born in the Kasoor district of Lahore in the days when it was part
of British India. I went to High School in Kasoor. As part of our
curriculum I joined what we called the scouts - a watered down version
of the English variety.
two sisters and I was the only boy. After school, I went to Lahore
and studied shorthand typing as my commercial subject.
order to learn the trade, my first job was as a volunteer before
a friend referred me to be a clerk in the magistrates' court. The
magistrate was Messiaeh. He was a strong influence and taught me
ticket to Venice cost £10 but I had a £2 discount from the travel
agent who refrained from charging his commission. All I had
to do was acquire a passport for five rupees. On arriving in
Venice, I took a continental train to Switzerland, France and
came to England.
was no bribery. He was a good magistrate and I remember we tried
many cases for illegal distillation.
I was 19, I became secretary to a prominent member of the Legislative
Assembly of the Indian Parliament.
Baksh-Tiwana was from a wealthy landed family and was also a magistrate.
I took notes but mostly accepted or declined his invitations to
dinners or parties.
lived in New Delhi in the winter, because that was the seat of the
Indian government. In summer we went to Simla in North India. It
was comfortable living and I still had contact with my mother by
governor of Punjab and the Viceroy of India were resident in Simla
during the summer. There were no cars allowed in Simla, only rickshaws.
(right) soon after he arrived in the UK
Gandhi went to see the Viceroy, they offered him a rickshaw. He
refused, saying: "I don't want to be driven by human being". So
he was the only person beside the Viceroy and the governor to be
given a car to travel in.
a couple of years' service there but got 'itchy feet' and went to
Bombay. There, I found a job typing at a car dealer. I had help
from the Muslim Association that was run by followers of the Aga
Khan and helped any Muslim of any denomination.
I saw an advert for a job with customs. It was very boring because
I used to keep statistics on what's going in and out of the country.
minute the war started I left for Birmingham with just a few
pounds in my pocket. There were no Indian families at that time
- it was men only until the 1950s and 1960s. I had to stay with
other men at a lodging house in the city.
office was situated near the Indian Ocean. I used to see the boats
coming in and going out and in 1936 I got "wanderlust". I had been
doing part-time jobs in the morning and in the evening to earn some
extra money to make up the fare.
to do some work for a travel agent and a couple of hours doing correspondence
for importers and exporters.
ticket to Venice cost £10 but because I worked for him I had a £2
discount from the travel agent who refrained from charging his commission.
All I had to do was acquire a passport for five rupees.
used to be two Italian boats; one was the Comte Russo but I boarded
the Comte Verde, an Italian cargo ship with some passengers. On
arriving in Venice, I took a continental train to Switzerland, France
and came to England.
I left the agent gave me some names and addresses of some people
who he had already arranged to travel to the UK. I wrote to them
to ask if I could stop with them until I could find my own place.
They said "yes". I've still got some of those letters.
I stopped in Glasgow for a couple of years and they were very, very
happy times. One day I was travelling to Chelmsford to visit friends,
when I heard that war had been declared on Germany.
minute the war started I left for Birmingham with just a few pounds
in my pocket. There were no Indian families at that time - it was
men only until the 1950s and 1960s. I had to stay with other men
at a lodging house in the city.
ticket from one of his first journeys on the GWR railway
first job I did when I got to Birmingham was loading a goods train
for British Railways. I did two nights work at the goods station
and then got a series of engineering jobs before ending up at BSA
(British Small Arms) - a very old firm that used to make bicycles.
factory was bombed one month before I went there. There were heavy
casualties and they couldn't get some of them out of the ground.
The victims are still buried at the site. No one wanted to work
there after that but I spent the rest of the war years there.
the war started, it was all raids. The Germans used to come with
200-300 planes every night. Either they went to Coventry or Birmingham
or the docks in London, Liverpool or Plymouth. They suffered heavy
Birmingham we had our share of raids but after a few we got used
to it and nobody took any notice. Throughout the war there were
many government restrictions you had to obey.
The war was a trying time for the British people but they were
very good. They were my best years in England. Everybody was
friendly because they all had their backs to the wall. There
was no colour bar - nobody mentioned colour. We respected each
other and we carried on.
couldn't show your lights on the car - you had shaded lights. Anybody
who wanted to drive could do so without passing a driving test.
driving test started in 1935. I passed my test in 1937 in Glasgow.
the war, things were very bad. Everything was scarce. Food was rationed
and we had clothing coupons. When the coupons in the book were finished,
you couldn't buy any more, except on the black market.
people didn't have any coupons left, they'd buy coupons from the
people with big families who didn't need as much. You had to fill
forms to get everything. I used to keep two chickens at my house,
so I had to get a permit to get chicken-food!
war was a trying time for the British people but they were very
good. They were my best years in England. Everybody was friendly
because they all had their backs to the wall. There was no colour
bar - nobody mentioned colour. We respected each other and we carried
the war, I volunteered for service in civil defence. After brief
training, I was stationed at Birchfield Road in Birmingham and two
nights a week I was on duty as a fireman. In addition, I made friends
with a man from Cardiff and I volunteered with him to be a firewatcher.
slept in a church in Hockley, so that in the event of a bomb, we
could immediately go to help until the arrival of the main fire
an award for 48 years of non-stop trading at Leominster market
the end of the war, I was sent off to other BSA branch in Montgomery
Street. I remember they had good canteen. A meal cost one shilling
with a cup of tea.
