Jubair Ahmed (Essex, UK)

My family

Jubair's father arrived in London in 1945 when he was 16 years old, and was discharged from the Navy supply ships where he worked.

He went to London from Kolkata by ship. Many Bengalis travelled this way… One of his uncles worked on a ship that sailed along the Kushiara River in Sylhet to Kolkata… Occasionally the ship would go to London. I don't know how he got the job but working on a ship was the best job. Working on an English ship was a serious thing. Whenever the ship crossed the Kushiara River, he would come to our village to see his sister, my grandmother.

My father would be so happy that his uncle had arrived. He was desperate to go with his uncle, but my grandfather and grandmother didn't agree. But his uncle persuaded them.

Father went to Kolkata with his uncle, and there was a hot connection between Kolkata and London. Then his uncle encouraged him to go to London… Back home, his father and mother got no news of him. The postal system was not good. After a long time they found out that father was in London. He has been there ever since.

Jubair's father initially worked in the steel mills in Scunthorpe, where he stayed for 18 years:

Some people from our area [in Bangladesh] worked there so when my father came, he joined them. There was no proper recruitment system; everyone was recruited verbally, there were no forms. If you had a friend in a company, and you asked him to find you a job, he just told the foreman about you, and the foreman might say, 'Is your friend a good man?' He'd reply:'Yes, he's a good man.' Then the foreman might say, 'Tell him to come tomorrow;' and the next day if you arrived there, he might ask your name and some minor questions and then tell you to start tomorrow. There were no other formalities. There was no checking system… They needed manpower, so if your work was okay, then everything was okay.

Most Bengalis at the time were single men:

They had a hard life. At that time, there were no modern features. Everything was based on coal or gas. Street lights ran on gas, not electricity. Sometimes a man would come and light their gas-lamps. That's what houses were like.

When Jubair's father first came to Upton Park in Newham in 1985, there was no local mosque and men had to make their own arrangements for prayer:

In 1985, my father was here alone; he was a pensioner; his health was not good. He said, 'We are Bengali, but there is no mosque; there is no place for prayer.' One room of a Pakistani shop was set aside for prayer; my father and four or five respected people would say their prayer there… At first four or six people came, then eight and then ten. On Fridays, 15 or 20 people would gather for prayer, but the room was not big enough. Then they started collecting donations to buy a room for prayer… They went to the rich people. That's how they got enough money to buy the room that's now the current mosque; it could hold 50 to 60 people. Gradually they built shops and then a first floor; day by day it turned into a big mosque which they called 'Shahjalal Mosque'.

Jubair is one of four siblings, two brothers and two sisters. His older brother and sister still live in Bangladesh. His younger sister moved to London before him. Jubair was married in 1997 – the marriage to a distant relative was arranged by his mother and sister because after his sister married in 1996, 'my mother is alone'. He has two daughters, aged nine and six.

Greetings from scunthorpe


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