Child Migrant: Kamal Hossain - Oldham

Kamal Hossain is 43. He arrived in Britain when he was four years old, to join his father. His father had migrated in 1948 or 1949, sent by his family to earn money. He took citizenship in 1967.

My uncle was supposed to come but he refused. So my grandparents chose my father to go. My father said, 'Yes, I'll go.' At that time not many people had the courage to go to a foreign country… Father had the courage.

Kamal and his mother came in 1970, and travelled to Oldham. He recalls:

View of Oldham town centreIn Oldham, there were only two Bengali families… The English did not see many other Asian boys, so they responded warmly to me, saying hello, and shaking my hand. They would ask me my name and where I lived and so on… In the afternoon, all the English kids would come to play with me because I was only one little Asian. All the people in the neighbourhood liked me and gave me sweets. But I did not eat many sweets, so I kept them and gave them to the English kids when they came to play with me…

I had a toy that would spin when it was pushed. One day, a boy broke my toy. I cried because it was broken. An English lady saw this and took me into town. She told my mother about it but my mother didn't understand what she was saying. The lady bought me a bicycle and another toy.

Kamal's family lived with another Bengali family, who were relatives, in a joint household, along with a woman relative who was brought over to keep Kamal's mother company. Kamal told us:

Oldham Civic CentreThe two families were merged into one… We would eat together, live together… [There was] my uncle [mama], two cousin-brothers, father, mother, myself and that lady. In a three bedroom house. Everybody shared it. My mother did the cooking… At that time, the men worked in the factories and the women faced problems with their living conditions. The bath and toilet were outside, not inside the house… Also, the women felt lonely. Most of the Bengalis were bachelors; they led single lives in chaos. When a woman arrived alone, she needed another woman for company, to pass her time. This was the problem… My mother cried to go back home. She didn't see anybody. She wouldn't stay here any longer. Then my father decided to go back to Bangladesh.

Kamal and his parents went home to Bangladesh in 1971, shortly before Liberation. His father returned to Britain within a month, but his mother came back in 1986 to be with Kamal's two older brothers. Kamal himself came back in 1990, having completed a degree in Bangladesh. He worked in restaurants and as a taxi driver, and finally opened his own restaurant in 1997. He was also active in local youth and community organisations. His two older brothers and sister are now settled in Oldham with their children. Kamal himself was married in 1994 to a young woman from Bangladesh:

It took one week to find a bride, another week to make the arrangements, and the marriage took place in the third week. One week after the marriage, I came back [to Britain] …A month later, the officials called her in for an interview and gave her a visa. Then she came to the UK.

They have three children.

millipedia :: ethical multimedia