The beginning of my family history started with my Great Grandfather (Pardadaji), who my Dad would call “Payaji” (Grandfather). He migrated to the UK in the late 1930s/early 1940s, so was present here during the Second World War. His journey from Punjab to the UK first brought him to the Northern Scottish town of Inverness. From there he went to Dundee (another Scottish town) and made his way down South to Huddersfield, Coventry, and then eventually Southall. Definitely quite a journey.
Pardadaji lived in Coventry for quite some time whilst having his job in a factory there. He was present during the ‘Coventry Blitz’, which was when Coventry was heavily bombed during the Second World War by the Germans because of it’s ammunition factories. During the raids the residents were ordered to turn off their house lights as soon as the warning sirens wailed. The night of November 14th, 1940 was when the most severe bombings took place by 515 German ‘Luftwaffe’ bombers. This was the most concentrated attack on a British city in the Second World War. I can’t fathom how scary this must have been. Having no awareness of where any of the bombs could land.
After Coventry, Pardadaji finally settled in Southall. He used to have a job in a paper factory in Uxbridge. He would frequently go watch Bollywood movies in Southall’s ‘Dominion Cinema’ like a lot of the Southall residents. He was a fan of Dev Anand (one of the most influential actors in Indian Cinema History) who was present on the Silver Screen during his era. Dominion was the biggest out of Southall’s other two cinemas which were ‘Liberty’ and ‘Century’. Going to Dominion was an escape for a lot of the Asian population at the time, which gave them a connection to their culture which was left behind in the Indian subcontinent. My Dad tells me how my Great Grandfather’s fashion was smart and would consist of the typical trousers, blazers and ties, just as everyone would wear in those days. No one really wore casual wear back then. He’d dress smartly even if he was just going to the shops. I wish I had a chance to meet him. I would have loved to ask him sooo many questions on his experiences here. How he assimilated to life here or how the environment was different from back home.
On a final note, just hearing the number of places my Great Grandfather moved to in the UK due to employment opportunities makes me appreciate how hard he worked just to set his own foundation here. Adapting to the etiquette here whilst still holding onto his identity is something that will always inspire me to never forget where I came from.
My First Roots, UB1.