Mohammed Shamuz Miah (Burnley, UK)

Settling in

Shamuz worked for a manufacturing company as a weaver:

I went to the cotton mill with my brother. My brother would sew the clothes. I helped him with the weaving. I did the job for three months. Then I wanted to learn to sew. I tried to do it myself. One day the floor manager saw me helping my brother... Then I was sent to the sewing school… The company paid for it. After six weeks, I got a job sewing… I did this for 25 years.

He travelled often to Bangladesh to see his wife and family:

After two or three years, I would go to Bangladesh. Whenever I came back, I would stand at the company door, they would welcome me back. I spent 25 years doing that.

Shamuz thought the local people were very friendly and helpful when he first arrived:

We found these people very kind. We did not know any English; but somehow if we could make them understand what we wanted, they would help us. If we wanted to get somewhere, we would write the address on a piece of paper. Then whenever we didn't know the way we would show the address to an English man. He would definitely help us. If he was busy, he would hand us over to another person. Then he would help us. If he had to go to work, he would hand us over to the police. The police would help us. When we first came, we didn't know anything. We couldn't find the road. In Bangladesh, there aren't many roads. There were few literate people among us. I say, 'Allah would help us and the English would help us, too.'

The Bengali men had to help each other:

10 or 12 people would live in one small house. We lived together and helped each other. Say, a letter came to someone saying he has to buy a piece of land over there, but he has no money. What happened? We've got a salary; he has no money. Okay, give him the money. That way we would also buy the land. Our money would be sent to Bangladesh. The aim was that one day we would go back to Bangladesh. There was a dream of being rich.

Shamuz's plan had always been to return to Bangladesh, but his view changed:

I thought I would settle in Bangladesh and there would be no need to bring the family. Then I thought one day, my children might think badly about me; 'Although he had the opportunity, he did not bring us.' In 1970 before the general election in Pakistan, I went to Dhaka to bring them back, but the Liberation War started in 1971. So I brought my family in 1972, three months after the War.

However, he is in two minds about the community settling here:

We've been separated because of the families. Once their families are here, people forget how we used to spend our days. They begin to think they are here for good. They have become rich. They no longer send money to Bangladesh. They give the children whatever they demand. And that's how the children are being destroyed.

On the whole, though, Shamuz seems happy living in Burnley:

There were riots in Oldham. There are some racists over there. In Burnley there are no racists. I have been here since 1964; I have a habit of walking around. I am now 77. I even walk at night, at 3 or 4 o'clock. I've seen many Whites, Blacks. But nobody even asks me who I am, why I am walking. Sometimes the police say to me, 'You are alone. What if some attacks you?'

















Walking at night


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