The Surrey Leader Newspaper – October 22, 2006 – The life of a daaku

The life of a daaku

October 22, 2006

By Sheila Reynolds – The Surrey Leader

Ruby Pandher is a fairly normal youngster. Unfortunately, like his siblings, he’s often forced to face the wrath of his father’s fists – something he hopes to escape once he enters school. But apart from picking on his brothers and sisters, Ruby doesn’t get into too much trouble.

The rush he experiences after stealing a dime from his Grade 1 teacher’s desk, however, marks the seemingly innocent beginning of a life out of control.

It’s an existence that quickly spirals from petty crime to ruthless violence and heavy involvement with Indo-Canadian gang warfare.

Ruby becomes a daaku. An outlaw.

The young man is the creation of Surrey’s Ranj Dhaliwal, an aspiring author whose first published book, Daaku – Punjabi for outlaw – is being released this week.

While the novel is a fictional account of one person’s attraction to and involvement in the gangster world, Dhaliwal believes it’s an accurate representation of the deadly lifestyle.

Though not involved with gangs himself, he watched friends enter and become consumed by the dark underworld.

“I grew up at a time when the gangs were getting organized. People born in the ‘70s, those are the ones getting into the gangster life.

“I’ve had a couple of friends that have passed away,” the 30 year old says, noting rumours run rampant in his community. “Everybody kind of knows what’s going on but nobody speaks about it.”

He’s hoping Ruby’s tale will get people talking.

Told in the first-person, Daaku allows the reader to step into the protagonist’s shoes, to enter his power-hungry mind, and experience the often torturous and fatal lengths he’ll go to in order to rise in the ranks.

“He’s got that gangster mentality. Not many people can cross those lines,” he explains. “Lots of people might think about it, but most can’t do it.

“He looks up to the older guys and thinks ‘I want that too.’ It’s the same things kids do now – they see these guys with the nice cars, they’ve go the girls.”

Dhaliwal, who works for a non-profit organization in White Rock, started the book four years ago.

“I had a lot of people just asking me ‘what’s going on with all these browns killing browns?’ A lot of Caucasians, they just ask their Indo-Canadian friends, thinking we know.”

He decided to write a novel based on the types of things he’d hear growing up. With no particular plot or ending in mind, Dhaliwal says he simply placed Ruby in a series of situations that escalate to expose the harsh reality behind the glamour of the money, drugs and power young men are often drawn to.

“I’m hoping parents and youth will talk about these things. I’m hoping parents will ask their kids ‘is this happening in your life?’

“I’m hoping youth, when they pick this up, will be deterred.”