November 23, 2017

Meet Billy Babu — the British live wire of comedic entertainment!

An interview by Vinita Kinra (@VinitaKinra)

Billy Babu

Billy Babu

Billy was the first member of his family to be born in the West, and the seventh son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Babu. After an ordinary childhood, his life took a dramatic change the day he was told to serve behind the bar at his father’s pub in Walsall. He’d have to walk back from school to serve at lunch times, and later work into the early hours of the morning. Here, Billy learned his trade as an impersonator and joker by listening to all the accents and jokes that came from the customers. Billy Babu loves to watch people interact, and is forever alert to their traits and personalities. This has been put to good use where over the last thirty years, he has acted on BBC’s crime watch as a robber, a singer with a band, and as a solo radio presenter on breakfast and drive-time shows. He has also appeared as a stand-up comedian, a writer and raised funds for charities. He is also known as The Indian Robin Hood.

Vinita Kinra: Welcome to Global Asian Times, Billy. Share with us the story behind your alias, The Indian Robin Hood.

Billy Babu: Well, the story starts back in 2007. I was listening to my late mother, Rakhi, and her step daughter in Birmingham, chatting about a “Good Chor (thief)”. I asked them: “Like Robin Hood?” and the reply was, Rubinder. That’s how the idea came into my head.

Vinita Kinra: Did this pseudonym inspire your book, Rubinder Hood Prince of Chors?

Billy Babu: Yes, it did. I then started to think of other Punjabi names and places, and how I could find similar sounds, and be able to capitalize such a catchy and inspiring title.

Vinita Kinra: You made news for donating 5,000 bread rolls to a food bank in Hull in 2013. Was it the Robin Hood in you that motivated this gesture?

Billy Babu: I have been helping to raise money for over thirty years now. In this incident, I was moved by a woman from Hull, who was crying and saying that her children were growing up in such terrible times. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice to help their community?”

Vinita Kinra: What ignited in you the passion for storytelling?

Billy Babu: I used to work in radio, and I would write love stories that listeners loved to listen to, and I later added sound effects: jungle sounds, cars, heart beating heart, etc. Children love stories with sound effects, and this is what I do now in various locations.

Vinita Kinra: You like to poke fun at everything without caring to be politically correct. Have you always been a funny man?

Billy Babu: In real life, I am a very private man, but on the microphone, I am very entertaining — a live wire! I was the class clown at school and enjoyed the fact that my jokes would gain me a lot of friends.

Vinita Kinra: Out of all your stints in life, which has been the most memorable?

Billy Babu: When I had the chance to sing at the Royal Albert Hall in London. There was an audience of over five thousand there, and it was a wonderful atmosphere.

Vinita Kinra: Do you believe you are having more fun than people in conventional jobs?

Billy Babu: I know that I am when I walk past them typing on their computers and they look at me – bless the real estate agents.

Vinita Kinra: How much is your native India a part of your overall personality?

Billy Babu: Well, I was born in England, and would class myself as English, but I am thankful that I understand the Indian culture, and I have worked with a lot of Indians who have given me many ideas.

Vinita Kinra: We would love to savour a brief extract from your book, Rubinder Hood Prince of Chors.

Billy Babu:  

Now, unbeknown to Merion and the kidnappers, Rubinder was out practicing his swing (not through the trees, but his hockey swing). He heard all the laughing and thought someone must be having a late bahbi-cook (Sister-in-law cooking, on a barbecue).

As Rubinder approached them, he could see this was no bahbi-cook, but three bande who looked like chors (thieves). He climbed up the nearest tree – maybe he was swinging after all – so he could get a good view and find out what was going on here. He heard their plans to hold the kuri for ransumjit (Punjabi type of ransom.)

Rubinder came down from the tree, and pulled out his hockey danda, he had just been polishing. He was going knock some heads together maybe damage his danda, as these chors (thieves) looked like real thick heads!

(I could have put something else – but didn’t want to make a Richard of me.)

All of a sudden you heard dusham, dusham! (whack whack) and all the bande were on the zameen (not Bob Marley type – I want to zameen, I want to zameen with you). “How are you?” asked Rubinder, to a stunned Merion, who was hiding her bootha (face).

“I, I’m fine thank you.” replied Merion. “Are you a doctor, asking me if I’m alright?”

“Well, I’m not a doctor, but you know it’s what everyone asks everyone – whether they mean it or not? Now, let’s get you out of this kāḷā (dark) lakree (wood) and back to your gharvālī (house family).” said Rubinder, wiping the sweat off his máthá (forehead). Then they introduced themselves to each other.

Rubinder took Merion’s hath (hand) and put her onto his khora (horse). “Hold tight.” Rubinder said, and off they went. The chors were still out cold, as Rubinder’s khora kicked dust into their boothe (faces). Who knows a local security firm may pick them up and lock them away – Gurinder Sodi Four the job? (GS4).

Billy Babu can be reached via Twitter: @BillyBabu7 and his book is available on Amazon online store

Vinita Kinra is a Toronto-based author, editor, speaker and activist, best known for her short story collection, Pavitra in Paris, launched to critical acclaim in 2013. 

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