Waseema Azfar

“…I got married here. He sent me the certificate of marriage there by post, he didn’t come to collect me, put it that way…like of our weddings, mine was unique! (laughter)..

He was busy, and he’d got a money problem as well, you know in them days, the ’60s…he send me the…first he wrote a letter…for a proposal, it was my parents; it was like an arranged marriage, put it that way. My parents, they asked my parents if they were willing to send me over, and he’s a far cousin of my dad. It was no relation, a close relation it wasn’t, and I had never seen him in my life. I knew I had a far cousin in London, in Manchester somewhere. So, anyway they agreed, they pushed me in…I had no choice (laugh). Well you don’t have choice, you know our culture anyway…so I came by myself. Him and his brother met me at the airport…came home and nobody was there.

…Manchester…Heathrow first…and from Heathrow to Manchester. But in them days Heathrow was different as well.”


Sufia Choudhury

“So after 5 years, when my eldest son (was) 5, then I come to this country. 1979, 24th March, I came to this country…

I come with one of my brother-in-law, from Sylhet to Bangladesh…that was very exciting coming to London…. I thought it was going to be colourful and things like that, maybe it was going to be different, completely different, then Bangladesh…and then my husband picked us up, we took a taxi from here, and there was Lincoln Street (?) down there, not that far.”

Mazhar Hussain

“… it took almost three weeks, From Karachi we set off and…I was sick, sea sick …I thought I was going to die. I was so sick and I travelled first class, it was luxury and I’d press the button…I said I want whoever’s in charge and the doctor and all that and they came, somebody came. I said look send me back like I’m, I’m going to die here I don’t want to die on a ship…and I knew he was smiling, and…(laughter)…they gave me something to settle down my tummy, (it) settled down and after that it was beautiful. Good food, good service, lot of people…routine…

Routine mein, time fix, bell hoti thi, kaahna, otherwise jo bhi hai… (Urdu)
(The times were fixed in a routine, there was a bell, then food, otherwise whatever…)

…otherwise we’ll be about…three weeks. In night time you would be on the deck, watching the sea the dolphins are – like they are trained to – they are amazing animals. So three week passed very nicely on the way we stop at Yemen and then African coast and whatever we were…

Suez we came to…this was ‘50, ‘56, the first major Israel Arab war. They were talking about it first of all to attack because Egypt has never allowed Israeli ships to go through the canal and France, Britain and Israeli got together, planned to attack Egypt and we were on the way stuck, canal…Suez Canal and in the middle of it there’s a point where ships could stop, let the other coming from the other side pass through and then they will pass. Now it’s widened since then they can both do it and come and go.

We were there we could listen to news, London Conference and they planned to attack so luckily we got through by then…and as we arrived in Liverpool…the war started. Gibraltar, Port Said, the other places the ship stopped we could go on top of the ship and into town, and so this was good.

This is how we, I arrived in…now I knew the address to get to Burnley. There was no…all you needed was a passport, which wasn’t difficult to get; there was no visa’s…anybody could come as long as they had passport. They were welcome! In the industry here, they needed workers. Particularly (the) textile industry which was locally run and people leaving those jobs were changing to better jobs and they had to fill this gap, and Pakistanis filled that gap. Came one by one…I heard the managers of the mills asked them ‘if you have a brother, have a sister, have a father, uncle, son, grandma to bring them’. So this is how people started coming. So I spent three years after arriving here, I went to Burnley…. “


Samina Hussain

“I came here in 1981 I think not sure 80 or 81. It wasn’t my… It was family’s choice, they asked me and then… I said yes. Because circumstances was bit different that time. When I was thinking I’m not going to go anywhere. Then when they asked me, and then because my father was died. And my mother was…I was caring…my mum she was very…strict lady. And she didn’t want me to work, you know as an air hostess, go different countries…

By aeroplane (laughter). I used to come here before so it wasn’t you know, not exciting kind of thing. I was just visiting here and my mum was with me. And 2 days before I was on China’s flight, it was my job. And in my colleagues in china flight, they were saying oh Miss Samina you are going…for…you are going to get married? And you go sit in maiyyan (i.e. maiyyan baihtna -when a bride-to-be sits in preparation on the night before the wedding) Why you coming in this flight. And they were joking. But… my mum was with me and I brought a lot of things. And because it was my routine coming here, so I wasn’t very excited or this and that, ke (that) that I am going to London, or I’m getting married. It you know…blank. So there was no excitement, I was just doing… this is a job (laughter) I have to do it, because my mum said.”


Mohammed Ishaque

“…1960, end of 60. 1960… I started my practical life here.

…Somebody, because in those days passports was not easy… available easily. And we had to put eleven hundred rupees guarantee for it. So that if somebody repatriates us, government was not used to pay anything. So we could go on our own money back then.

…But then somebody gave me the air fare from Bradford. ‘Cos we couldn’t afford it. So they paid it for us. And then we came to Bradford for a few weeks, there was no jobs at that time. So I had to come to Lancashire. Because a friend of mine who was living here, on Station road (Haslingden), next road.”


