Keena-Diid Caynaane was born In Mogadishu, and came to Britain in 1993, as a refugee fleeing from Somalia.She works for an NGO. Her writing is about immigration, the Somali civil war, women, fundamentalism, racism, criminal activities and human smuggling, injustice, and in general the life of exile for Somali immigrants.
From ‘The Interpreter’.
Four out of ten buildings on the High Road were closed with the glass windows and front doors vandalised. Mountains of bills lay behind the broken glass doors and the wind had blown newspapers, dried winter leaves and rubbish to the abandoned doorsteps. Yet, the remaining premises were occupied by solicitors, saying So and So & Partners, So and So & Co. Then there were huge letters on the windows, saying (Immigration, Criminal, Housing and Benefit, Divorce and family litigation, compensation for injuries, violent neighbours and police harassment). Finally, there was a large logo underneath which said (LEGAL AID). Good lord, “police harassment” what was the meaning of that? Who on earth would protect you if the keepers of the law harassed you!
Yet the few open shops, most of them selling cheap, poor-quality goods from the third world, had security guards – the curse of Britain. Everybody is suspected of some sort of crime in Britain, shoplifting, robbery, terrorism and blowing up the entire city of London, suspected of conspiring in some big secret. You were always watched and followed. Spying CCTV cameras are installed everywhere, in shops, at bus stops, on motorways and streets, on roofs, in hospitals, on buses and trains, on trees and in parks, even in schools and playgrounds. Yet they can’t find murderers and child killers.
The security guard stares at you as you enter a shop. Marching back and forth like a provoked Spanish bull, his suspicious eyes follow everybody entering, the air from his nostrils ready to carry you and throw you through the window. He is ready to attack. Sadly for him, no one wants to steal. But if the obnoxious looking guard does not feel important enough or gets bored, he starts harassing the shoppers.
Finally, at 11.20 I arrive at the building and once I have noted the location of number 978 Tottenham, High Road, I research where to sit. I see three Turkish cafés on the other side of the Road, but two of them are cooking and frying kebabs and greasy food, although it is still early. The interiors are small with low ceilings, and the day is murky and airless with everybody inside, including the owner and bar staff, contributing to this by smoking cigarettes
I chose another one, the best of the three. The building had a high ceiling and was newly painted in yellow with yellow transparent Turkish curtains hanging over the large glass window. It was clean and spacious compared to the others. It was between lunch and breakfast, so there were not many customers, except for a few builders. There was a Turkish family, a mother, who could not speak English, her son who looked nasty with a local accent, a young pregnant lady, who I suspected was the wife of the wicked young man, and a young man who spoke little English. Apart from him, the customers were all sitting in a corner near the window, eating and smoking, even the pregnant woman and the old mother. The foreigner, who looked diminished and demoralised, had been doing all the work industriously, cleaning cooking, washing, carrying chairs, tables, sacks of food, dish and other stuff up and down, as well as serving the customers. However, when a customer come to the counter to pay the bill, the fat guy would come rushing up to take the money; the foreigner was not allowed to go anywhere near the counter. The fat guy was ill-treating the foreigner. “Do not make me get angry with you” haah, he would say, then he would start twisting his ear, pinching him on the stomach, pushing him around, slapping him on the cheek and smacking his backside. “Aren’t I good to you? Aren’t I? Aren’t I? Don’t make me get angry.” The poor guy could not even protect himself, because his hands were busy carrying heavy loads. “You are hurting me or do not touch me that side” he would say in broken English, then the evil fat man would emit his poor English, and the others would laugh at him. The poor guy’s face would become red and his eyes full of tears, but he pretended that he was laughing with them. He murmured something under his breath which was a mixture of crying and words.
I felt sorry for the poor immigrant guy. If I only could help him, the sole way that I could take revenge on the fat dog was to leave and not buy food I thought. Still, that would make no difference to him, there would still be many customers going into his restaurant.