This little lady is my grandma (baa). She’s less than 5ft, can barely walk & is pretty much blind. She’s 90-something but no one’s entirely sure.
It’s hard to imagine her being young now, but this woman was forced to move across the world, to a different continent TWICE. She didn’t speak the languages or understand the cultures. When she moved to the UK in the 70s, Indians weren’t wanted here. Anti-immigration rhetoric now is appalling, but mix that with being screamed at by skinheads: “Keep Britain White”, “P*kis go home” & being physically beaten up, the anger burning in their eyes and their mouths frothing with rage. Baa moved to East London, one of the poorest parts of the country, before it was cool. They shared an old terraced house with 3 other families and the landlady would only let them have a bath once a week.
They didn’t go outside on West Ham match days in case they were seriously hurt – I’m not sure if you’ve seen the movie Green Street, but I’m sure you can imagine drunk, racist football hooligans in the 70s; I too would fear for my life.
The British government tried to turn them away, despite holding British passports. Landlords refused to rent houses to Indians, churches rejected brown worshippers so as not to upset a white congregation, barbers refused to cut people’s hair. “No Blacks. No Irish. No dogs.” “If you want a n***** for a neighbour, vote Liberal or Labour”. Indians were considered Black back then.
She worked in a food factory, working with machines & heavy loads. She used to walk in the snow, to and from work, in a sari & with holes in her shoes because she wanted to save bus money to give my mum and her siblings one chocolate to share at the end of the week.
And here I am, a young British Indian woman, with a master’s degree from one of the best universities in the world, travelling across the globe alone, with an unstable job that I adore. I have holes in my shoes because I’m irresponsible & I walk to work to save up to swim with sharks or for a new lens. I don’t have limits; and it’s all because of her.