I don’t think I’ve ever felt so ashamed to be British as I did while watching this documentary by Olly Lambert.
It primarily followed a gentle, kind and intelligent man who was embarking on a career as a traffic warden, and from the abuse he and his colleagues got, you might have assumed they were in fact murderers or something equally as heinous. But no, they were just traffic wardens doing a job.
Durga Pokrehl from Nepal left behind his wife and child to try to build a life for his family here in the UK, and despite having two masters degrees, being multi-lingual and having an inexhaustible knowledge of the works of Shakespeare, the best he could find here was a job as Public Enemy Number One – a traffic warden.
The worst of it is, Durga started out with a very positive attitude and proclaimed that Britain was his “dream” place to be; “the people are polite and kind hearted” he said, and bless him, he meant it. He really believed he was carrying out a public service and that everyone here would be kind to him in return for kindness shown by him. How sadly wrong he was.
And how shameful it is that men and women who are simply trying to earn a living are subjected to torrents of abuse and often even physical attack. And why? Because they give people tickets for parking in places they shouldn’t park.
And yes, many of us have been on the receiving end of one of those power mad wardens who properly enjoy wielding their ‘powers’ over us motorists, but in the main, we know when we’ve parked somewhere we shouldn’t, we just don’t like being punished for it.
But more than the pedantics of arguments about parking, this film held up a mirror to British attitudes to being pulled on doing something we shouldn’t. We don’t like it and many of us – though thank goodness, not all – resort to lashing out when caught out.
As 90% of the ‘civil enforcement officers’ – the new and PC name for traffic wardens it would seem – are immigrants to this country, racist abuse was among the first in a line of offensive rants deployed by disgruntled drivers. It was ugly to watch and surely a good deal more ugly to be on the receiving end of.
As the film wore on, we could see Durga’s innate optimism and happiness dwindling as the harsh realities of the pressure to ticket cars – albeit an unofficial pressure – became a problem and the vile treatment he received on the streets of London added the cherry-on-top to a rapidly mouldering cake of incivility and raging hostility.
By the end of the film, he wasn’t nearly so naïve nor optimistic, and was wondering if this was really the right place to bring his wife and child. The answer, Durga, is no. Britain is not a place that many of us have a great deal of pride in anymore and personally, after watching this film, I have considerably less respect for my fellow countrymen than I did before it.
Granted, we’re not all like that; the film clearly wanted to show the harshest of harsh realities and after all, someone politely accepting his fate and saying “well it’s my own fault for parking here” wouldn’t have made for such controversial TV, but again, I suspect that irrespective of this brief snapshot’s proclivity to show the worst, the worst is really happening all over the country. And it’s shameful.
I hope Durga can find work that’s more suited to his temperament and intelligence in a place where he won’t be vilified for doing his job properly.