I soon decided to start a business on my own and in 1947 I started
a market. During the war, the British people were all working to
make items for the war - consumer goods were not made.
the war finished, the production of consumer goods began again.
Because during the war the country was bankrupted, they were trying
to export as much as they could.
a result is was almost impossible to get consumable goods here.
They were trying to starve the home market at the expense of the
exports. You couldn't buy anything. You couldn't buy even a comb,
toothpaste or soap. You couldn't buy babies' bottle teats and you
couldn't buy babies' ribbons. Nothing at all.
I could buy those things and take them to a shop or market, I could
sell it in a day. There was so much short supply; you could only
buy a bit here and a bit there. The business couldn't flourish with
nothing to sell.
addition there were no new goods to be cast away. People wore and
used goods longer than they will do now. They mended their clothes.
The younger sister had the elder sister's clothes and so on. They
saved and skimped.
and 1963 were the coldest winters I've experienced. I'll tell
you how cold it was - inside an abattoir in Hereford, the spilled
blood from the animals was freezing as soon as it came out.
lived under 13 Prime Ministers. I started with Baldwin (1936) who
was still Prime Minister when Edward V abdicated. Then
Churchill, Attlee, Churchill again, Macmillan, Douglas Home, Heath,
Wilson, Callaghan, Margaret Thatcher, Major and Blair. Attlee
was my favourite. Nowadays, politicians are all actors. He was a
very humble man, Attlee. No nonsense, no show.
never injured in the war. I used to travel four or five miles in
the morning on my bike to work. While in the foundry I narrowly
missed a bomb once. Otherwise I was lucky. When the first time Birmingham
got bombed, everybody went to the shelters.
used to call them Anderson shelters, after the Home Secretary. He
was a former governor of Bengal and he was a bad man there. I went
the first night to the shelter and never went again. People would
say, "If it's going to happen, it's going to happen". A
lot of people just carried on and stayed in their own houses.
to the weather, 1947 and 1963 were the coldest winters I've experienced.
I'll tell you how cold it was - inside an abattoir in Hereford,
the spilled blood from the animals was freezing as soon as it came
survived but we had no central heating, no double-glazing. We had
windows we called sash windows because pulling on a sash would pull
up half the window. These windows were never a tight fit and on
windy nights or days they would bang. You'd get noise and the wind
used to come through.
are spoiled now. People in those days were very hardy; they could
withstand the winter much better. Nobody had inside toilets. There
were no washing machines. We had no carpets, floorboards were covered
daughters outside their home in Tewkesbury - and his beloved
Morris van, right
people had a thick lino with a halcyon back, which lasted years.
The poor families had a thin lino, which would crack. If there were
four or five children and if they weed, the urine went through the
cracks and the house would smell. The only carpet was a hearthrug.
were no bathrooms; everyone went to the municipal baths every Sunday.
It cost four pence. There was no traffic in the cities. When I lived
in Birmingham, I used to go to the city centre and I would park
and nobody would take any notice.
the war, you couldn't buy a car no matter how much money you had.
You had to put your name down and they'd say 'five years or ten
years time'. When I first started doing market, I went on a motorbike
and a sidecar. A couple of years later I was able to get a van.
It was a lovely Morris van.
the war, you listened to the radio and one very popular programme
was ITMA (It's That Man Again), with Tommy Handley on Sundays. In
1938 I listened to the Tommy Farr and Joe Lewis fight from America
in Glasgow at four in the morning.
was no sport during the war; no football league matches, no cricket.
The first cricket team to come to England in 1946 was India. Nawab
Parodi captained the side and it took them 46 hours to travel by
plane, as they had to change at six places.
Parodi was very popular. The first match they played was in Worcester
and they'd only arrived that day in the early hours of the morning.
to the cinema every Sunday. There were some good English films and
there were a lot of musicals. There was a great deal of queuing
to get into the cinema on Sundays. The big films were shown in the
city centre but the old films were shown at most local cinemas.
old black and white films were best. I haven't seen a film at the
cinema for the last 25 years.
last film I saw in Birmingham was South Pacific. In the city, ticket
prices were sixpence in the afternoon. The
locals were cheaper but we called them fleapits because many of
the patrons were unwashed.
saw one live cricket match and one football match. I went to a football
match in Clydebank, Scotland and I saw a cricket match in Worcester.
See 'The Pakistani Community'