Bindi Kalsi

My name is Harminder Kalsi, but they call me Bindi Kalsi. I am from a Sikh background, born and brea in Kenya, moved to Uganda. I would like to say deported, but exiled is the term I’d use, to England by President Idi Amin in 1972. I came to this country on a cold, wet September evening. It was just appalling, very home sick, it was dark (giggling) so it wasn’t very nice. So my introduction to England was really kind of dismal. I now live in Handsworth Birmingham. We have lived here since ’73.

The one memory that is kind of endearing, that I have, is that my Father used to travel a lot, we owned a sand supply company, but the most endearing memory I have is that on his return trips he used to get fruit of all sorts on the way, because they just sell them by the sacks, you know by basket loads. And I can remember waking up one morning, it was late night, maybe 1am or 2am in the morning, and I woke because of all the hub-bub going on in the house, and waking up and walking out onto the verandah and seeing a huge heap of fruit. That is the most endearing memory I have of my Dad.

He travelled out to Kenya at the age of around 3 or 4 my Father. My Great Grand Uncle was the first person [of my family] to migrate from the Punjab to Kenya. This was when the British were making, installing, the railway from the coast to Uganda. My Great Grand Uncle was there in Tsavo when all the Lion attacks were taking place, and all this kind of stuff. I recently found out about all of this before my Dad passed away. And then my Grand Father migrated with my Grand Mum and my Dad who was at the age of 4 at the time.

He lived there most of his life. I think, traditionally he was brought up with this old, no not old, but what was culturally appropriate at that time, In terms of their upbringing was very insular, in terms of all the religious teachings, all of the other stuff. Strict in terms of the values that they had. He was very clear, he was very black and white, there weren't any grey’s in his vocabulary. You were either right or you were wrong, and that was how he was. He was a strict disciplinarian, and as a young child I remember all he had to do was look at us and we would freeze. He was that strict. And no harm done but that’s what we knew and that how we were brought up at the time. Obviously I bring my children up in a different way, but that’s how they were.

Then we moved from Kenya to Uganda when the company was split between Partners for some other reasons that I am not going to go into. He they moved to Uganda and started working as a project manager on one of the largest hotels that was being built at the time. And then settled in Uganda and had a large house, servants, cars, people that worked for us. It was great, it was fun. That’s how I remember him.

"No relationship with any Father is on an even keel. You have your ups and downs. On the whole, I think I got to know him better as I became a Dad. I think you go though a period, when your young, where he was my hero, he knows everything, and he is approachable, he is loving"

Not that he wasn’t loving as he went on, but because as a teenager your trying to find your own space, your own kind of understanding and awareness, you tend to rebel against certain things, and obviously, you know, because we were in England, we were doing things that they didn’t do, and he would tell us off and I’d be moody, and there were times when he’d be moody about it, and he would be angry. There were moments when there was lots of laughter, there were times when there was lots of cuddling, you know, which was lovely, but the thing is as you become older you begin to realize the things that your parents have done for you, and what you do for your children. Then you understand that it is not something that is written in text books. You do the best you can at the time.

With the recent influx of communities from Africa, I can know buy Ugali, which is corn flour, and make Ugali, which is the African stable diet in Kenya and Uganda, and I can get green bananas and stuff like that, which is wonderful to have that kind of influx and input. I think from our communities perspective, from any community, one way of assimilating and integrating within a community is being able to share food. Its one of the most common and basic items within a home, and if you can share your food you are sharing literally everything with people.