Dissertation Distraction #1: Multiculturalism at the Chinese Takeaway



Many of you must feel like me: depressed, in the last term of your undergraduate years, wishing you could start all over again, with a dissertation (or two) hanging over you like a dark cloud. In this haze of contemplative academia, we cling onto the active role we play in our local community.

Yesterday evening, at half 8, I visited my local Chinese takeaway, the Beijing Takeaway of Lewes. Alone, I flicked through the election coverage in that day's Sun newspaper. Apparently David Cameron is the man to trust, and many UKIP voters are turning to the Tories fearing a Labour minority government propped up by those wily Scottish nationalists north of the border.

While trying to concentrate on the insightful and nuanced editorial Rupert Murdoch's red-top supplies so consistently to the British public, I was jarred by the sound of various pieces of cutlery being clattered together by a Chinese toddler.  His mother, I presume, was in the midst of a very long phone call to an acquaintance, not ending the call to take my order of some rice, chicken, mushroom and four chicken balls with sweet and sour source (my usual, I can't really remember, food is food).

I didn't know it yet, but I had been left to play the father role. While reaching the end of page nine of The Sun, a double-page spread of biting political analysis, I feel a presence beside me. It is that of the Chinese toddler, wide-eyed, armed with a yellow plastic ball. The Chinese toddler handed me the ball, before backing away and urging me through his body language to throw the ball to him.

Sadly, the toddler's hand-eye coordination skills was at such a low level that each of my attempted throws culminated in the boy fetching it from beside, or behind, him. Nevertheless, he enjoyed it. I felt a bit paternal - dare I say, colonial, and the toddler became so engrossed in the game that at one point he broke into song and dance - it were almost as though the child's mother had been on the phone for days, and he had been neglected, with bounds of energy ready to pour out in my direction. I managed to catch every ball he threw, even when he was standing so close that he was aiming the ball at my face at a terrifying speed. Throughout, we played the game with the smile of two people enjoying a situation which wouldn't ever be repeated. 'What a great showing of multiculturalism', I felt like gushing to bemused onlookers. Unlike many of the political stunts pulled off by the political leaders in this election campaign - such as a lamb sucking on David Cameron's milk bottle - this was genuinely beneficial and enlightening for both parties, one which they'll both remember for many years.

But, all good things must come to an end. I was, at the time of enjoying the game, the only customer in the Chinese takeaway. However, when two men shuffled in, looking confused at the antics, I decided to call an end to the to-and-fro. In any case, it was beginning to get a bit predictable and I didn't want to tire the poor kid out. To my disappointment, the Chinese toddler was less than pleased. So he shouted in my face and ordered me to continue playing. I refused; I have a dissertation. 'It's alright for some!', I thought. Luckily, my meal was now ready and I could make a quick exit, to return home to scoff down my meal and return to my essay on the xenophobic voters of the National Front in France - in the safe knowledge that, contrary to the fear I had considering the extreme views of the vast majority of my extended family, I was not one of *them*.

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