'Twice Migrant': Imtiaz Ahmed - Newham
Imtiaz Ahmed’s journey to Britain (like that of Khaled Ahmed in Oldham), was more circuitous than for many Bengali migrants. Imtiaz Ahmed spent four years studying in the Philippines and a year in Australia preparing for his Masters' degree. Imtiaz's father had lived and worked in Australia for a decade, but he too was a 'twice migrant' having also lived for 10 years in Saudi Arabia. Imtiaz chose Australia, he told us, because:
First of all, my father had lived in Australia. He lived there for 10 years. He persuaded me to go there. Personally, I wanted to go to the USA. I didn't go there in the end because the university I got admission into in Australia was a very good university, famous for IT. My father insisted on me living there because he knew Australia was a good place to live and it was easy to go to Australia. If I could get permanent residency, then it would be easier for him to go back to Australia to settle down with the family.
However, before completing his studies, Imtiaz married his wife who lived in Britain, and came to the UK in 2004 to join her:
I came to the UK because of my wife. We had a relationship before marriage – a long distance relationship. She persuaded me to come to the UK to settle down here. I was in Australia doing my Masters at that time. I was about to get Permanent Residency in Australia. If I completed my Masters, I would get PR within a year. But she persuaded me by saying that job opportunities were better in the UK than Australia. I also thought that salaries were higher in the UK than in Australia. I was living in Queensland. Foreign students weren't getting any work there. So I was worried about job opportunities after my Masters'. And I knew that London was a very multicultural city, a cosmopolitan city. I did not get that flavour in Australia. And the weather – it was very hot where I lived. All these factors influenced me to come to the UK.
Imtiaz's parents did not approve of the match:
According to them, my wife was not pretty. She did not have Bengali culture in her for some reason. They thought that – I didn't think that. I didn't see it. I didn't need that. She was perfect for me. Somehow my family could not accept her. Their expectation was high. They wanted a better bride for me, more educated, from a better background, from Bangladesh.
After marriage, Imtiaz, rather reluctantly, moved to England to be near his wife's family:
I came to this country because of my marriage. My wife's family was living in [East] London, so she didn't want to move far from them… I told her that I wouldn't live with her family. I didn't want that because of my ego. Firstly, I came here through her. She facilitated my visa as a spouse… I told her, 'I will go through hardship, but I will not stay with your family.' So, she rented a room in East Ham, close to their house.
He worked for some time for an insurance firm, but found the environment rather hostile:
They would use a lot of racist words which they shouldn't, like the words 'bloody Asians'. So I started calling them 'bloody Whites'. It was not only my colleagues, but my boss also used the words. Sometimes my boss used to ask them to call 'the bloody Asian'.
He and his wife eventually moved to Barking but divorced in 2007. This separation has affected his view of life in Britain:
One of the episodes of my life has become a black memory. I came here through marriage and got divorced here, and because of this I was emotionally vulnerable for some time. Now I am OK, I am moving on. But still I remember; those memories are coming back to me.
Imtiaz still dreams of migrating again, maybe to America – 'I've had a fascination for America since childhood. I will settle in America if possible.' He is determined not to return to Bangladesh:
I have nothing to look forward to there. Family members come here to visit. I see them in the UK. … I am not looking to go back home in the future. If I have money, I will go to Hawaii, Mauritius, Spain, or France.