ORAL HISTORY

CB Patel

C.B.Patel is a successful businessman and proprietor of ABPL publications. In this interview, he talks about his native Gujarat and his early education in different villages in Gujarat. He then went to University of Baroda but his career prospects were bleak so he decided to migrate to Tanzania 1960. This was in fact a wrong time as many people were leaving Africa due to Africanisation. He worked as a civil servant in customs office. He had a passion for reading which later on became advantageous in his publishing career. He talks about life in Tanzania, his respect for Julius Nyerere, the unwritten segregation of the three-tier system. He joined TANU (Tanganyika African National Union). He left for England in 1966 and started working in the civil service and then as an insurance broker. He then started buying businesses and became very successful and affluent. By 1973 he had 11 shops. He talks about making money and creating wealth with social responsibility. He listened to his father’s advice. He took over the loss making company of Guajrat Samachar as a sole proprietor. He worked very hard and converted it into a profit making business venture. He believes in philanthropy and talks about his various charitable work. C.B. talks very favourably about Britain and how it has opened opportunities for so many people. He is not very concerned about the Gujarati language dying so long as gujarati values are maintained. Future of print media will depend on quality of material published. He reflects on the secret of his youthful exuberance. He feels he owes so much to so many people. He feels very lucky that he has been successful and strongly believes that people who are well endowed should contribute something back to society – he quotes examples of people like Nanji Kalidas Mehta in Africa, Jews in Britain. He believes that the gujarati diaspora has now settled well in Britain and should give something back to the country.

Ghanshyam Patel

Ghanshyam Patel is a resident of Norbury, Croydon. He was born in Karamsad, Gujarat. In this interview he talks about his early childhood and how he was influenced by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. He reflects on stories about India’s freedom fight. He became a Civil Engineer in Vidyanagar and then after marriage, he moved to Africa. He shares stories about his early days in Africa and how he climbed the career path as a civil engineer and became the Chief Civil Engineer with the Madhvani Group in Kakira, Uganda. He talks about the irrigation plants which he set up in the sugar plantation. He reflects about his life with the Madhvanis and talks fondly about his time with his colleagues. He touches upon his interaction with Idi Amin and what happened to him after the other Asians were expelled by Idi Amin. He was one of five Gujaratis left behind during the exodus and reflects upon his time with the natives during this difficult period, though he never felt scared of anybody. Later he moved to England as his family had settled here. He talks about his involvement with Gujarati Literary Academy and other social activities in Croydon.

Kapil Dudakia

Kapil Dudakia is a Croydon resident, Business Consultant and part-time press reporter in the Asian newspaper, Gujarat Samachar/Asian Voice. In this interview he talks about his early years in Africa where he was born. He came with his family to Bolton at the age of 8. Life was difficult initially as the culture in England was very different to Mombasa but as he knew English, he settled well. He found it was a great life but a tough one. He faced racism in Bolton and was even beaten up once at school. He was very tough, so overcame all the racial prejudices and got on with life. He saw every problem as an opportunity and successfully gained a degree at University of Cardiff - first one in his family to do so. He went into teaching and later on became an Ofsted Inspector. Kapil talks about the success stories of how gujaratis have excelled in every field and how they have taken every opportunity to excel in various fields. He believes that Gujaratis have a lot to offer to Britain and they will be the agents of change in Britain. He has now developed good ties with his motherland and understands his ancestral heritage. He feels one has to have the feel for India at the microcosm level and not at the macro level.

Maheshkumar Kavi

Maheshkumar Kavi is a Croydon resident, born in Bhavnagar (Gujarat). In this interview he talks about his life in Bhavnagar and how difficult it was for his family to make ends meet. Hence he decided to go to Africa for better prospects. He went in a steam ship S.S.Karanja. It took about 10-15 days to reach the shores of Africa. When he reached there, he started working in a Printing press for the Kenya Daily Mail, a bilingual newspaper. He worked with them for 20 years. He called his wife and children to Mombasa. He talks about the Mao Mao movement and how it became insecure to live in Kenya, so the family decided to come to Britain in 1971. Maheshkumar describes the early years in Britain and how the financial crisis was making it difficult for him to find jobs. He eventually found a job as a bus conductor – something he found difficult in the beginning but eventually came to terms with it and made a success of it. He learnt life’s bitter sweet experiences during this period and came to understand lot about British people and their way of life. He later worked with London Underground as a booking clerk. He became socially active in Thornton Heath and became a member of Surrey Gujarati Hindu Society with whom he engaged in many activities. He still keeps ties with his motherland and visits India now and then.

Shantilal

Shantilal Dudakia is a retired banker in Croydon. He was born in Madagascar and travelled to many places like Aden, India, Mombasa and then to Britain in 1968. In this interview he talks about his ancestors in Rajkot and how his grandfather migrated to Madagascar in a dhow which took many months to travel. His father became a successful tailor and because of his ability to learn languages, he learnt to speak French in Madagascar. He then went to Aden and learnt to speak Arabic. During the second world war, Shantilal had to go to India with his mother as it was not safe to live in Aden. The family then went to Mombasa. He had his schooling in Mombasa and speaks very fondly of the Alidina Visram School. In Mombasa, he learnt to speak in Swahili whilst helping his father in his clothing shop. Later he became a banker and delightfully explains how he enjoyed going on a Dakota plane to the Masai countryside and do banking with them. He talks fondly of the native Masai people, their innocence and honesty. Political situation in Africa in late Sixties forced him to come to Britain. He settled in Bolton and found life very difficult initially. He had to work 24/7 in factories making belts. He could not find a job as a banker but as he had to raise a large family, he took whatever came his way. He educated his family and is now satisfied that they are all very successful in their careers. He describes why Gujaratis are successful as they work hard and understands why Britain has accepted them.

Nitin Mehta

Nitin Mehta (MBE) is a community leader in Croydon and President of Vegetarian Society. In this interview, he talks about his ancestors in Gujarat and how they migrated to Kenya in 1940s. He was born in Kisumu in 1954. He talks about how his father found it very difficult to settle in Africa initially but later settled well. He describes the social scene in Africa and the community spirit where everyone helped each other. He talks about how Gujarati was a very prominent language in Kenya. Life in Kenya was so much like India that he did not even realise that he was living in a foreign country until the age of 8. He finished his schooling in Africa and then came to England in 1973. He describes the way he got his first job with Philips company and then the Housing department in Croydon Council. He felt that as he had a very good foundation in English in Africa, he coped better in Britain. He found the local people very friendly and many helped him settle well in Croydon. He gradually became proactive in community work and got involved in many projects. He talks about his work with the Vegetarian Society and maintaining Gujarati language in Britain. He spearheaded the Gujarati School at Oshwal Centre with other community leaders. He developed learning resources and has also written on Ancient Indian civilisation. He has seen the change in the diaspora over the last twenty years, some changes are for the better e.g. breaking the caste barriers.

Rajan Amin

Rajan Amin is a Businessman in Croydon. He was born in 1965 in Kampala and his family moved to Britain when he was very little during the exodus. He does not have any recollection of Africa but talks about his early life in Britain and how he was lucky that his family did not have to live in a refugee camp and that the family was all together. He talks fondly about the influences of his parents and aunt and saw how hard they worked in their early years in Britain. He talks about his successful business with Coversure Insurance and how Croydon has given him a good platform to develop his business skills. Rajan is very proactive in community work and talks about his work with Rotary Club and Subrang Arts. He talks frankly how he had no connection with India in his early years but lately he has looked at himself deeper and reflects on how it is important to be connected with his motherland. He is very proud of his heritage and goes to India regularly and does a lot of charity work there.

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