My father came to the UK in 1967-’68. And that was the year my sister was also born in Amritsar. So, they were both originally from Pakistan. He was a salesman, and he made his money selling marrons actually, which are like mushrooms, from Kashmir to hotels in Delhi. And I think he met my grandfather on a train, and they invited him home for dinner, I presume, and then he met my mother. She was 22, he was about 24, and they were married about a year later. But both families were partition refugees.1 And strangely, like many of that generation, they don’t really talk about that time. I think it was a time of great conflict actually, and a lot of churning, and a lot of the literature, and the writing about post-partition has — I mean it’s almost like — it’s kind of like a vanished story. It’s a story that’s still been very untold and sort of uncharted.
As it was with my parents, they married in ’65. And funnily enough, on the night of their wedding, thieves broke in, and stole everything, all of their clothes. So, apparently my mother woke up in the morning with only her nightdress. And then they moved to the UK in 1997-’98. My dad came first for a year, and then my mom joined him with my little sister. You know, what I know about India now, coming to a country, like Delhi, I realized that those who left India in the 1960s probably didn’t have much to stay for. They didn’t have the bloodlines. They didn’t have the family, the wealth, the stature. And I realized the immigrants are really the stories of courage, of risk, journeys, new places, forging new friendships in your lives. It’s very challenging.
I mean, you also have to learn a new language, and then you’re open to new culture, in the kind of most challenging circumstances actually. It’s very challenging to move, and to re-learn yourself in some way. And I think they were quite brave, and I admire that tremendously. And you’ll see that many Indians have been great travelers. And the work ethic has sort of helped them in good stead all over the world. They’re kind of rigid in some ways, but discipline for a lot of Indians is sort of paramount, I think. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. I think the transition for my parents must have been very hard, but adventurous as well. And I think they sort of lived that adventure out. So, I think that’s kind of nice story to sort of see how people change. I mean, it really is a — yeah, it’s an adventure.