My entire life my father was sick. He was always in and out of hospital. I always knew deep down that I would lose my father at a young age, I just did not think it would happen so soon, at the tender age of 15. Despite seeing him sick my entire life, that never ever stopped me from knowing him as the strongest man I know: mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically. Life was hard for him for many different reasons, some are too painful to share. I will reveal to you some incidents which shaped my father into the man I knew him as.
My father had to work from a young age as a farmer and a fisherman to provide for himself, his sister and his younger brother. He went to school and then college where he acquired a taste for history and geography, which I believe I inherit from him. He eventually married my mother and then came to Britain in 1962 with his best friend who he had known since he was a young boy. My mother came to Britain many years later with my brother. When my father first came to this country, the ‘motherland’ as his friends called it, he worked in a bread factory in Birmingham.
He then moved to London and worked as a waiter and then a chef in Knightsbridge. My father worked for himself, his wife and son in Bangladesh, as well as his younger brother, and the people in his village who were less privileged than him, who did not have a family. In London he lived with 2 other South Asian men and 5 Caribbean men, sharing a one-bedroom shack which had a communal kitchen and an outside toilet. They used to sleep on a single mattress on the floor using jackets as their blankets to keep themselves warm. Half of the men would work during the day whilst the other half guarded the house, and then they would repeat this process in reverse at night time.
Collectively, my father and his friends experienced racism, prejudice, discrimination from different institutions and forces for being people of colour, for being immigrants, for being different. My father told me of the many riots he saw in his lifetime, most notoriously of police brutality in Notting Hill gate. If a fight was to brawl out between my father, his friends and opposing groups, everyone would have each other’s back, literally.
You see, my father was from a different generation, a generation where blackness wasn’t a term used to describe a people based on race, ethnicity or colour, but rather, a political term which represented everything that was against imperial, colonial Eurocentric attitudes. My father worked hard to ensure he had a better life, for himself and his family. As the British born daughter of this hopeful man who came here in the 60’s just as the Immigration Act was passed, I must ensure that I maintain this legacy of self-preservation, unity and progress.