Avtar Kalsi

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My background is, I was born and raised in Handsworth. I was born into a Sikh family. My Dad originates from Africa and my Mother is from India. I consider myself to be Indian and I follow the Indian culture, but also being in Britain, living in Britain, as part of an active society, you have to embrace the British culture as well.

One of the first memories of my father is probably crawling, [my] first steps sort of thing. I have flashbacks of my father then.

The stereotype of Asian families pushing their sons and daughters into certain trades or certain careers and jobs. He has never told me, ‘you have to go out and do this’. What he has kind of said, is ‘no matter what you do, as long as you enjoy what you do and you do it with one-hundred percent’.

Growing up and hearing my Dad’s stories and his childhood stories that he had when he was in Africa, speaking with his brothers and sisters and family. You know we have roots coming back from India, and I see that through my parents, especially my Dad and my Grandad as well. Because my Grandad moved from India, when he was very small, toddler age, to Africa and then they settled there. My Grandad had his business there and he was looking after a large family.

“I have a lot of respect because when you have had to leave everything that you have known and come to a different country there is no safety net, there is nothing to catch you. Although they had a profitable business in Africa, they weren’t allowed to bring anything across with them, so they had to start from scratch. Especially my Grandad, when he came we had a large family so he had to go out and work and support the whole family”

You know, there is a history of trade in our family. My Grandad was a plumber and he was a carpenter – so my Dad knows those skills, of carpentry, he doesn’t like pluming so much he knows how to do them. I consider myself to kind of follow that line. Because I have that passion to want to do carpentry as well, so I have kind of learn’t with him. There is a wealth of experience that I can see from my farther, which has being passed from my Grandad, and there is a passion within our family to work, especially in trades.

I have always known my Dad to be a fair person. Growing up, from a very young age, I have memories of him getting into a tussle or a fight, at the age of five or six, and you get the whole – ‘I’m going to go tell your Dad’ sort of thing. I always used to think, if I could get there first, I could tell my side of the story and my Dad would side with me. But what used to happen is, I would get to my Dad and tell him, ‘he kicked me, or that boy has done this, or whatever’. And what he would ask is ‘what did you do?’. So it wasn’t like he was just going to side with me – the first thing I said. There was always getting both of the sides, to kind of see what had happened.

I remember my Dad speaking of my Grandad. He came home from work with a couple of bicycles for his kids and presented them to them. But the neighbour’s kid was playing with them as well, and obviously his kids have got brand new bicycles and he saw the neighbour’s kid and thought – he looks left out. So he went out there and then, went back to the bicycle shop and got another bike and gave it to the neighbor’s kid so that they could all play together. It is things like that.

My thoughts on Izzat are that, I think everyone prides themselves on having respect. Now for me, to respect a person or somebody who has done something, it takes a long time. It is like trust, it’s a thing that takes a long time to build. It’s not something that is given or it is not based on how much money a person has; which some people do put next to each other. If a person is very wealthy they will treat them differently and say they respect them. But, wealth can be inherited, respect can’t. I think you have to live your life in a way that creates respect.

He [my Dad] always gives a lot to the community, to the people around him. Now I actually, I get frustrated on his behalf sometimes, because sometimes when I see people that are in need, that need help – we all as a family, we have been brought up to help people as much as possible – but the problem I’ve seen occur is that people take advantage of him. My Dad, I think my Dad finds it hard to say no to anybody. Whereas I have seen it where people have come and used him, but he has kind of been happy to do the work. So I sometimes don’t agree totally with that, but I think it is just his nature. He likes to help people as much as possible. He doesn’t really expect anything in return for it.

Listen to the audio version of this interview below

  • Date: 26th June 2013
  • Client: Avtar Kalsi
  • Filed under: Four Fathers