Written by Jane Hollowood. Tx 11th January 1983
This episode opens with Randir and his family sitting around the breakfast table. The relationship between Randir and his father is one of mild conflict – especially since Randir’s father is portrayed as somewhat conflicted. On the one hand he wants his son to succeed at Grange Hill and make full use of the opportunities available, but when Randir mentions that he wants to attend the football trials on the weekend this doesn’t go down well. Somewhat stereotypically, the Singhs own a shop, and Randir is expected to work there at the weekend. So although his father wants him to do well at school (and therefore integrate into the local community) this is something that can only go so far (business must come first).
Although Mr Hopwood notes that Randir hasn’t made much of an effort to get to know his classmates, he’s far from the sort of isolated, victim character that Roland was. If Randir is self-contained, he’s also confident and this is one of the reasons why he catches Gripper’s attention (the fact that Claire speaks to him is another).
Even though Randir is outnumbered two to one (Gripper’s shadow, Denny, is still about) there’s no sense that Randir is at all cowed or frightened by Gripper’s approach. They’re pretty much the same, height and wright wise, so it wouldn’t be easy to pick a winner in a fair fight (although Gripper’s not likely to fight fair!). This begs the question as to why Gripper targets him, as before he’s always gone for easier and younger prey. We’ve seen that the others have shut down Gripper’s extortion scheme, so a spot of racial bullying is clearly a decent alternative, but in story terms this is slightly problematic.
As the rest of the school had eventually decided to stand up to Gripper and tell him that his bullying was no longer acceptable, why did they allow him to get away with a new wave of racially motivated bullying? It seems to be (although it’s only later lightly touched upon) there’s a general distrust between the different races (so if a black kid was being bullied a white kid wouldn’t necessarily go to help). There have been obvious exceptions to this – Benny, for example – but then Benny wasn’t a character defined by the colour of his skin or his religion, whilst Randir most certainly is.
Gripper’s acquired a new henchman in addition to Denny, Georgie (Sam Smart), and the three of them decide to unwrap Randir’s turban. This then sees a number of coincidences – Claire and Suzanne are passing at precisely that moment and Gripper decides to turn his attention onto Claire (pinning the girl against the wall and asking for a kiss). The next coincidence is that Stewpot and Duane were also close at hand and Stewpot goes rushing in, fists flailing. The fight isn’t pretty, but it’s entertaining. It’s also notable that Duane hangs back and had to be pushed forward to get involved. The upshot is that Claire and Stewpot are thrown together (there’s a certain noble look of suffering in his eyes as he lies down on a bench as Claire tends his bloody face!) and they’ll shortly become an item.
We end back where we began, with Randir and his family at home. Randir sees his turban and his religion as factors which mark him out as different and therefore a target for people like Gripper. His father, whilst accepting that racial abuse is a part of parcel of life, tells him that he’s a Sikh and therefore he can’t deny his culture – otherwise he’d lack any sort of identity. The tension between a wish to conform and a desire to retain existing cultural links is an interesting one, although as his family don’t reappear after this episode it doesn’t really get developed.