‘This is British History’: Radio series preserving the country’s South Asian past Radio

“Oh Many of them survived the partition, living in difficult conditions, working hard in factories. It was very expensive. They will be so lonely. But he lived this extraordinary life for himself and his grandchildren. “

Broadcaster and author Kevita Puri has interviewed mostly people from India and Pakistan over the past six years who moved to British migrations such as Bradford, Birmingham and Southall, West London in the 1950s and 1960s. Many have spoken of a more cold, gray, and hostile country that was propagated to imagine their remote colonial subjects, with its majestic, golden streets and beautiful green countryside, and Some were severely shocked by the horrors of partition. Puri was first encouraged by his own father, Ravi, to adapt to his history, whose past he knew nothing about until his 70th birthday in 2005. He was not interviewed on his birthday – the result of a wall of silence that still exists in many South Asian families. .

At the age of 24, he arrived at the cold and wet Heathrow Airport in November 1959. Not having a winter coat, he took a dressing gown from his suitcase and put it on his suit to keep warm on a solo train ride to Middlesbrough. Northeast England, where he began his career as a graduate trainee engineer. He later moved to Kent – where he ended up – with his wife, to start a family. “I remember thinking: why have I never read or heard of these stories,” says Puri. “I feared they would be forgotten in the family and British narrative of South Asia, but also in the broader narrative of Britain.”

Salman Rushdie, whose book Satanic Legacy Causes Religious Tensions
Salman Rushdie, whose book Satanic Legacy Causes Religious Tensions Photograph: Terry Smith / Time and Life Pictures / Getty Images

Because of Puri’s interest in the subject, she was forced to write a book, Partition Voices, and the mastermind of a Radio 4 documentary series. Three pounds in my pocket. The first oral history of British South Asians, his title is an indication of the amount that men like his father were allowed to bring to Britain. It sees the whole BBC giving personal testimony along with fragments of archives. Each series revolves around an era in history, providing dynamic and distributed portraits of the successes and failures of British multiculturalism. In contrast to the growing presence of South Asians in the UK, Salman Rushdie’s book on Inoko Powell’s infamous “Rivers” speech to protect minorities from housing and workplace discrimination under the Race Relations Act Contradicts events such as the publication of Satanic Legacy. In 1989, he saw the British divide the Asian umbrella’s identity along religious lines. Through the second generation, the voices of the second generation enter the frame, in which there is a good exchange between Puri and his elders in dialogue, leading to parent-child relations, civil rights movement, “Day Timer “reveals the deep structure of club nights and hybrid identities.

The new, fourth, series began with Norman Tibet’s “Cricket Test” in 1990, which claimed that the loyalty of a British Asian could be measured by how he played in international cricket matches. Was supported. It was a crude simplicity that spoke of the strangeness and enmity against cultural diversity that persisted for thousands of years. And what is known today. Puri also benefited from the racist assassination of Stephen Lawrence in 1993.

“He was an 18-year-old black boy, but the British South Asians looked at him and thought: this could be us,” says Puri. The family started talking. One interviewer said it was the first time he realized he was a minority in the country, when his father told him how to save himself after the murder. She was six years old.

'This generation wants to see itself in the history books' ... Author and broadcaster Kavita Puri.
‘This generation wants to see itself in the history books’ … Author and broadcaster Kavita Puri. Photographer: BBC

But Puri also described the 1990s as a “golden age” in which the constant power of ink and grayness was reflected in British pop culture. The first weekly South Asian themed club night, Bombay Jungle, was started in 1993 at the Wag Club in London. Corn Shop’s 1997 tribute to Indian singer Asha Bhosle was won by Asha’s Bramfol. And movies like East East East and the TV show Goodness Grace May have gained popularity. The queen was said to have seen the latter. “People described being Asian as cool. It was celebrated, ”says Puri.

However, tensions persisted. In the first half of 2001, in the run-up to the general election, Blair delivered a speech describing the chicken taka masala as a national dish. Weeks later, riots broke out among young British Asians in Oldham, northwest England. ۔ The September 11 attacks on the Twin Towers in New York led to a sharp rise in Islamophobia. Turban-wearing Sikhs donated T-shirts that read, “No Drake Freak, I’m Sikh.” As always, for some people, progress clearly meant little when deep-seated sects lived among and between communities.

Twenty years later, Puri understands how the topic of belonging has evolved. Now, with the rise of the Black Lewis Pea Movement, the demands of third- and fourth-generation British South Asians for a better historical education of the British Empire have taken on a new lease of life. “In the 90’s, it was about seeing yourself in music and on the telephone. I think it’s important for this generation to see themselves in the history books. “It makes a difference because it’s about your place here, and how you are part of the British story. I don’t think it’s going to be a divisive thing. That’s why I’ve always said it’s British. Is history

Three pounds in my pocket was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 From January 8; Quetta Puri’s book Partition Voices is published by Bloomberg


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