When I came to age I realised that you don’t get to choose what area you grow up in. Unfortunately, for me I grew up in downtown East-London as a teenager in the 1980’s. When I watched the American movies I noticed that downtown Bronx in America was no different from downtown East-London. My first experience with a knife was when I was 13 years old. As I walked out of the Stratford grant office, a boy, who must have been about my age, jumped out from nowhere and poked me with a small penknife.
“Give me your money! What ya got?”
I was petrified, scared and didn’t know what to do. I prayed in my head, ‘God please don’t let it end this way…I have much to do…’
“I said give me your money!” knife boy persisted
I didn’t have any money on me, I knew it wasn’t good enough.
Knife-boy was very confident, I knew this wasn’t the first time he had done this. I tried my best to hide the gold chain I had around my neck, but he spotted it and ripped it off my neck. Then he ran away. I ran as well, only in the opposite direction.
I couldn’t read or write when I was thirteen because I had spent most of my childhood running away from bullies. Luckily, for me, I grew up in a very strict family and my parents did not allow us to hang around street corners as most kids did. I always had a passion for learning and would rather be at home studying. But, I realised that if you lived in East-London and weren’t involved with the gangs you would eventually become a target. So I began to live two lives.
The first life I was living was as a gang member. I got to know all the gang members in our area in order to make sure I and my family didn’t become targets. It would take many years for me to discover the proverb ‘there is no honesty among thieves.’ I would meet up with the gangs and listen to their so-called heroic stories about how they stole from innocent and vulnerable people. I have seen all sorts of weapons, from fixed knives, butterfly knives, homemade knives, catapults, air gun, etc. Whenever I was offered a knife to keep from the gang I would always make a stand and never took it. I knew my parents would kill me if they found it.
One of the gang members got a butterfly knife. He showed me how to flick it without having your fingers chopped off. I got really good at it and broke a major rule and took the knife home. I made a mistake and when I left my room I forgot to pick up the knife and left it accidentally on show. My parents found this knife. Just like any parent would, they went berserk!
I remember my fathers words up to this day, “we come to this country to work hard so that we can make a difference, and then there is YOU! You who has a knife! What next? Are you going to become a gang member? I am ashamed of you!”
I tried to explain to my parents that I had never used the knife and had no intention to do so, but this fell on deaf ears. I was banned from going out after school for months.
After my six months ban I was finally allowed to go out again after school, man things had changed. The gang members had now stepped-up and got involved in class A drugs, fighting other gangs over turf control and many members had been stabbed! I didn’t want to be part of this life. After spending a few days thinking about what I was going to do, I finally decided.
It was agreed that Queens Market would be the meeting point after midnight. One gang leader against another. One would die, one would live. The one that lived would rule the patch. Surely, this wasn’t right? They were both only teenagers! None of them deserved to die. I turned up at the market at midnight, they were at it- punching and kicking one another.
“STOP!” I shouted.
The fighters and spectators all froze and beamed their eyes upon me.
“Guys, that’s enough!” I said.
“Shut up Jag!” they all ignored my plea.
The two gang leaders continued to stare at each other, surrounded by their spectators.
As both members swooshed their knives at each other, I began to walk away from the crowd. One of the members noticed and shouted out to me, “Where you going Jag?”
I looked back as I carried on walking, “You have a choice, so do I. To live a good life or end up in prison or even dead. I don’t want to be part of this no more.”
I have realised over the years that it is your decisions that make you or break you. Luckily, for me I made the right decision. We all can. I am glad to say that because I made the right decision all them years ago I have been able to help others make them too by being a motivational speaker, writer and having supported many charities such as the NSPCC with child protection. None of this would have been possible if I would have never made the decision to walk away. I did. Many don’t, or can’t. If I hadn’t I would have either been in prison today or even worse.
Jag Singh is a London/Essex based inspirational freelance writer and speaker. He is constantly campaigning for Anti-Bullying, Anti-Knife Crime, Mental Health and many other areas that affect the well-being of our communities. Jag has supported the NSPCC (The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) by conducting seminars and workshops campaigning and working in child protection. He has also been supported by the Anti-Bullying Alliance, Sikh Channel, Zee TV and many other organisations. Jag is also an expert in Effective Sales/Business and Team Management.
Jag Singh’s knife crime article is now available download as a book for free via
Courtesy of James Minter Publishing