Migrant Groom: Polash - Oldham

Polash arrived in Britain in 2000 as a 'marriage migrant'. His marriage was arranged through a family friend in Sylhet. He told us:

I was interested in coming to London to earn more money, but I didn't know that it is very hard to earn money here… The only way to come to this country legally was through marriage.

Green bananasThe second oldest son of eight siblings, Polash took responsibility for earning money for the family quite early in his life in Bangladesh. He recalled:

Our family was well off but when my father became ill the family was facing privation. We were suffering. My brothers and sisters were studying, so I had to try to earn money… I bought green bananas. I sold them during the month of Ramadan. I made a good profit, so I bought more bananas. When the bananas were ripe I sold them. I managed to save a good amount of money.

Getting a taste for business, Polash worked for some time with his father and then moved to Dhaka to work with his uncle. After the company went broke and he was laid off, Polash opened a small clothes business and then a hotel business. Then,

I heard that many men were going to London and were earning huge amounts of money and building beautiful houses. Greediness entered into me. I decided to go to London… Anyway, I came to this country through marriage. I came in 2000. Three days after I arrived here, I started a job.

Restaurant kitchenWhen he arrived in Britain in 2000, his first job was in Manchester in a restaurant:

That was a busy restaurant. I started my job there. I was OK while I was working but when I went to bed I would feel pain in my whole body. I would take two paracetamol tablets but the pain wouldn't go. I would cry, 'Why did I come here?'

Polash moved restaurants a number of times but finally found one where he was happy and where he started to work as a chef:

Tandoori chickenI started another job. After one week I got £140; after the second week, I got £160, and after two more weeks I got £190 as my salary. It was a good salary. Then the chef decided to leave, so the owner called me one day and told me, 'You will have to do his job, too.' Inside, I was scared about whether I could do the job or not. The chef was a good man and showed me everything and encouraged me: 'Don't be afraid of it.' On Friday he put me in the chef's position and told me to be the tandoori bhai. Within two weeks I found I could make curry.

In 2001, Polash’s wife died suddenly:

Bangladesh passportThe person I came here for, she died. One month before she died, the solicitor's office sent all my documents to the Home Office. They returned the passport with the visa, but the passport did not reach me, or it was sent to someone else. As my wife had died, I was very afraid of what I should do. I spoke to my boss about it. He took me to a solicitor in Bradford. I went there – he said, 'You are 100% legal. You came to this country in a legal way, so you are legal, you are not illegal.' …I got the assurance but the fear remained inside me.

Polash moved to live in the restaurant where he worked and decided to take a job in the daytime to earn more money and pass the time:

I looked for jobs in different fields. My English was not good so none of the English were interested in offering me any job… One day a Pakistani friend of the restaurant owner suggested I join his takeaway. I accepted.

Polash's days were now full:

Doner kebabHis takeaway was in Oldham… There was a college beside it and it sold burgers, doner kebabs, chips. It started at 12.00. I would arrive at 11.00 in the morning and make tea for myself. Sometimes I would make curry out of the doner kebab and eat it with rice… After 12.00 it would be very busy up until 4.00. The owner would say, 'You must leave at 4.30 because you'll start work in the restaurant at 5.00'. At the restaurant I'd change my clothes and wash my hands… and start working. On Friday and Saturday the restaurant would be open until 3.00am and it would be 4.00am when we locked up… With two jobs I got a good amount of money, although I had to work hard. I had no expenses… Whatever I earned, I sent the entire amount to Bangladesh.

During a visit home to Bangladesh for his brother's marriage in early 2003, Polash's family pressured him to marry again and his second marriage was arranged. On his return, he moved to Liverpool to work, and his brother later joined him in the UK, also through marriage to a British Bengali wife. He told us:

I still did not apply for my wife to come. I thought at first I would prepare all the documents and then apply… I bought a house and sent the documents. She got the visa, so I did not have to go. I told her, 'OK come after Ramadan, after Eid.' Then in November 2004 she took a flight to this country.

Polash recently opened his own restaurant with a business partner, and employs three people. His wife works as a teacher.

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