there, he described what had transpired in the best light he could muster and it was unanimously agreed that they must have another meeting. This time it was a requirement that everyone should have made time to ponder the causes of the troubles and to come up with consequent solutions. It would not be enough merely to agree with the last speaker as happened all too often in their deliberations. The consequence of this edict was, or so people claimed, that certain normally conscientious folk did not turn up. It was true that Miss Rusher was missing as was the pharmacist and the art teacher. But the activists, the opinion formers, the radicals were out in force, so much so that Mr Chandra felt decidedly uncomfortable since he didn’t intend to say anything. He just wanted to be ignored and allowed to watch.

As soon as Mr Wellcome called the meeting to order there was an instant, disciplined, hush as if all were expecting an event to remember; a high point of the year when things would be said that would be recalled in months to come and far-reaching decisions made, influential beyond all their highest hopes. The chairman reminded them of the present situation and described his efforts to engage the forces of the law on their side. With ponderous sarcasm he detailed what they had done and what they were offering to do and then made it plain that in his opinion they would have to rely upon their own resources to protect their property. He then asked for views upon the cause and source of the troubles and begged that they would respect each other’s position on the subject and allow each person a proper hearing. It might have been thought that he was trying to raise the temperature of the gathering because there was not the least likelihood of them becoming over-heated in part at least because they had separately but genuinely reached a consensus on the answer to the question he had put. Furthermore, they were not excitable people except in extremity which would mean in the last resort.

Mr P. was one of the last to speak and he could not disagree with all that had been said. “I am a tolerant man. I take people as I find them. Mr Chandra here will tell you that WE HAVE NEVER HAD A CROSS WORD. He’s not white like me but we never talk about that.

In any CASE, IT’S NOT THE INDIANS IT’S THE West Indians and we haven’t got any round here; at least not more than a half dozen or so. What it is, is those flats. There’s all sorts in there. They’re ALL CRAMMED INTO LITTLE ROOMS. GOD KNOWS WHAT THEY GET UP TO. YOU WOULDN’T CATCH ME GOING IN THERE. I KNOW there’s drugs for a start and I’ve heard disgusting stories about stuff we don’t want to talk about here. And then there’s the park. At night it’s over-run with kids who should be indoors. Then there’s that gypsy camp the council have KINDLY SET UP FOR THEM ON THE OTHER SIDE of town. They get everywhere and I’ve seen ’em round this side. That’s the problem. WHAT’S THE ANSWER?” and with that resounding appeal he sat down and no-one could add anything to his philippic.

Everyone thought they knew the problem. The answer was more difficult to discover. It would have been convenient, as someone murmured, if the residents of the flats could be removed, the park closed and the gypsies moved on; but this was impossible. There was a general confusion of indistinct muttering together with turning round to see what someone else was saying and the upshot was that Me Wellcome had to call them to order and remind them that indeed something had to be done or they may well suffer the consequences to-morrow.

“I must repeat that we cannot rely upon the police to do our work for us. I suggest that we acknowledge the fencing will not keep them out. We want them kept out and we must do it ourselves. We can’t rely on the fencing so what else is there?” 

At this point Mr Thomas, with his training in management, came forward with the benefit of the latest course he had attended on Security and the Working Environment. He said they had three options open to them. They could set up security cameras round the ground. They could hire security guards. They could do the job themselves. These were the choices and he for one would rather give up his plot than pay out for cameras or security guards. There was a general agreement with that but some hesitation about taking up the only alternative.

“Well come on,” said Mr Wellcome, “we’ve come so far. Do we give in to these louts or do we stand up to them and show them we’re not putting up with it? They’ve got to learn that we are here and they are there. This is ours and they can’t have it. That’s what I say and I’m prepared to do my turn to look after we’ve made.”

These rousing words from the chairman brought a rather embarrassed scatter of applause but nevertheless had its effect and they found themselves discussing the detailed arrangements for keeping watch over the allotment day and night. It was agreed that everyone who held an allotment should have an identification card so that strangers could be identified by everyone. The card would need to have a photo as well as a name and it was accepted that of course everyone one would pay for their own rather than use the club fund. Determined to be thorough this time they were carried by their enthusiasm (“just like wartime” said one) to draw up a timetable of night watchers. If everyone took a turn it would only be required to do a turn every three weeks or so and that seemed perfectly reasonable. The final detail was to agree what to do if an intruder were to be discovered and the conclusion was that the police should be called together with whoever appeared on the rota as the next person on duty. All agreed that they had done a good night’s work and went home in a spirit of communal identity and defiance.

