Extract from Hanif Kureishis "My Son the Fanatic"

Kureishi's short story is set in East London. Parvez, a 40-year-old Pakistani taxi driver, has been living in England for almost 20 years. He has taken a night off to take his son, Ali, out for a meal. In the extract he is telling Bettina, his friend and soulmate, about that evening...

This time Parvez was trembling. Bettina put her arms around him.
'What's happened?'
'I've just had the worst experience of my life.'
As Bettina rubbed his head Parvez told her that the previous evening he and Ali had gone to a restaurant. As they studied the menu, the waiter, whom Parvez knew, brought him his usual whisky and water. Parvez had been so nervous he had even prepared a question. He was going to ask Ali if he was worried about his imminent exams. But first, wanting to relax, he loosened his tie, crunched a popadom and took a long drink.

Before Parvez could speak, Ali made a face.
'Don't you know it's wrong to drink alcohol?' he said.
'He spoke to me very harshly,' Parvez told Bettina. 'l was about to castigate the boy for being insolent, but managed to control myself.'
He had explained patiently to Ali that for years he had worked more than ten hours a day, that he had few enjoyments or hobbies and never went on holiday. Surely it wasn't a crime to have a drink when he wanted one?

'But it is forbidden,' the boy said.
Parvez shrugged, 'I know.'
'And so is gambling, isn't it?' 'Yes. But surely we are only human?'
Each time Parvez took a drink, the boy winced, or made a fastidious face as an accompaniment. This made Parvez drink more quickly. The waiter, wanting to please his friend, brought another glass of whisky. Parvez knew he was getting drunk, but he couldn't stop himself. Ali had a horrible look on his face, full of disgust and censure. It was as if he hated his father.

Halfway through the meal Parvez suddenly lost his temper and threw a plate on the floor. He had felt like ripping the cloth from the table, but the waiters and other customers were staring at him. Yet he wouldn't stand for his own son telling him the difference between right and wrong. He knew he wasn't a bad man. He had a conscience. There were a tew things of which he was ashamed, but on the whole he had lived a decent life.

'When have I had time to be wicked?' he asked Ali.

In a low monotonous voice the boy explained that Parvez had not, in fact, lived a good life. He had broken countless rules of the Koran.
'For instance?' Parvez demanded.
Ali hadn't needed time to think. As if he had been waiting for this moment, he asked his Father if he didn't relish pork pies?

'Well ... '
Parvez couldn't deny that he loved crispy bacon smothered with mushrooms and mustard and sandwiched between slices of fried bread! In fact he ate this for breakfast every morning.

Ali then reminded Parvez that he had ordered his own wife to cook pork sausages, saying to her, 'You're not in the village now, this is England. We have to fit in!'

Parvez was so annoyed and perplexed by this attack that he called for more drink.
'The problem is this,' the boy said. He leaned across the table. For the first time that night his eyes were alive. 'You are too implicated in Western civilisation.'

Parvez burped; he thought he was going to choke.
'lmplicated!' he said. 'But we live here!'
'The Western materialists hate us,' Ali said. 'Papa, how can you love something which hates you?'
'What is the answer then?' Parvez said miserably, 'According to you.'
Ali addressed his father fluently, as if Parvez were a rowdy crowd that had to be quelled and convinced. The Law of Islam would rule the world; the skin of the infidel would burn off again and again; the Jews and Christers would be routed. The West was a sink of hypocrites, adulterers, homosexuals, drug takers and prostitutes.

As Ali talked, Parvez looked out of the window as if to check that they were still in London.
'My people have taken enough. lf the persecution doesn't stop there will be jihad. I, and millions of others, will gladly give our lives for the cause.'

But why, why?' Parvez said.
'For us the reward will be in paradise.'
Finally, as Parvez's eyes filled with tears, the boy urged him to mend his ways.
'How is that possible?' Parvez asked.
'Pray,' Ali said. 'Pray beside me.'
Parvez called for the bill and ushered his boy out of the restaurant as soon as he was able. He couldn't take any more. Ali sounded as if he'd swallowed someone else's voice.

On the way home the boy sat in the back of the taxi, as if he were a customer.
'What has made you like this?' Parvez asked him, afraid that somehow he was to blame for all this. 'Is there a particular event which has influenced you?'

'Living in this country.'
'But I love England,' Parvez said, watching his boy in the mirror. 'They let you do almost anything here.'

'That is the problem,' he replied.

829 words

Source: Hanif Kureishi, My Son the Fanatic, in Love in a Blue Time, London 1997, pp. 119-131. 124-126

1. Outline Parvez and Ali's conflict and their respective positions. (Comprehension)

2. Analyse the roles of Parvez and Ali in the development of their conflict as well as the narrative technique/perspective used to influence the reader's perception of the two characters and their positions in this clash of cultures. (Analysis)

3. You have a choice here. Choose one of the following tasks:
3.1 At the end of this extract from the short story Parvez states: "But I love England. [ ... ] They let you do almost anything here." Take this statement as the starting point for a comment on conflicting positions in the current debate on a clash of cultures. (Evaluation: comment)
3.2 Imagine that Ali and Jesminder Bhamra (from the film Bend it like Beckham) are interviewed by a journalist from a British quality paper about their views on living in multicultural Britain. Write the interview, making their diverging positions on life in Western society become apparent. (Evaluation: re-creation of text)

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