Bal Bazaar by Daljeet Nagra

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BBC Radio 3, 10 July 2010
Award-winning British-Indian poet Daljit Nagra's poetic narrative was inspired by his uncle's two shops in Hayes, west London, where Muslim, Sikh and Hindu workers have created a small working community in a tiny shared space - Bal Bazaar.

The poem represented a journey through the shop and through Indian cultures in Britain, both real and imagined. Shop owners told their stories: a hairdresser cuts her way through the day, while another hairdresser explained how her salon catered especially for those women covered by the hejab who did not want to show themselves in public. A butcher explained how he is really an IT worker covering for his brother who had cancer. Bal Bazaar hinted at the religious and political through a story of faked Halal meat, while at the same time evoking a world of religious festival and song. It also told the common human stories of food, hair cutting and the every day, domestic life within the shopkeepers' community.

Ambitious in conception, Bal Bazaar drew a direct link between the world of the bazaar and the world of the mind; both are full of colour and life, comprised of different cultures, beliefs and ideologies. If the bazaar continued to flourish, then so could the mind, providing the inspiration for writers and shop owners alike. Read by Nagra and Sudhar Buchar in voices of wonderment, as they took pleasure in what they saw around them, Bal Bazaar evoked a world of possibility; despite the world of conformity springing up around them in the form of Sainsbury's and Tesco, the shop owners still thrived in a context valuing inter- and cross-cultural exchange. Would that all communities in other areas of Britain were equally determined to preserve their unique nature. The producer was Jo Wheeler.