Reluctant Migrant: Tonima - Newham

Biman Bangladesh airlines planeTonima arrived in Britain in 1998, joining her husband who had travelled to Britain earlier that year as a student. She told us that she had never planned to migrate:

My husband didn't want to move anywhere [at first] and I had no intention of going abroad. In our family the view was that if the groom lives abroad, we won't give our daughter in marriage. They should grow at home and work there. They will do something better in our country. If they go abroad then what will be the benefit for back home? They can go for study and after finishing their studies they will come back.

On arrival, her husband decided to work rather than study:

His initial thinking was that after working for some time he would study in a good institution. We still have that desire. Tonima followed, and also started work in a local school as a teaching assistant.

108 Bus, Stratford, LondonThe couple lived initially with friends in Stratford. Tonima's first impresssions of London were favourable:

The first six months were really good. I was living with my friend. If I have friends around me, I forget everything. I do not need anything. We would go to work, come back, gossip for the whole night or watch movies, or we would go out at night. It was fun. The first six months, I thought that I was just a tourist here.

However, things soon became more difficult:

When my baby was born my friend had gone home. My husband couldn't start his Masters', I didn't have a job. That was a really bad experience. It was very frustrating. I started feeling… that I was in a trap. I didn't have anywhere to go… I began to think that I was getting old and after a while I wouldn't be able to do anything that I wanted… I didn't feel good about this.

Beckton station signShe returned to work once her son began school. The family moved to Mile End and then bought a house in Beckton. During this time she and her husband took British citizenship. While she acknowledged that this gave her husband better employment opportunities and her son the benefits of British education, Tonima was unhappy with this decision:

I don't remember the exact date and I don't want to remember that either. That happened against my will. I don't mind if someone migrates, and I don't look at it in a bad way – people do it for their own need. But I did not need to do it. Very personally, I didn't need it and I didn't want it. I am absolutely sure I am going back home.

She continued:

I will go back home. I will come back from time to time to see my son while he is studying here… At one point my husband said, 'OK, if you don't want it then none of us will do it.' The issue becomes emotional, something like blackmail and in that situation, I agreed to do it. Oh, that made me very upset. … For no reason, my feelings for Bangladesh surfaced. Why would I take things from another country? But my father and family members tried to convince me: 'It's just paper; you know that you are Bangladeshi.'

She plans to return home in six years, to give her son a secondary education in Bangladesh and to contribute to the development of the country's future. She insisted:

Moder Gorob sculpture, DhakaThe history of our country is very strong. We fought for our language. From the Language Movement onwards, everything has been done with patriotism… I may not be able to bring about any change, but what I think is if every one of us works properly from their own position then something could be done. I cannot build the country in a different way, but I will have the satisfaction of having tried… I expect everyone to do well wherever they are, but they should go back in the end. Otherwise the excellent work they have done will not bring any benefit to our country.

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