When I lived in London in the post-swinging '60s, the Indian-run cornershop that would inspire an indie band's ironic name was far from a fixture. My own neighborhood didn't have one, for example. In those years, the stereotypical immigrant from the jewel in the crown was, as a nasty newspaper article I'll never forget put it, "the little man in the dark suit and umbrella." We didn't have any of those either. What we had was one big double-house of bedsits on a long road between tube stations, where all the Indians and Pakistanis lived. I lived there, too. Just rang the landlord's bell and lucked out. Room hunting could get fairly strange if you were "Coloured" or, like me, in a mixed couple. The sun had set on the B.E., and the Commonwealth had declared former colonials what Lord Macaulay had envisioned back in 1835—sort of English. But it wasn't really going over. I sometimes thought race was just a new twist on an English problem that went back to the Norman invasion—foreigners. Or maybe the English were one of those tribes whose word for themselves is their word for "human," and if you weren't them, draw your own conclusions. So you had to—that was the fringe benefit. Defined out of existence, you had to redefine existence. If their double talk didn't kill you, it would... More >>>