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Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Donkeys Deckchairs and Dinner

The English – for which purpose I mean those of Anglo-Saxon and Celtic heritage - say that they love animals yet they eat them.  Many if not most of us who hail from Gujarat are vegetarian but yet we do not make a fuss about animals. Very few of us keep pets and we certainly don’t kiss or cuddle them or speak to them in baby talk.  The bond between man and beast was a mystery to me until I took up riding and communicated with a horse for the first time.

This particular cultural gulf between my community and our English fellow Bradfordian s was brought home to me when I was coming home from my first visit to my senior school.  The school was some distance from home and the journey involved a change of busses and a walk through a park.  It was a particularly hot day and I set off with another girl from my neighbourhood.  Somehow we got lost and we wandered through a predominately white estate.  

The neighbourhood seemed quite prosperous because the houses were red-brick semis so it seemed to me at the time  rather than the Yorkshire stone terraced houses where my family lived.   A family was sitting on striped deckchairs in the garden picnicking on sandwiches and beer.  I had never seen anybody behave like this in my life and I was fascinated.  I suppose I must have been staring at them because one of the shouted: “What are you looking at, you dirty Paki?”   At that very moment a donkey emerged from the front door and the fellow who shouted at me began stroking and feeding the animal with the same hand whilst he was gnawing on his butty.  May be the donkey may have liked my Carrot Sambora side dish too.

Ingredients serves 4

750g/1lb 10oz carrots – julienne
1⁄2 tsp black mustard seeds
2 tbsp ground nut oil
4 cm piece of fresh ginger mashed
1 medium green rocket chilli chopped
1⁄4 tsp salt to taste
1⁄2 tsp ground coriander seeds
1⁄2 tsp ground cumin seeds
1⁄4 tsp turmeric
1⁄4 tsp garamasala Juice of
1⁄2 a lemon
2 tbsp fresh chopped chives
1 tbsp fresh coriander


Squeeze the fresh lemon juice and julienne the carrots.


  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat.
  2. Add the mustard seeds and when the popping has stopped, add the carrots, ginger, green chilli, coriander, cumin, turmeric and salt to taste.
  3. Stir-fry quickly for 2-3 mins or until the carrots begin to soften; remove from heat.
  4. Squeeze over some lemon juice and sprinkle over the garamasala, chopped chives and fresh coriander and serve.

Now I have to explain that to call someone a donkey is a particular insult in Gujarati.  It is at least as bad as calling a woman a cow in English and possibly worse.   When I was a little girl I was prevailed to take a ride on a donkey on the beach at Scarborough. It was supposed to be a pleasure but I was horrified not because I was afraid of the height or being bitten but because I was repelled by the animal itself.  I clung to the leather for fear of being defiled by its fur. 

My companion wanted us to make ourselves scarce but I was still transfixed.   I said to her in Guajarati: “They don’t seem to know what ‘dirty’ means.”    That was my first experience of racism.

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