This is a translation version of the original video documentary which was than transcribed and translated from Bengali to English. A book with the title of History of Bangladeshis in Greater Manchester has been published and it will be distributed to the libraries, schools and universities. The interview took place on 28 March 2008, so information about his personal family information may have been changed.
8.37 Alhaj Nazrul Islam
8.37.1 Life in Bangladesh: Alhaj Nazrul Islam was born in 1952 in the village of Bhugshail, Bishwanath, Sylhet. His father’s name is late Khurshed Ali and his mother name is late Nojiba Khatun. His father was a School teacher at “Bhugshail Primary School”. He has 5 brothers and 2 sisters, amongst them he is the third oldest.
He started his education at “Bhugshail Primary School”. When he finished his primary education, he went to Madrasha and studied there for 1 year. He went to the “Ramsundor High School”, and studied up to the class seven. He went to Sunamgonj with his cousin and admitted to “Sunamgonj Government High School”. He studied there for 2 years and came back to Bishwanath. He continued his study up to class 10.
He described the old days as being flourished with rice & crops, plenty of fish in the ponds and rivers. There was no distinction between the rich and poor. The people were lived in a bonding society. During the period of harvesting the paddy, the village people worked together and had celebration parties in every house with joy and happiness.
There were many fruit trees in their homes, mango, jackfruit and so many other different kinds of fruits were available in most of the houses. There were cows, goats, hens and domestic animals which were available in every house. There was a different taste all together.
The villagers’ life was very simple and straight forward, now days it is very expensive. His father was working as a teacher and his monthly salary was 40 Rupees/taka. Receiving income from the paddy field and salary received from teaching job, his father’s family was well maintained. There was no hardship in maintaining the family.
There was limited transportation, the people used to walk a lot. There were no rickshaws or bicycles available in the village at that time, he used to go to school by foot and the school was about a mile away from home.
There was loving relationship amongst village people. On Eid day there was a lot of happiness due to visiting families and eating verities homemade food. There was a culture of inviting people to visit their home. Now we are losing this culture. People are very busy; they have no time for their family and friends. The environment in the school was very good. The junior students used to respect the senior student as an elder brother. Similarly the elders used to get respect from juniors.
8.37.2 Journey to the UK & Immigration:
He came to the UK in 1962. There was rule at that time, if you knew someone in UK and could show that he will be your granter, this meant you could come to the UK, simply by submitting the passport to the British High Commission and getting the permission.
At present, the Immigration law is very tight; it was not like it before. There was a relative from his in-laws side, who used to live in the UK before. Through his help he came to the UK. He first stayed with his relative from in-laws site. From there he came to Hyde to live.
8.37.3 Life in the UK:
There were many people who used to live in one house as everyone was single. Some people used to live in single rooms and some people used to share rooms. He used to pay 10 shillings for accommodation and 10 shillings for food every week. The price of goods and costs of living were very cheap at that time.
The life in the UK was very hard but it was not that difficult. The English men and women used to help anyone who had a problem. If someone wasn’t able to find a location, then they used to hold the hand of that person and they used to show the destination address. Even at the work place, English people used to help the Bangladeshis people and others. At that time there was a popular proverb “Bangladeshis are peace loving people”. The senior people can verify this truth.
8.37.4 Employment & Business:
Whilst he was in Bangladesh, he used to work in the land registry office in Sylhet. When he first came to the UK, the weather was very cold and there was snowfall. He met some people in Hyde. He took 2 of his friends and went to a factory called “Dixon Simon Limited” at New bridge Lane to find a job. They had been given job applications.
They could not understand the English language, which was actually written on the job application form. He wrote their name and addresses on a plain piece of paper instead of filling the forms. The manager was pleased to see the English writing and they offered the job.
The starting weekly wages were £24.00. In some weeks with the overtime he used to get £30.00-£40.00 per week. While working in this factory he found another job with good facilities. If anyone worked for about 2-3 hours, his full day was counted by the manager. He had no experience in working in the factory when came to the UK but he has learnt this skill by engaging with the job, like many others.
There was help and support from the management. When a worker started a job in the factory, training was given by the management. By working and gaining the experiences, the people can move from one job to another and used to get good pay. In his second job, the people in charge of the factory had given out keys to him and some other workers to lock up the factory when they finished work. There were plenty of biscuits and tea available for the workers.
He got involved in the property business, since his first house was knocked down by the council. He bought an old house and made some improvements to it and sold it with some profit. He was also involved with the restaurant business. He was involved with this business for quite awhile. He became a partner with his father-in-law to a grocery shop. In 1984, he retired from work.
When he first arrived in Hyde, there was only 7/8 houses. Later on many people arrived from Bangladesh and the immigrant community begun to emerge. Just in a year’s time the total in houses had increased to 60.
The toilet was outside the house. There was no bath facility inside the house; he used to go to the public bath once a week. It was very difficult to use the outside toilet, during cold weather. The new generation would not believe this. At that time there was a good relationship with people. People used to accept other people as their brothers and sisters.
