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Welcome back to the Asian Voices blog.

So I have been away for a while and have come back to a number of comments (good and plainly rude) made over the last couple of years since my last update. So I will tell you a little story about what i’ve been doing and where I’ve been, and how things have changed so drastically over the past few years (for me personally, but also globally in the world we now live). It may take me a while so I will break it up and name this new chapter of the blog,
Asian Voices: Part two.

Since the completion of the Asian Voices (click here for book link) project in 2010, I have gone from a young researcher into an academic. I am now officially a Dr. and have continued to research and work closely with Older South Asian, Pakistani and Indian settled migrant women (I will tell you more about ‘my’ women and their experiences over the next few blogs).

In this blog, however, I am going to address the comments I sifted through before writing.

I have to address one comment, which to be honest I wasn’t surprise to read ‘I wish you p?!*&s would go back home!’ Do you know I am tired of hearing this and tired of the circle of ignorance that keeps coming back round and one that extends not only individuals who don’t know any better, but up to the ceiling and the high castles in which the social hierarchy live. There are two issues here, first where do you want us to go? that is to say that you think, I (or we) assign ourselves to the ethnic group you think, I (or we) are!! What if I am a blond haired, blue eyed British woman writing this? I am not, and nothing against you if you have blond hair and blue eyes, but this rhetoric just takes me back to the times of Hitler, WWII, and ethnic cleansing. Where do you want me to go when generations of me are born here? Go back to town in Yorkshire I was born in? or back to the village, in the UK, I live in?

Often it is easier for us to blame others rather than looking within. The PhD taught me a lot about being reflexive and I think this is where society is lacking, looking at ourselves before we look and label others. Many of the population in the UK have migration in their heritage (even if you don’t typically ‘look’ like a migrant) or look to ideas of future migration (ex-pats). Lets look at the 1960s and 70s when there was an influx of Asian and African-Carribean migration to the UK. What about the Irish migrants who were labeled into the same categories ‘No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs’. What about the current climate, Eastern-Eurpoeans, who also have a past migration history in the UK, and flux of Middle-Eastern migration around the world, in which we cry over the small proportion who are migrating to the UK, in our ignorance thinking Britain has opened its doors to hundreds of thousands. There are only 187 Syrian refugees who have been granted asylum in the UK, and not all of them are here .

I want to end this blog with a thought. Four years ago, when I completed the Asian Voices project we were at a time when we seemed to be living in peace and harmony, four years later we are in a time where our two steps forward have been halted by a hundred steps back. We have launched ourselves back to the 60s and 70s when race was on the cards and  skinheads would chase school children because of colour (see Asian Voices book), where the fear of Enoch Powell has turned into the fear of Donald Trump. I feel sad for the memories of the days gone by, and the fear that has turned race into religious hatred. I can only hope for a peaceful world in which suffering across the globe stops, and our children grow up without being othered through race, religion, ethnicity or even their class, which we too face through the battle of the ‘Grammar School’! We are living in a Global society, so there is no where for me to go back home, this is my home, because where I am, is what I become.

Asian Voices Book


Buy your copy of Asian Voices: First Generation Migrants by Nafhesa Ali through the University of Huddersfield.

Contacting the Director of the Centre for Oral History Research, Stephen Dorril on or Nafhesa Ali, Project manager on Priced at £5 inc p&p and £4 for each additional copy. Individual copies are available at £4 each.

Asian Voices documents a collection of oral history interviews and personal photographs with the memories of real life experiences from the South Asian community. It celebrates the stories of local people; how they coped with the English weather and language difficulties, where they shopped, prayed and the milkman who sold them everything from live chickens to milk.

Published by the University of Huddersfield in collaboration with the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Oral History Society Conference 2009

The Oral History Society Conference was held in Glasgow on the 3rd and 4th July 2009. There were many intriging oral historians from all over the world, who presented papers and workshops, demonstating how much work is done within the Oral History field in relation to taking oral histories from individuals, audiotrails, sport, media, art and theatre and much more. see Oral History website for further details

One of the conferences guest speakers was  Scottish Poet Rab Wilson, recent holder of the Robert Burns Fellowship and winner of 2008 McCash Scots Poetry Competition, who gave the conference guests a Glaswegian welcome!

It was lovely to meet fellow Oral Historians and gain an insight into the work done in Oral History worldwide.