Their scheme worked admirably except that a few of those who were not at the meeting complained that they had not been consulted and one or two others said that other commitments made it impossible to participate on a regular basis. These objections were dismissed as ‘typical’ though the consequence was that duty nights now came round much more frequently and the summoning up of the wartime spirit was not so forceful. Nevertheless, there were no sorties from beyond the boundary and passing the night in the hut in a rickety armchair was bearable especially when someone dropped in, as they sometimes did, for a chat and to see how you were getting on - or if you were awake! There was a complication, which had arisen at the planning stage, but at the time it was said that individuals would agree between themselves on the best way to overcome the difficulty. It arose as a result of the extra stress put upon those who would have to go to work the next day. There were few of these but even so it was not easy to arrange for them to be substituted when their turn came during the working week, especially as they would then be expected to do their turn at the weekends which was not always popular with their family. Despite the difficulties they carried on until the autumn evenings arrived and it became obvious that it would be increasingly cold during the night. Altogether they kept it going for eight or nine weeks but it was becoming increasingly onerous and what made it more burdensome was the prospect of having to continue for the foreseeable future. The last straw was when the widow, whose duty it was that night, went to open the gates in the morning and found a length of the fencing had been cut out, though fortunately no other damage had been done. It was almost as if they were teasing: we didn’t do anything this time but we could if we wanted!

It came as a relief to them. Not wanting to be the first to be defeatist no one had discussed it with anyone else, but all were secretly glad that this incident allowed them to call another meeting and face up to the apparent impossibility of defending their land from these outsiders. If only the police would make them a priority! If only they could have savage dogs on the loose all night! If only they could afford security cameras! Their world was full of ‘if onlys’ but no optimism and not much willingness to think again. But even if they were going to wind up the association they would need yet one more meeting and so a date was fixed for a fortnight’s time.

 

Mr Chandra’s summer had been the most stressful he could remember; even worse than when they had first arrived from Africa. He liked things cut and dried. He liked to know where he stood: even if it was bad news it was better than waiting for an unquantifiable disaster at an unpredictable time. That was how he saw his situation. Nobody could be relied upon. He could not be sure that he was being told the truth. They told him that Vikram was ‘official’: that he had got his documents and no one could make trouble now. That’s what they said but why was he still in the flat all day instead of earning some money? Why did he still have to send stuff round there? What if all this bother at the allotments got worse and the police raided the flats and found Vikram? What if they found out that Vikram was a relation? He could go on like this for ever – questions, questions... But no answers, answers... He decided that he could stand it no longer. He would cut through all the promises and do something he had never done before. He would break his golden rule and go himself to see Vikram and trust that no one recognised him. But first he would consult his good and wise wife. He was never sure what she already knew because they didn’t talk about these things, but he had his suspicions that others in the family made use of her and that she knew more than she wanted to bother him with.

“My dear, I’m thinking a lot about young Vikram,” he said over their meal one evening. “He’s been here long enough now, but still I don’t hear what’s happening about him. I’m thinking we can’t go on like this you know.” He hoped this would prompt a hint of whatever she might know, but she just helped herself to some more rice and chutney.  Despite his hopes, he wasn’t surprised. She was a shrewd one. He knew she was listening and thinking. “I’m thinking, what can we do to help him? He has to do something. Is anyone trying to set him up? There must be something in Southall.”

Still she said nothing and for want of an alternative he was forced to say what he had been thinking: “I’m thinking I should go to see him. See if he has plans. I know where he is and they say he has the papers now so I’m not in trouble if they find me there. I’m going tonight.” This last he said in desperation thinking that a crisp, clear-cut decision and a risky outcome would stir her to some animation.

She at last stopped eating, put down her fork and fixed him with a steady eye. This is what he was wanting to see. She was going to deliver herself of the wisdom which had been fermenting behind those fathomless eyes.

“I have been waiting for you to say that for a long time. We have had that boy round our necks too long. It’s time he came out of the clouds and put his feet on the ground. Go and see him. Take care. Say what has to be said and we shall sleep better.”

 

When he left the shop by the back door into the road where the dustbins and parked vans were, there was a steady drizzle so he turned up his collar and hurried along keeping to the shelter of garage walls. He left by the back door to avoid being seen and it helped that it was raining because there would be fewer people about. There weren’t many anyway: what would they be doing? There was a cinema and two pubs and a nightclub and they were not the sort to draw customers on a night like this. So he went along confident that he would be unobserved. When he reached the gates to the allotments and could see the flats opposite it became a bit livelier if only because the flats generated their own night life with youths and girls milling around the pavement outside. Inexplicably one or another would suddenly dash off from the group for a short distance and then hover in a doorway or stop beside a bus shelter or a lamppost before sidling back again. These strange rituals he watched from the other side of the road while he contemplated how best to slip into the flats through this milling throng of teenagers. In the end he decided that to be inconspicuous he had to behave as though he lived there which he well might and so he marched as bravely as his diffidence would allow and threaded his way between the bodies without incident.