When he quit his second job he bought his first house for £100.00. He paid £50.00 in advance and £50.00 was paid later by instalment. At that time, buying a house was so simple, on the same day any one was able to purchase the house using one solicitor.
This house was demolished under the Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) by the local government. He received £200.00 including compensation. With this amount of money he bought two houses. Since then, he started the property business. He used to buy an old house and make some improvements and sell it with some profit. He was involved with this business for quite a while.
8.37.6 Social & Family:
In the past, most of the people who came to Britain with no education or some education, and lack of English language was the main barriers for many Bangladeshis. He used to provide voluntary services to those people who were in need of such assistant. He said people used to come up with taxes, passports and other official letters, including filling forms and writing letters. Some people used to go to his work place to get this assistance.
When the management took notice that many people are coming at work time, which caused some sort of disruption, they made a rule that no more than 10 people in every day can come to the factory to see him. Then it was reduced to 5 people. He generously provided that help to the needy. He used to prepare his own meals. The price of chicken was 10 Shillings. The fish and vegetables were also available. There were no difficulties in eating foods.
In 1963, he passed his driving test. He never hesitated to use his own transport to take people to different offices. The new house, which he bought, had become a private office by the local people. Later on the house was on the demolition programme and was eventually knocked down. He received £200.00 including compensation. With this amount of money he bought two houses. Since then, he started the property business.
He was planning to go to Bangladesh and made some saving of £1,600.00 but unfortunately the independence of Bangladesh, the liberation movement affected his plans and he could not go. In 1959, he got married before he came to Britain and after the liberation he went to Bangladesh in 1972 and brought his family. When his wife came to the UK, by that time, the housing condition had been improved a lot but there wasn’t a central heating system.
He is a father of four daughters; all of them are educated and married. He was actively involved with Hyde’s Bangladesh Welfare Association and became a founding member of the Association. His father-in-law was the first person to facilitate the place of worship for the Muslim people in Hyde. He is also trustee of the Shahjalal Mosque in Manchester.
The Bangladeshi community is doing better compared with the previous period. The children are now going to universities and obtaining degrees. He thinks that the parents and the community both need to be more anxious and provide necessary guidance and support to their children. All parents should have the responsibility to maintain the family ties with Bangladeshi relatives and taking children to Bangladesh is also important.
He has one elder brother and one younger brother living in Bangladesh. He regularly makes contacts with his brother’s family. He visited several times to Bangladesh for holiday and to see his loved ones.
He said it is important that everyone should learn the English language in order to make effective communication. He was involved in setting up an Adult Learning English language school and many people took part in learning the Basic English language. Many other literate people helped him with this project.
He was amongst other people to do read a Bengali newspaper called “Jagoron”. He also likes to write poems in his spare time.
8.37.7 Liberation of Bangladesh:
He is one of the active members in the liberation movement in the UK. At that time he was planning to go to Bangladesh for a personal visit but due to this conflict he could not go. He said the time was very crucial for the Bangladeshi living in the UK, to show the support for independence movement.
He felt strongly that it was very important for Bangladeshi living in the UK to show the world, why the Bangladeshi need a separate independent country. He said many people donated the necessary funds for the victims of the war. Due to this conflict, the Pakistan Welfare Association was divided in every town and city including Tameside.
He was serving as the last general secretary of the Association. As an alternative of the association and for immediate action, the Bangladeshi people came together and formed a group called “Lancashire and Adjoining County Committee”. That committee later on developed as a Greater Manchester Bangladesh Association.
He also recalled his memory and said “I can remember some of the names who devoted their valuable time for establishing this organisation, such as Nazir Uddin, Moksud Bokth, Abdul Matin, Lal Miah, Shamsuddin Ahmed, Bosharoth Ali and so on. Mr. Matin lead this organisation as chairman in the first committee.
At that time of liberation, they worked hard during day and night to make communications with people living in different towns and cities. Their role was to convince the British government to support Bangladeshi independence. They were also responsible for collecting funds for the people who were in the ground and fighting for the country.
He re-called from his memory that there was trustee board formed with 3 Britain’s and 1 Bangladeshi to look at possibilities to provide help to those who were victims of the war. There were different channels they did this through; they used to monitor the funds that have been transferred to the right direction. He worked with these people until the country was liberated on the 16th December 1971.
In his conclusion he says “my first intention was to come to Britain for employment and make some savings and go back” But after living in the UK for 5/6 years, he decided to stay in the UK, therefore he became a British citizen. He personally thinks that it has been benefited in many ways in his personal, social, economic life by deciding to stay in the UK.
In his spare time he goes to the mosque, and makes contact with his Bangladeshi and English friends. The generation should have a good education and there should be equally respected Britain’s and Bangladeshis. The future generation Bangladeshi community will be educated and will be able to make a positive contribution towards community work.