My Dearest Komal, Anjli and Amar,
Included in this letter is Atishmama’s personal experience of his journey to the UK, over 44 yeas ago. Isn’t it uncanny how a huge population is facing very similar experiences today? I think we are reminiscing old stories but it is scary to realise that it is still happening. The reasons for my family’s migrations were different….but then again, were they really? Our whole lives were in turmoil because of one ‘deranged’ person, but the same circumstances apply to the plight of the present day refugees/asylum seekers/flüchtlinge!
Atishmama’s Recollections :
All I remember about leaving Jinja was the excitement. We were going to London!! It was never known as England, only as London. To go to the capital of the world, what could be better. Even more so as Dad was already there. Nesh at the tender age of 18 had managed to sort out dealing with the embassies specially as all our passports had been confiscated. I remember that he knew the right people and had the courage to sort out our journey to England. So it was mum, Nesh, Achala and myself on the 15th September 1972 on a KLM flight to London. As I recall, we went from Entebbe to Rome and then onto Amsterdam. Here there was some problem and am not sure what it was but we had to make a journey by coach to Rotterdam and catch a flight from there.I am sure Vish remembers that I was not a great traveller (similar to Kayan). So I was ill all the way.
The one thing I remember vividly was the first person I saw in Europe at Rome airport was a black man!!
It was Kantikaka who picked us up at the airport. The journey from Heathrow to Ilford was memorable. House after house looked the same. This was London and I was disappointed. It was also quite a warm day and I hadn’t expected that.
We ended up staying with Nanukaka, Indirakaki and her two daughters. I remember one of them being very unhappy as we had hijacked their tranquil ideal life. They may even have had to vacate their rooms to accommodate us. She kept asking why we were staying with them. This did really upset Achala. I felt my poor Dad’s anguish. This was his best plan.
We then spent the next few weeks travelling on the underground visiting all our relatives. The thing I remember about those journeys was us carrying this multicoloured blanket! As we had no car, it was lots of walking and Dad looking for jobs for himself and Mum.
Just a few inputs from me:
- I am sure I have told you that Neshmama was on route to the UK to begin his university studies when Idi Amin announced the expulsion of the Asians from Uganda. This resulted in him being detained at Heathrow for a few days and then ‘shoved’ back to Uganda. As you know, he never did continue his education and started earning the necessary wages for the benefit of the rest of the family.
- I guess Atishmama takes after me for being a poor traveler. I was sick throughout my flight from Entebbe to London (my first)! Those flight attendants deserved a big box of chocolates from me!
- My legs nearly turned to jelly when Lalitaba phoned me at my bedsitter from Nanukaka’s house on that first day. That was the first time we had talked with each other in nearly 10 months.
- They all came to meet me in Balham after their arrival in the UK. I have this lovely picture of Achalamasi crossing the road and swinging a small tan suitcase. I found out later, that like the chancellors ‘Budget Briefcase’, this was an important briefcase that contained all our official credentials.
- Dada eventually found jobs for both of them in the industrial part of Croydon. Dada who had always been self-employed began his UK employment as a warehouse manager for an electrical company. Lalitaba with no knowledge of English, began work on the assembly line of a sweet factory. Fridays were pay-days that included a huge bag of sweets!
- Do please watch the YouTube clips that I have compiled. It will give you a true flavour of the plight of the refugees, whether it was 44 years ago or in the present times.
I am studying an online course through Futurelearn entitled ‘Switzerland in Europe’. This week has concentrated on the situation of the refugee crisis in Europe and I can imagine myself or my family at every scenario. This also brings back my subject of ‘Frame of Life‘, a concept that paves the life-path. I will revisit this subject in my next letter to you. What are your thoughts about the refugee crisis?
As this is Diwali week, I have posted a recipe for chakri ચકરી, with this letter. I doubt very much that you will get the time or even the gadget to make chakri, but I thought I would whet your appetite for our Christmas gathering. We can make it together, just like old times!
Without wishing my life away, I am eagerly waiting for us to be together once again.
With loads of love, hugs and kisses