The door to the lift was opposite and with a deep sigh he slipped into it and waited for the lift to remember what response to make to the button being pressed. Eventually he was on his way to the top floor while he found the note with Vikram’s address on it. Stepping out into the garish light of a small lobby with a bare bulb for illumination he wandered about looking for the number and found it opposite the head of the stairs.  ‘So this is it,’ he thought as he took a deep breath and tapped on the door.

There was some scrambling of locks and chains before the door half opened and a youth’s face peered round it. Mr Chandra had met Vikram, but a long time ago: it was unlikely that Vikram remembered him.

“I’m your uncle who’s looking after you, Vikram. I live in the newsagent shop. I’ve come to see you and find out how you’re getting on. You must be lonely up here. May I come in?” He hoped that Vikram would not be so rude as to wonder why his concern was so long in showing itself.

Vikram was too taken aback to respond other than to nod his head which his uncle took to be an invitation to enter. There were two black plastic easy chairs with leopard spot cushion, a small table with a chair, a television and a sideboard of an indeterminate timber which might have been recovered from a charity shop, fronted by sliding glass at the top and sliding doors below. A loaf on a breadboard with a carving knife and some spread and jam were on the sideboard while the television was flickering a chat show. There was no time for niceties and in any case Mr Chandra had never understood the rules of small talk so he went to the point: “As I said our family have asked me to take care of you until you have settled in and I have been pleased to do that. I hope everything has been satisfactory. I have done it before and I know what is important for people who come from India. They all seem to have the same problems but then they get used to England and you have been lucky because you came in the summer. The real difficulty is to find a job. Yes I know you have papers, but what can you do in England? We try to help and maybe we can, especially the family in Southall. It’s time you got a job. You can’t sit about all day. Has anyone said to you about a job?”

“I’ve got a job. In fact I’ve got two jobs,” he said bashfully but with a certain pride. “I work in a pub three days a week and a burger bar five evenings. I just went in and asked and they took me on straight away; didn’t even ask for anything.”

Mr Chandra was shocked.  So shocked he was thrown back in his chair and simply stared in profound disbelief. He found his handkerchief awkwardly stuffed in his trouser pocket and, to give himself time to think, blew his nose meticulously, wiping it several times and carefully folding it before almost ceremoniously replacing it.

“Who knows about this?” he said in tremulous voice “How could you do this? I know your father and I know he would be ashamed if he knew? Does anyone know?”

Vikram tried to be defiant and his voice took on an extra edge because he knew he was wrong. “Nobody knows. How could they? Nobody ever comes here. I couldn’t do nothing for all this time. I began to think perhaps I should do something for myself and I wasn’t going to do it for long. Besides it’s different in England. You can do these things here. What was I supposed to do?”

All his deepest feelings, everything he’d been taught, all the everyday family assumptions told him that Vikram should not have done this. If the family found out he would be ostracised and he was so young in a strange country. But the family had only given him papers and somewhere to live. They hadn’t been like a family should. They were to blame as well. Then he remembered that he had come, for his own reasons it had to be admitted, but still, to help Vikram and he sat forward in his chair once more and put out a hand towards him.

“My boy,” he said, “I’m glad I came to-day. Nobody but you and me know about this. I will say nothing. I want to help and I may be able to do something for you. I don’t promise because it all has to be arranged and something may go wrong. But I think by this time next week I shall know if it can be done. I need to find out if you would like to do this thing I’m thinking about, but I’m sure you can do it because you did it sometimes in India.” As a conclusive argument he added, “I’m sure your father would be pleased.”

This was unfair and Mr Chandra knew it was. Vikram had no answer to the influence, however distant, of his father. He had been modestly pleased and at the same time conscience stricken by what he had done, but whatever he felt and it had to be admitted that he had been rather smug, there was no denying paternal authority especially as it spoke with the voice of those in London who held his future in their hands.

Mr Chandra had suffered himself when he first came to England and he sympathised for this lad on his own, for a long time worrying about his papers and then when he got them still left to imagine what might be going to happen to him next with no-one to advise him. The idea was still no more than a notion and it could all go wrong, especially as he wasn’t very good at speaking, but he couldn’t leave Vikram to think that his future was being decided for him without anyone telling him what it might be. Perhaps he didn’t have a choice, but at least both sides could pretend that he did.

