Winters used to be cold in England. We, my parents especially, spent them watching the wrestling. The wrestling they watched on their black-and-white television sets on Saturday afternoons represented a brief intrusion of life and colour in their otherwise monochrome lives. Their work overalls were faded, the sofa cover—unchanged for years—was faded, their memories of the people they had been before coming to England were fading too. My parents, their whole generation, treadmilled away the best years of their lives toiling in factories for shoddy paypackets. A life of drudgery, of deformed spines, of chronic arthritis, of severed hands. They bit their lips and put up with the pain. They had no option but to. In their minds they tried to switch off—to ignore the slights of co-workers, not to bridle against the glib cackling of foremen, and, in the case of Indian women, not to fret when they were slapped about by their husbands. Put up with the pain, they told themselves, deal with the pain—the shooting pains up the arms, the corroded hip joints, the back seizures from leaning over sewing machines for too many years, the callused knuckles from handwashing clothes, the rheumy knees from scrubbing the kitchen floor with their husbands' used underpants.
When my parents sat down to watch the wrestling on Saturday afternoons, milky cardamon tea in hand, they wanted to be entertained, they wanted a laugh. But they also wanted the good guy, just for once, to triumph over the bad guy. They wanted the swaggering, braying bully to get his come-uppance. They prayed for the nice guy, lying there on the canvas, trapped in a double-finger interlock or clutching his kidneys in agony, not to submit. If only he could hold out just a bit longer, bear the pain, last the course. If only he did these things, chances were, wrestling being what it was, that he would triumph. It was only a qualified victory, however. You'd see the winner, exhausted, barely able to wave to the crowd. The triumph was mainly one of survival.
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