Indi Magazine – Winter 2007 – An Interview With Author Ranj Dhaliwal

DAAKU: An Interview With Author Ranj Dhaliwal

Winter 2007

Indi Magazine

Ranj Dhaliwal, social activist turned author, has published a novel that really speaks to some of the issues that the South Asian community has been dealing with over the past decade. Welcome to the world of Daaku. A certain salvation in terms of insight, if you will, regarding the murders of over 100 Indo-Canadian young men. Daaku holds the distinction of being the first novel ever written and published on the topic of Indo-Canadian gang violence.

INDI Magazine sits down with the author of Daaku, Ranj Dhaliwal, for an inside look into this controversial topic and what motivated him to tap into this uncharted territory.

INDI Magazine: What motivated you to write Daaku and how long did it take you to write?

Ranj: I wanted to get a story out there on Indo-Canadian gangs. Even though Daaku is fiction, it gives a good glimpse into what goes on in this secret world. No one really knows how big the scope of this world truly is. It took me a little over 4 years, on and off, to write.

INDI Magazine: How did your family and friends react to your novel being published?

Ranj: My family took out a life insurance policy on me…just kidding. Everyone is extremely excited for me and view the novel being published as a huge accomplishment.

INDI Magazine: The main character in the novel is a young Indo-Canadian male named Ruby Pandher. Do you feel the character of Ruby glorifies being a gangster?

Ranj: It depends on the way you read and perceive the story and its characters. Everybody has different perceptions on what glorification is. Daaku speaks heavily about violence, murder and betrayal. Ruby’s trying to make it in the underworld, yet he doesn’t know if he’ll be betrayed by his friends or even be alive the next day. I personally don’t see this as glorification, rather a world that young people should try their very best to stay out of.

INDI Magazine: You may have young men look at Ruby’s character and perhaps want to be like him in real life. Let’s take the example of the character Tony Montana in the movie Scarface. Most people look at this character and see the rise and fall of a criminal, but then there are others who look at him as something to strive for. What are your views on this thought?

Ranj: Daaku is a fictional story. It’s not real. Scarface was not made so there would be followers. It was made to give insight into the cocaine trade at that time. I didn’t write this story thinking that people would want to be like Ruby. There are gangsters who have passed away and even now young people look up to them and put them on a pedestal. If there’s going to be people looking up to Ruby, then I want to say to those people to take a good look at all the negative aspects in his life. Don’t just look at the rise. There’s always a fall. And when you fall, you fall hard.

INDI Magazine: Do you believe in the saying “Once you get in, there’s no way out?”

Ranj: I do believe in that saying. The reason I have this belief is that “getting in” is not just the physical aspect of joining a gang. I believe it to be a mindset. Gangster is a mentality. It’s not just a group of guys forming a gang. Once these guys take the path of a violent criminal, they’ll always have that mentality, maybe to a lesser extent, but it’ll still be there. I do believe that there’s a way out of the life of crime: but that there’s no way out of the gangster mentality.

INDI Magazine: Okay, so what is the gangster mentality?

Ranj: I believe the gangster mentality is to do things outside of the rules of the norm. You think violently to resolve issues. Basically you don’t have the normal thinking pattern that someone who hasn’t stepped into the life does. What is not right for most is right for the gangster.

INDI Magazine: Recent reports have been issued stating that parents are very aware that their kids are involved in illegal activities but remain quiet. What are your views on this?

Ranj: I can’t really comment on the accuracy of such reports but I do feel that there probably are a lot of parents out there who are very aware of their kid’s actions and don’t say anything. I believe parents do stay quiet about their kids’ activities because there’s too much pride between families and our community. No one wants anyone to find out what’s really going on in their homes. If people can admit what their kids are doing, they wouldn’t have to turn a blind eye to their kids’ actions.

In Ruby’s case, the mom is fully aware of Ruby’s actions but he has gone so far that her only hope is that he comes home alive. And like a lot of other parents in Ruby’s mom’s position, she gives him enough leeway in the hope that he may turn his life around on his own. Call it wishful thinking, but I am positive that a lot of parents out there share this sentiment.

INDI Magazine: I’ve read the book and see that even though Ruby is a gangster and commits crime, he has a sensitive and caring side to him. Did you mean to make his character like that?

Ranj: I wanted to make Ruby as real as possible. Real people have feelings and express emotions no matter what kind of activities they’re involved with. Ruby is a child growing up and has a very loving and caring family. Having him express feelings of joy, love, hatred, anger, confusion takes Ruby from being a fictional character to someone the youth can relate to in reality.

INDI Magazine: What are your hopes with the release of Daaku?

Ranj: I hope that it raises awareness not just in the Indo-Canadian community but to the entire public. Daaku gives the community and the general public a glimpse of what’s going on with the Indo-Canadian gang scene. Just like any other controversial topic, someone needs to open up the discussion and I’m hoping Daaku does that with the community. If anything, I can open up dialogue about violence between parents and youth.