Talwinder, Virgil and the Universal Plot Line

talwinder.jpgHere’s a story that bubbled up in the New York tabloids and local TV news a few days ago but didn’t make it any further. That’s because as incidents of police brutality go, the two shots fired into the legs of construction worker Talwinder Singh by off-duty NYPD officer Quillian Virgil don’t really seem, on current evidence, to be that egregious an abuse. In fact it seems that brother Talwinder (pictured, via NY Daily News) may well have put himself in position to get hurt through a series of frankly bizarre actions.

“OFF-DUTY COP SHOOTS ENRAGED PURSUER IN QUEENS,” blared the New York Post, making clear who it thinks was the victim in the confrontation that led to the shots being fired, near the corner of 103rd Avenue and 116th Street in Ozone Park, which in that stretch is heavily desi — Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, and Indo-Caribbeans from Guyana and Trinidad. (According to the 2000 census, the three census tracts that abut that particular corner are nearly one-third “Asian” — which around here means desi, with another 18% classified as “two or more races;” the foreign-born population is nearly 65%. In other words typical outer-borough New York, with these trends likely to have only accelerated since the census was taken.)

Anyway, piecing together the info — the Daily News has the fullest article — it seems that Talwinder Singh had already once thrown a brick through Sgt. Virgil’s home window before returning last Friday evening for more mischief. Apparently Talwinder had a metal exercise bar — one of these joints, specifically — and was using it to smash the sergeant’s screen door. Alerted by his wife, Virgil got out of bed and stepped outside to find Singh wilding out. The papers say Singh then pursued Virgil down the block and at some point Virgil stopped, turned, and told Singh to drop the metal bar. The reports say Singh then lunged at Virgil, who then shot him in the legs to immobilize him.

Without endorsing any particular version of events, the whole story seems a bit… unhinged. I mean, who goes and vandalizes a police officer’s house — repeatedly? There has to be some other dimension and the tabloids are happy to provide it:

Talwinder Singh, 20, reportedly was sneaking up to see his landlord’s wife, and neighbor Sgt. Quillian Virgil informed the husband, the source said.

Aha! The love interest! It’s alleged that the landlord then consulted Virgil for advice about how to evict the young rascal. Talwinder got wind of this and decided to go for revenge. Now the landlords haven’t been named so we don’t know if they’re desi — a good chance they are, but it’s piquant either way. However lips are sealed:

The landlord’s wife wasn’t talking about the man who lives one floor beneath her in a basement apartment.

“I have nothing to say,” she told reporters at the 116th St. home yesterday. “Nothing.”

Meanwhile the peanut gallery is weighing in:

Some neighbors described Talwinder Singh, a construction worker, as a troublemaker.

“These fellas were always drinking and fighting,” Nazimudin Mohamed, 47, said of Talwinder Singh and his relatives. “I knew something was going to happen.”

Talwinder was taken to Jamaica Hospital and charged with a variety of offenses. Internal Affairs is investigating Virgil’s side of the story. Again, we’ll see how it all shakes out but what I dig about this story is how archetypal it is, with respect to characters, motive and dénouement. You could take out the desi names and put in Italian, Irish or Greek ones and you’d have an American urban story from a previous wave of immigration and settlement. Or you could keep the characters and change the setting to London, for instance, and it would work the same way. It’s confirmation that there are some constants in metropolitan life, and, perhaps, of that old writer’s saw that claims there are only four plots in human affairs, and all stories are merely variations.

22 thoughts on “Talwinder, Virgil and the Universal Plot Line

  1. Expect a lot more to come out. Why would a cop let himself be chased for blocks only to then turn around and shoot. And why is there always a secret lover angle. Geez.

  2. 4: To lure an attacker away from his home and family?

    But yeah, I’d rather wait till the details come out to speculate much.

  3. It’s always great to see Punjabi’s in the news. I was reading the Chicago Sun times yesterday and as a flipped the page, a huge pic of a turbaned man in his 50′s pop’s out. Just by looking at the pic I think that this guy was either beaten up or he has done something really nice for the community. WRONG! He is accused of sexually harrasment in the funniest damn way. He tell’s his employee that her boyfriend is “a tall good looking man with a really nice body”. A gay Sikh guy? Then tell’s her that she is a “tigeress”. Then ask’s another employee that she has to satisfy his male urges.

    I forgot the guy’s name, but he is or was the editor of the Indian Tribune.

  4. “Educated as a lawyer in India, Bedi was president and chief editor of the Indian Reporter & World News newspaper and vice president of Extra Wide Sock Co. Bedi was qualified for his position because he “had significant experience in running several businesses and dealing with foreign markets,” Commerce Department spokesman Andrew Ross said.”

    This should dispel or confirm (depending on whom you ask) any rumors about desi men.

  5. Another Punjabi wanksta who needs to get the crap kicked out of him. What’s wrong with these young Punjab putars. Always trying to act like tough sh*ts.

    Unlike you, saying that they should have the crap kicked out of them, acting like a tough shi*t. Wanksta yo’ self.

  6. Unlike you, saying that they should have the crap kicked out of them, acting like a tough shi*t. Wanksta yo’ self.

    Don’t worry about it Ruby. Trolls who just pop in to say something vulgar and ignorant and don’t even attempt to engage the material, aren’t worth your time or any of ours. They are getting deleted and banned summarily.