Aslom Miah

“..By flying. Pakistani Airline then….before Bangladesh independence in ’72. So Pakistani airline we used from Sylhet to Dhaka; Dhaka to Karachi; Karachi to Frankfurt; Frankfurt to Heathrow. So I came here…oh, by the way, I don’t know who gave me 10 rupee then…but it was in my pocket. So soon as I boarded the aeroplane I was shocked, completely shocked, everything is completely different…

…1963, 1937 I was born so about 26, or 25. So…I hadn’t been abroad or anything – I was born in a village and I was living in a village within the community that’s all. We don’t live in a town or a city because of the environment difference, food, everything. We got everything fresh, everything; nothing to buy except salt and sugar..and it’s good food, you know…

So, the aircraft – I was shocked now. It’s completely different – everything. Then they give some food – I don’t like (it). So I come to Dhaka, I thought I’ll eat something here, in Dhaka. But they say the aeroplane is ready, you have to fly to Karachi now – I did. So, you know at tea-time, they gave a lot of food – I know now, I eat a lot now – they gave a lot of food, and it was not my diet. Because we like curry, juicy curry, hot curry, rice – these things, and all these…frozen food they were giving. Well these are not tasty at all, I hate it, right!”


Farida Munir

“My marriage is a different marriage than another marriages, because my husband came as a student here… then he came here to do textile in Blackburn. …So we married on the phone. (Laughter)…I never saw him in my life. And he never saw me in his life, he wrote a letter.. And from my side, my parents called the priest and he asked me. He said are you agreed? And I said yes and then we got married.

..And so when I came here I was fearful, I was anxious, as well to come and see London you know. (Many people used to refer to England as London)… because I heard quite a lot of, about it. And I was anxious and then I was a fearful as well if I don’t’ like him. What if he doesn’t like me? What will happen?

And a strange country, we have no relative in this country. We still haven’t got any relative in this country. And what will happen? Then on the way I met a couple. An American couple, they were going to America. And she asked me “where are you going,” I told her I got married on the phone, I don’t know my husband, he doesn’t know me. …So I showed his photograph. And she said “don’t worry…I won’t let you go alone. I will you find your husband, until you find your husband I won’t leave you.” So she was very nice…And then when we came to London after the immigration she went and she said “sit on the bench” and she said “I’ll come in a bit”. She went and asked where is Mohammed Ali? …And she took my hand and gave my hand it to him, and she said “this is Farida”. That’s when I saw you know. So then I met him, and then I saw him for the first time in my life and he saw me that time.

And then he was used to, used to live in Haslingden here. And we came from London to here, we reached here about it was February. And when we got off at Heathrow airport it was very dark and cloudy, and because I left all sunny Pakistan, seems different.”


Said Rahman

“I joined the Merchant Navy and I did two years at that…I liked this country so I got off from the ships and come down here, cost me one pound. Hull is a big town, there is a dock yard for ships, that’s where I came. I got off the ship there, and from there I went to Bradford, after 4 days I came here…”


Zamro Rahman (Pashto)

Speaking to her granddaughter Habiba Shenza Rahman:

“Your Granddad was stood at the airport and he bought a car and he brought me here in the car. …nobody else, he came for me alone. …I came to Manchester… Manchester Airport.”


Luai Ullah (Bengali)

“…My father did ship work. He came in Liverpool and take to Rawtenstall… I think 1954 and something…Coming here this country…

Thine amareh sponsor desioyn, thew amme ayse. (He (father) gave me a sponsor, then I came.)…

“Foylaah, ayah tho shuondoor, light forseh- lal kalah. (First it was so nice, the lights red and black.)

First time coming London airports. Two hours fifteen minutes wait, then after fly Manchester. I came to this area…

Henna ek caller manoish, enough ayah decki ark caller manosh. (When I left there people were one colour and I came here I see people of a different colour.)…Like in this country see big people, tall you know… (laughter).I was very surprised you know Sikh man, oh my God, like his beard…Sikh man, yeh. London airport when I coming, in the waiting room so two people coming Sikh. Oh my God. (laughs)…Too long beards. That here…So I ask him in Bengali, which country are you?…

Feto buk lagse Ami kosi oneh, baka otho shomoi boy gesil. Tho koya buleh. amar tho feto book lagi ghese. Onneh Kaytham. (I was hungry, I say now we had been sat for a long time, I am hungry I need to eat.)…

Tho amagar gese English foysha asil. Ame English foysha loya gya ek beti reh koyse. (So I had English money on me. I took this English money with me and asked a lady.)…

Dekase emneh kaytham. Oh betyeh amar gese mo foysha loysa geseh ath thaki, cake desy amareh. (I showed her that I want to eat. That lady she took my money from my hand and gave me some cake.). White cake.

So I can’t speak any English, but he say have you got money? Oh (in) my pocket is change. You know. He take them money, how much they taking, I don’t know.” (Laughter at the fact they Mr Ullah didn’t know if the man had taken too much money or not enough.)