Zahid Hussain, author of The Curry Mile , was born and raised in Lancashire. His family moved from Blackburn to Manchester in 1990 where he has lived ever since. Zahid Hussain is a former North West Poetry Slam champion and has performed at venues such as Manchester's Green Room and the Contact Theatre and has regularly featured on BBC Radio. His first novel, The Curry Mile , is set in Manchester. The novel tells the tale of a Pakistani family in the restaurant trade and he bravely explores issues as diverse as diaspora, identity, gender politics and intergenerational conflict. New Statesman magazine named The Curry Mile as one of their Books of the Year for 2006. Zahid Hussain works as a social entrepreneur, specialising in community based research, regeneration and development. In 2006 he set up the first BME football league in Manchester. He is currently working to develop youth based electronic gaming, a tour of diversity and EcoMosque. He is available for readings, workshops and consultancy.
Prologue to The Curry Mile
"Be a good kur-ree !" Ajmal Butt reminded his six-year-old daughter in English. Sorayah Butt spun on her shiny pink shoes showing off her golden Eid dress. She paused and flashed her ab-bu a brilliant smile and opened her arms wide to show the bestest glittering dress in the whole wide dun-yaa . Then she was spinning again, clapping her hands above her head, spinning to the hypnotic beat of an Indian playback song. It was the perfectest moment in her life, her heart pounded in ecstasy and then she caught the baleful glare of her mother. Sorayah blinked and halted in front of a long table. Everyone was looking at her. Forks and spoons, hands and elbows were frozen in mid-motion. She only saw the glowering eyes of her mother.
"Sorayah!" her mother shouted in village Punjabi, her eyes the size of popadoms, “come here you naughty girl. You have no shame!”
A surge of energy filled Sorayah and she scurried away, aiming a pout in her am-mee's direction. Her feet sought her father three tables away, but two waiters carrying platters of steaming pilau rice blocked her path. Sorayah veered left sensing imminent danger. She was eel quick, but her mother grabbed her and slapped her on the bottom ending her bid for freedom and brought a ragged squeal to her lips. “ Ab-bu! Mum hit me!” She desperately looked around hoping her father would rescue her like in the fairytales she loved to read, but he'd disappeared into the festive crowd. Her anguished cry was swallowed up by the din of people and music.
Her mother gripped her painfully by the shoulder and bent down so close there noses touched.
“How dare you misbehave?” Her mother hissed. “You are so shameless! How did God give me a girl like you? I should have left you at home. Alone”.
Sorayah glared through teary eyes at her mother. “Let go of me!” Sorayah said in English, but her mother didn't understand a word. Sorayah repeated the words in Punjabi.
“Insolent child,” her mother retorted and unceremoniously dragged her back to the table where they'd been sitting at the beginning of the party. Sorayah was dumped into a chair like a bag of Basmati rice. Pony-tailed Sorayah was shocked speechless. I hate you, I hate you, I hate you . Sorayah was forced to sit between her sister Shazia and am-mee. Sorayah's twelve-year-old sister shrugged as if to say ‘you should know by now'. Sorayah Butt crossed her arms and pouted. Her mother dropped a piece of cake onto a porcelain plate and commanded her: “ khaa !”
“But I don't want to eat it. It's walnut cake,” she wanted to say, but didn't, atypically biting her jeep . She loathed walnut cake, but she hated her father more for abandoning her. Why do we always have to eat Walnut Cake? I hate it hate it. It was her mother's favourite desert, a good enough reason to despise it in Sorayah's ki-thaab . She caught her mother staring at her. Tears fell from Sorayah's eyes and she covered her face, whispering behind her hands. “Why did you leave me ab-bu ?”
excerpt, original prologue of The Curry Mile
The Curry Mile is my first published novel, but it isn't the first I wrote. The Curry Mile itself has half a million words that didn't see the light of the printers' press and this extract was the original prologue of the final draft of the The Curry Mile before it was surgically snipped.
The Curry Mile draws on my experience of living in Manchester and the various histories, oddities and, characters that have peopled the past. I suppose it contains me in various disguises. I am often asked what was the inspiration behind TCM and I have to confess that like many writers, ideas comes in abundance and it only takes a pen to catch them. But why this particular story, this' father / daughter' urban tale told in dual narrative?
For those of you who are familiar with Manchester, the Curry Mile in Rusholme leaves an indelible mark on the pysche. On the Curry Mile you can observe criss-crossing histories and the visible sprouting seeds of change as new diasporta communities arrive and older ones are absorbed in the seething milieu of life.
The Curry Mile or to to give its real name, Wilmslow Road, means so much to Manunians in a way that is profound and superficial, separate and the same. For students who flock to its universities, it is where they buy cheap curries at 4am. The experience of locals is different: most have their favourite take-away or restaurant that they are loathe to change once chosen. And again, for those who work in the curry houses, in the newsagents, jewellers' it's all together different. I know there are people who have lived and worked on the Mile and have never eaten there. I often use the MIle for business meetings or for catching up with friends and we use the various restaurants on Wilmslow Road as landmarks, meeting points. And to cap it all, Wilmslow Road with Oxford Road is the busiest bus route in Europe. What a heady mixture and a fantastic location for a story. When I try and compare it with another place in the UK, I can't. Brick Lane is nothing like, nor is Broadway in Southall. It's all together unique.
Now that The Curry Mile has been published, I am slowly making my way through a deluge of material and continuing the sequence. In many ways, my debut novel was a sort of homage to the city of Manchester. It's a very Mancunian novel and I hope it reflects some of that northern down-to-earth approach, accessible, insightful, true and straight to the point.
The Suitcase Book of Love Stories (one poem), Suitcase Press, 2008
Through the Eye of a Needle: Theological Conversations Over Political Economy (one essay) , Epworth Press, 2007
The Curry Mile , Suitcase Press, 2006
Kiss, Commonword Press, 1997
Contact & Links