In his first novel Daaku (Outlaw), recently published by Vancouver-based New Star Books, Ranj Dhaliwal is concerned about the growing gang culture amongst Indo-Canadian youth in British Columbia.
According to various sources, at least 90 such youth have been killed during the last few years, mostly because of their involvement in gangs.
Dhaliwal -- who does not have a university degree -- produced his work on the basis of stories from friends involved in the gang culture. It is a first-person account that took the author four years to write. "People have always asked me about gang activities in British Columbia," he told rediff India Abroad. "There is this media hype around everything. Many young Indo-Canadians are dead because of their involvement in gangs and drugs. Even I fit the profile of a gangster, in the sense that I am tall, heavy-built and wear a leather jacket."
Though incidents described in the book are fictitious, Dhaliwal says they reflect a lot of his experiences growing up. "The fact is", he points out, "there are a lot of Indo-Canadians involved in gangs."
Daaku, which runs into 316 pages, is an account of Ruby, a self-described gangster who discovers it is easier to steal money than it is to earn it, and soon starts convincing friends to help him. His
small-time scams reveal his knack for leadership and, after his first stint in detention, the big-timers start to notice his potential.
Dhaliwal attributes problems among Indo-Canadian youth to a lack of communication between parents and children. "Parents work very hard and have little time to communicate with their children," he says. He also mentions encountering a lot of racism in his youth.
"You have nobody to talk to except your friends, some of whom are already involved in the gang culture. Many young people are lured because of money, power and women but they don't realise the
He says his motive behind writing the book was to show Indo-Canadians the gangster mentality. "You can join a sports club. You don't have to join a gang," he says. "When they read Daaku, I hope it will deter them from what is a very violent, gruesome life. People see these videos, see these young men in clubs with flashy clothes and women, but don't realise what they ultimately go through. They don't know what life in jail is like, or what it feels like to be arrested."