Families jostle to get to the cheapest mangoes. A cluster of ravishing women in Bombay designer gear - all lush silks - giggle as they suck on mangoes. One man mutters "Cadbury's assortment" as he walks past. Another, in his shiny BMW, lets out a piercing wolf whistle and words from a romantic Hindi song. "Shut up idiot" and a half eaten mango are hurled at his car. Other women, in veils and saris enter an enormous jewellery shop, pausing briefly at the window to say: "Hai, ye dekho" (look at this). Through the high-security glass door, you can see tenacious haggling and pictures of Hindu gods.
Next door, fruit and vegetables, promiscuously ripe, drop to the ground. No one minds. Three young women, almost identical with permed hair, tight jeans and jangling glass bangles, earnestly discuss identity. One says: "I am really, really Asian now, you know, like we only go out with other Asians. It's safer. My friend has a white bloke. He'd never fit in to this kind of place would he?" Her friend disagrees: "Of course he would, people are really nice here. My white mates, they love the atmosphere, and it is OK as long as you don't do crazy things like hold hands."
Opposite, three teenagersslouch, seriously drinking from huge green coconuts. The man selling roasted corn with chilli sauce moans: "Terrible kisrani [bad luck] year. Bloody cafeterias taking all the business." He is marking the matrimonial page in an Asian newspaper.
In Sakoni, one of these cafes. Rani, a lawyer, brings her mother over to eat fried mogo (cassava) every weekend: "It feels like home, you don't get looks or comments. Later I'll get into my tight skirt and hit town. Then I am somebody else.'
The queue grows. People talk loudly as they scoff bhajis and hot dips. Spicy tea aroma permeates. Kamran and Feisal, student types in pony tails are killing time outside: "We come here, to eat and meet, then maybe go to a West End club. We can't stay out too late," says Kamran. Feisal adds, hiding his cigarette: "I can't smoke or drink in front of my parents. We can't behave badly, especially girls. It is not the Asian way." Two girls in cropped tops and shorts, pass by. Both men look away.
Yasmin Alibhai-BrownReuse content