Farrukh Dhondy

Posted: August 25, 2020 in John Stammers Page
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Farrukh Dhondy is multi-facetted. He is a writer for young adults, and adults, a playwright, screen writer, journalist, as well as a prominent activist, engaged in front line political movements.

His activism covers his roles in The Indian Worker’s Association, The British Black Panther Movement, and the Race Today Collective.
On the employment side he has been a lecturer at Leicester College of Further Education, and taught at Archbishop Temple School, in London.

He was born in Poona, India, in 1944. He attended school and university there, coming over to Leicester to take a MA at their university.
In the 1980s he was commissioning editor with Channel 4, creator of Tandoori Nights TV series, and has always worked tirelessly to bring Asian culture into the media.

(What is about Leicester? Initially a shoe-making centre – yet Jeremy Barnes, founder of A Hawk and a Hacksaw, accordionist player of Middle and East-European music, and originally from Albuquerque… was a postman there for a while.
I met a witch from Leicester once.)

One of his earliest books was a collection of short stories for young adults: East End at My Feet, from 1976.
This was an eye-opener for me.

Reading this book was one of those instances when the familiar iniquities of class inequality took on a new dimensionality.
– Up to that period the opportunities in education and employment were stultifyingly limited. Then the Labour government brought access to higher education for all, and the EU market opened its doors.
The small, suffocating world of little England was opening out.

But what do I mean by dimensionality?
It’s a term used to attempt to catch that sudden opening: the world suddenly seeming a bigger place. And issues were no longer the class-based warfare we knew.

There is a story in the book exemplified all this for me:
a local upper school, and an after-hours poetry group, run by the English tutor. The narrator went along. The approved writing was to express the angst of high-rise urban living.
But the narrator’s contribution to the readings was a piece full of the zest for life, early rap perhaps, but from the Asian and Black experience.

There are bigger concerns – after the Marxist world had shut itself off, to consolidate socialism within set confines, what else was there? The reactionary Right wing were marching, and the whole culture was jostling to accommodate new cultures, new influences – new ways of looking at the world.
That last one in particular.

Think of the gritty anger of Punks, and the histrionics of Glam Rock, and then think of the sheer joy of Bhangra. Think what Reggae brought, that deepening and richness.
In a way it could be argued that we need the austerity in order to appreciate the richness.

Through his work with The Indian Worker’s Association he met Mala Sen. She was a powerhouse in her own right. They married, had children… and powered on.
Among her many writings and work, she researched and wrote articles, books and the screenplay for the film Bandit Queen.
Sadly, she died too soon.

Farrukh is still active.
Here’s to you, Farrukh.

And here’s to the power of writing to completely alter and change perspectives, to open minds, to connect us to the world.




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