  7. i live in queens next to the couple involve in the shooting. the cop had a camera outside the his house that is how he saw singh with the neighbors wife. he told the husband, and then the husband confronted singh. singh denied the affair and got mad of the cop, which singh did not know he was an off duty police officer. landlord and singh were arguing outside the house and the cop got involved, singh had a metal pipe and told him to mind his biz for the second time, singh got upset and went up to the cop with the pipe in hand, thats when cop told him police officer, and shot him twice in each leg. the landlord just ran inside. the rest is in the papers. maybe singh was a trouble maker, but i dont think he would have gone up to the guy with a pipe if he knew he was a police officer. and the cop knowing he was armed, wouldnt back off the argument between singh and his neighbor, just because he is armed, thats mess up.

  8. Thank you Queens #14 for those details. I was hoping someone from the ‘hood might see this and toss in their two cents. Nuff respect.

  9. [You could take out the desi names and put in Italian, Irish or Greek ones and you’d have an American urban story from a previous wave of immigration and settlement. Or you could keep the characters and change the setting to London, for instance, and it would work the same way. It’s confirmation that there are some constants in metropolitan life, and, perhaps, of that old writer’s saw that claims there are only four plots in human affairs, and all stories are merely variations.]

    YO, what the heck does this mean? sometimes i get the sense that desis from “the hood” are an object of anthropological curiosity for all the brown folks who grew up in small-town white america (as you said –”characters” in some “urban story”). i don’t know anything about your background, and i’m not trying to be presumptuous– but your little comment about the “four plots” was lame and kind of weird from my perspective as a lifelong NYer…

  10. YO, what the heck does this mean? sometimes i get the sense that desis from “the hood” are an object of anthropological curiosity for all the brown folks who grew up in small-town white america (as you said –”characters” in some “urban story”). i don’t know anything about your background, and i’m not trying to be presumptuous– but your little comment about the “four plots” was lame and kind of weird from my perspective as a lifelong NYer…

    It means that life in big cities has certain constants that transcend the different ethnicities and nationalities that happen to coalesce there at different times in history. I’m not in any way singling out desis. Quite the contrary: I am pointing to constants in human experience. As for the “four plots” — perhaps it is seven — Aristotle said that all human tragedy reduces to seven core plots — and it’s a writer’s old saw that there are a small number of core stories “out there” to be told, and most stories are variations on this core set.

    I don’t know about your perspective as a lifelong NYer but since you ask about my background, I didn’t grow up in a small town and I didn’t grow up in white America, in fact I didn’t grow up in America at all. I grew up in Paris with roots in Calcutta and in several East Coast cities — Boston, NYC, Washington — so like it or not, you’re talking to another metropolitan cat here, and a relatively globalized one at that. Oh, I’m also only half-desi. Anyway, that’s where I’m coming from. Feel free to drop me a line if you want to talk literature and, yes, anthropology. Sincere offer.

  11. Although Singh’s behavior and general attitude SUCKS but you do have to admire the guts, that too from a 20 year old. Some of these desi kids in Queens are fairly bad-ass. I’ve been to bhangra shows where I’ve seen skinny desi teenagers refuse to back down from enormous African American bouncers. One unfortunate consequence of this bravado is that the traditional desi respect for older people seems to have been lost.

  12. At the risk of appearing to view desis from the hood as curiosities, here are some (admittedly superficial) observations. I’ve observed (and talked to) many young, 2nd gen Queens desis whenever I’ve gone to bhangra gigs out there, and I have to say, their futures in most instances look bleak. The schools by and large are terrible. Ambitions consist of driving trucks or taxis, or doing construction work. College is not on the horizon for a good many. Culturally it’s quite a mishmash…strong black and hispanic street influences and style cues imposed on a hardcore rural Punjabi substrate. Hip-hop bhangra is the music of choice. On the positive side, many do speak very fluent Punjabi. Also positive are the strong friendships and large social circles they move in as well as strong family ties. These are not lonely people. Their lives seem fun while they’re in their teens…after that I’m not so sure.

  13. Amitabh

    The desi you talk about in Queens are almost like the desi in the Vancouver area. Everything from the hip-hop bhangra to speaking good punjabi is the same here in Vancouver. I have also noticed this in the punjabi community in California especially in Central Califronia area from Stockton to Bakerfield.

    Here in Vancouver several people including a punjabi youth counselor have told me that punjabi girls go to college alot more then punjabi boys. But also alot of young punjabi males who don’t go to college, still get good paying jobs such as driving trucks,building houses or working in wharehouses or in lumber mills. Then there are those young men who have chosen the wrong path and ended up in gangs. Over 100 young punjabi males have lost there life to gang violence, most of it brown on brown. I have 2nd cousins who are dead or in jail for a long time due to this lifestyle.

  14. A major difference between Vancouver and Queens is that in Vancouver, most desis are living in nice suburban homes (even in desi majority areas), with good school systems, and lots of opportunities (which many throw away by joining gangs as you mentioned, and/or getting into drugs). In Queens, they live in relatively low-income urban neighborhoods, which while not as bad as parts of Brooklyn or the Bronx, are nonetheless gritty places where the schools are abysmal, and opportunities few. California’s Central Valley I think has features similar to both Vancouver AND Queens in different ways and probably falls somewhere inbetween.