Another Kind of Concrete by Koushik Banerjea
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Another Kind of Concrete by Koushik Banerjea

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The three R's: routemasters, reading, rioting.

Intoning this mantra K., a bookish young boy, ducks the fare but not the issues in this darkly comic coming-of-age tale largely unfolding in a city and an era where everything: culture, people, even the local architecture, appears to be in open revolt.

It's 1977 and the Queen's Silver Jubilee and, along with the pomp, it's punk that's in full swing. South of the river, the polyester-clad natives are in uproar. They don't like the kids with colourful streaks in their hair, and they most certainly don't like the ones with colour in their skin.

K. is one of those kids, marooned with his family in a sea of hostility. His parents, both refugees, view that as a small price to pay for starting over after the mayhem of Indian Partition. When threats are made and bricks start to fly, long-buried demons of the past resurface.

And as summer wears on, unresolved issues culminate in a grim local dance of law and disorder. If England was dreaming, it's wide awake now. Festooned with streamers and safety pins, while in its shadows something primal has begun to stir.

London in extremis. Just below the surface, and sometimes not even that far, Another Kind of Concrete.