Islamia Girls High School

Islamia Girls High School

Islamia Girls High School

Oral history training has now started at Islamia Girls High School, Thornton Lodge, Huddersfield. We have trained Year 9 and 10, the techniques behind good interviewing skills and looked at individual heritage. The girls had fun using the digital recorders to record each other on their family background and heritage.

I will be going back to train Years 7 and 8, and hope to look at what they might pack in their suitcase if they were moving from England to Pakistan, India or Bangladesh.


I find the most interesting question I ask people in my Oral History research is where do you see your home? Now for you and I this may be a straight forward answer; but if you were born in another country and came to England as a child or even later on in life, where would you see your home? 



It still fascinates me the length people went to, to build a better life for themselves which I am grateful to as I being British Asian would not be here if they hadn’t done so, but this sacrifice didn’t just affect the Asian community, but Irish, Afro-Caribbean and many others communities that still have to migrate from their homeland after conflict, due to poverty and to seek a better life. The roots they hold are firm passing on their proud cultural heritage and traditions from their birthplace, but once rooted in England they are nourished by the new culture and grow with it enriching everyone around them. 

home is where the heart is

home is where the heart is

In my lifetime and through my research, I have encountered many people in this situation; my parents themselves have dual heritage, my dad maybe less so as he came to Huddersfield at the age of five so sees himself as British, but my mother who came when she was eighteen, still a young age, but as she left her family in Pakistan she strongly felt that Pakistan was still her home. It was only after her parents died that her connections weakened and despite her siblings still living there and her mother’s home still standing, her heart now belongs in Huddersfield with her children, her home and her life. 

Now for the first time this year my granddad who came to England in 1960 has gone to Pakistan. He is in his late 70’s and my grandma is not far behind, now they will go to Pakistan a few times in the year probably eight weeks here and eight weeks there…their birthplace is Pakistan, their home is England they have the best of both worlds.

Boys mehndi – food and more food

Even though the family is from Huddersfield and lives in Huddersfield, the boy’s Mehndi was the only event actually held in Huddersfield. Now firstly, there was a big debate about where we should hold the event; my dad wanting to hold the mehndi at the Pakistani Community Centre on Clare Hill and I wanting it at the Hudawi Cultural Centre on Great Northern Street. Both venues are completely different size wise and atmosphere, most people now choose the Hudawi centre as it is bigger and hall like, but no matter how hard I tried to persuade my dad, like always dad stuck to his guns and won – his argument was that I had my mehndi there, my brother had his so it was now tradition ??!! So this was where the boy’s mehndi was held.

We started off at my mum’s house dipping strawberries, grapes and various other fruits into milk and white chocolate…mmmm for the rasom (in which aunties, cousins feed the groom traditionally Indian sweets, but we replaced them with a fruit assortment [only as many of us don’t have a taste for them] then the guests place henna on the palm and give small amounts of money, which will be given to charity). Once we had everything for the rasom we made our way to the Community Centre to set up the stage and general décor. We had a green and yellow balloon arch with a green, yellow and gold back drop and yellow chrysanthemums on each table setting. Yellow and green are traditional mehndi colours…

So my brother came in dressed plainly and the sisters and cousins walked him in carrying a red deputta (scarf) over him. The reason for this I don’t know but I think red signifies marriage as this is the traditional colour for the bride’s outfit. Once he was seated, we brought in our henna plates and did a little dance before placing the plates with tea lights in front of him… photo opportunity… next the rasom again more photos and after the food… no pics here everyone was too busy enjoying the food LOL.

After this we all went home to carry on with the dancing and merriment on the last day of singlehood….

Countdown to the wedding begins x

Family and commitment

Many of the people  I interview came to England, leaving behind their families and looking for a better life. South Asia had plenty to offer, but in the 50′ and 60’s after the partition of Pakistan and India the doors were open to go to England and work, earn money so they could come back and build better homes for themselves in the birthland. So forty years on what happened? Still living in England doing manual labour jobs, working all hours of the day only having been back 2 or 3 times what stopped them from going back to see their parents and siblings? Well parents had died, brothers and sisters moved on and their life and culture had become imbedded with Britishness. Children now see themselves as not ‘British Asian’, but ‘British’ born and bred here, what else were they? The dual cultures exist, traditional food is eaten not only at home but throughout the town- curry is a national dish, cultural events celebrated we see Eid and Diwali lights up as well as Christmas lights and jobs are worked by people of all background and cultures. So is this what our parents and grandparents paved for us? This is the better life they wanted!

Tell me about your experiences… what was it like growing up? Where your family is from? and how do you see yourself in terms of your heritage?