1940 Surat Alley

s-aliSurat Alley is in his first floor room, hunched over his type writer. He’s been up most of the night telling people to ‘put that light out!’ or ‘cover that window!’ Now what he should be doing is a report about bomb damage in Poplar High Street, but instead he’s writing another pamphlet for the All India Seamen’s Federation on the appalling conditions of Indian seamen’s hostels, their lack of compensation when injured in service, and their insufficient wages. The lascar strikes are over but the fight goes on.

Surat goes down to the backyard and waits to use the shared toilet.  He’s also planning what he’ll say at the Hindustani Social Club in defence of his friend Udham who’s just got himself arrested, the fool. He leaves a bundle of papers in the bog- a stream of words that’ll get him in the shit.

Surat returns to his room and starts addressing envelopes to the Shipping Federation, the Indian High Commissioner, the Ministry of Shipping and the Ministry of Labour. There’s a knock on the door and a shout: “Police! Open Up!”


With thanks to Julie Begum

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