“When you were in India you used to help in the fields. You worked well and if there had been more land you could have stayed. You also did some business in the workshop and they said you could sell slimming pills to a starving man! Well, I’m thinking I might be able to find you a place where you can do yourself some good by doing both these things. Now I’ve said more than I should because it may not happen but you won’t have to wait long to find out. But you must stop this working in pubs. Only bad things will come from that.”

It had all happened so unexpectedly and quickly that Vikram had no time to imagine the prospect before him. He didn’t really understand what his uncle was describing but it sounded the sort of thing he might like and in any case he couldn’t choose unless he wanted to make his way on his own. So he put on his best smile and a cheerful expression and promised he would not go to the pub any more. Now that he had got his papers he had nothing to fear and he would spend his time looking around and becoming a part of the place. Feeling reassured Mr Chandra slipped out and onto the street which by this time was deserted and arrived home with his wife sitting up all agog to hear his news.

 

The committee meeting which was to decide the future of the society was even more thinly attended than before. In fact, if anyone had wanted to be difficult, it was debatable whether they had a quorum. But this was no time for niceties. The chairman was there as were the widow, the retired train driver, Miss Rusher, Mr P., the pharmacist and Mr Chandra.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” began Mr Wellcome. It seemed appropriate on this occasion, which could have such momentous results, to adopt the more formal manner of which he had been the master over so many years. He almost continued with: ‘We are gathered here to-day’ but checked himself in time.

“This is a momentous evening for us all. The time has finally come when we must decide whether this society has a future or not. It is as serious as that. We have tried everything to protect ourselves from those outside who would destroy all we have made and I quite frankly admit that we have failed. I take this personally because I am your chairman and I had thought that with me as your representative we could defeat these blighters. I don’t wish you to make a decision simply upon my advice, pessimistic as it will be. I shall put before you the facts, which are incontestable, and then leave you to vote according to your own conclusions. These are the facts. You can contest them as I speak if you believe me to be mistaken. First, I draw your attention to the parlous state of the whole allotment. I inspected the complete site yesterday and you will not be surprised to learn that one third of the plots are now derelict. Add to that the footpaths which are not maintained and we have a picture of neglect with which I don’t wish to be associated. The inevitable consequence of abandoned plots is a falling membership. You won’t need me to remind you that we do not come here in all seasons just to grow plants. There is more to it than that I know you will say. We come here to be part of a community: to share our interests, our triumphs and failures, and not only those deriving from the soil. Many is the time in the past when I have shared my family life and our little troubles with you. But now, can we call ourselves a community when we are so few? We used to be proud of this place. Look at it. Would you want to bring anyone here to show them what we have achieved? We can’t pretend it’s nothing to do with us because while we are the association we are responsible. Anyone who’s been in public life will tell you it’s all about image. Would you want to join this shambles? No? So we don’t get new members and we are losing the ones we have. Self esteem is important in organisations as it is in people and when things get to this state we stop caring.”

At this point Mr P. stood as if to make a point, but having noisily pushed back his chair and looked around, he saw the expression on the faces of all around and subsided.

“I shall be no more than a minute or two and then I have finished. I think the points I am making are the very same as you would and I will not labour them. The final issue is finance. There are serious consequences for us all. Loss of membership means loss of income and we now have insufficient funds to be able to pay our way. If we continue we shall be in debt and not for a few pence either. I think we have to admit that we can’t keep them out and if we can’t do that then we have failed and we must vote to disband the society.”

He sat down in bleak silence. Each avoided the other’s eyes. They were like naughty children. He had spoken the truth. No one could be blamed: this awful thing had happened. They didn’t want to lose their bit of a life which outsiders would never understand but it was going to happen because nobody could stop it They’d tried everything to keep them out but nothing worked and there was a limit to what anyone could do.

Then Mr Chandra from behind Miss Rusher rose and holding very firmly to the back of her chair spoke the words which he and his wife had rehearsed well into several nights.

“Mr Wellcome, I have prepared myself to speak tonight but you have said most of my words for me. Everything you have said is true.” At this the chairman nodded, not so much in acknowledgement of a compliment as with a slight irritation at the prospect of each of the audience wasting time confirming the obvious.

“Except, if I may say so, in your conclusion.” At this Mr Wellcome looked up and the others began to pay attention.

“Because we can’t keep them out, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to close. When I wanted to join I am grateful to you all that you let me in and all have been most kind. I asked if I could join and you made me welcome. Now I think these people, whoever they are, don’t believe you would let them join and they are right. We wouldn’t want people who do what they do. But perhaps they do that because they are angry and jealous of what we have. They are saying, if we can’t join, then we will make it that no one wants to belong. Or perhaps they have never been able to do what we do and don’t understand how we can enjoy it. They think it’s all silly. They haven’t learned to think like we do and it makes them angry to see that we enjoy something they don’t understand. I don’t know these people but I am Indian and I remember what it was like when I first came here. I am guessing about what they think but I am sure there is something in what I say.

“Now I have been thinking hard about it. I don’t say much as you know, but to come here in the evening is a blessing to me, and I don’t want to lose it. If I did, what would I do after I close the shop? So I have been looking for someone who will help us and I think I have found someone.”

At this a confusion of “Oh no;” “We can’t afford anyone;” “It’s too late;” “Give him a chance” etc. etc.

Riding this wave of controversy as though a born orator Mr Chandra went on, “I only say I think I have found someone who will solve all our problems. He will cost us nothing. He has to confirm with me that he will do this for us. He will only agree, I know, if you all welcome him. He is Indian like me. He is young and strong and will work hard and will take over all the plots that have been abandoned. I promise you, you will be proud of his work. He will cherish the soil and grow beautiful plants. But he will grow so much and he has no family that he must sell it. That is what he says. I must go to him afterwards and tell him what you say. I can promise you that if he has these plots he will look after them very well and we will have no more trouble.”

Mr Wellcome had been certain that he would be seeing the demise of the society and it was with mixed feelings that he listened to this. If it were possible, should they not give it one more go? This Indian chap was a quiet reliable sort of fellow, not the sort to make up fairy stories. But he had had enough of chasing around and getting nowhere. By all means give it a try but not with him as chairman. Give someone else a chance. In so many words he told them that whatever they decided he would be resigning whilst wishing his successor well and no hard feelings. There was scarcely time for a motion of thanks to the former chairman before Mr Chandra found himself to be the obvious candidate and elected nem.con. Somewhat embarrassed and confused he waved and flapped the meeting to order and said he was gratified by the honour and would conclude the meeting at once and begin negotiations, the results of which he would report in a week’s time.

 

Negotiations, as he well knew, were not what were about to take place. Full of purpose, quite sure his confidence was entirely justified and determined that no obstruction should stand in his way, he bustled from the meeting and hurried to see Vikram who was about to meet a side to his uncle that was concealed from the world.

“Now, my boy, everything is arranged. You can start to-morrow. There is a bright future before you. I can see you by next year a successful businessman. These people don’t realise what they have given you. I saw what could be done with hard work and doing business. Everyone will be happy. They will think they have been good to you; and you will know that you have made your fortune by doing something they didn’t want to do. Don’t waste time thanking me. I only want you to do well and we will all be proud of you. You only need a few tools and I can lend you most of them. To clear the ground you must hire a machine and I will pay for that. I’ll meet you there to-morrow morning.”

There must have been more said than that. Vikram surely said something and his uncle didn’t usually talk all the time without stopping. But when Mr Chandra had gone Vikram could only remember that he was starting to-morrow and he was to meet his uncle on that ground below on the other side of the road.

 

They met as arranged and there was the machine which would clear the ground of the prickly bushes and all the weeds and wild stuff. There was a man to show them how to use it and in no time at all he was churning his way along. He had seen nothing like this in India and though there was a lot to do it was a big adventure to start with this big machine and he was in charge of it.

From that time on Vikram grew in confidence. He worked alone though he saw his uncle from time to time and he could tell that he was pleased with the way that things were going. Despite all the thoughts he had kept to himself about his uncle, he began to think that, after all, the old man had been right. He was going to be his own boss and how many in India could say that? He enjoyed what he was doing and when the ground was ready and the plants were growing he would be able to sell them from his own stall – ‘Yes, madam, all grown by me. Guaranteed organic and half the price you pay in the shops’. It was going to be true. Perhaps he would be so busy he’d need people to help and he knew a lad from Bombay who would be just the one for that.

It was true that they had lost a part of the allotment but before Vikram had come they had lost all those plots anyway. No-one wanted them. There weren’t enough people who wanted to do that sort of work. These days they didn’t want to dig and not so many enjoyed the social side like in the old days. So it suited everyone for the Indian lad to keep his part tidy and they didn’t get any more problems from outside. Now why was that do you think? 

    

                                           

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