Sabir Hussain

I was too young I suppose, to remember a great deal when my father left. But I do have certain amount of memories of him. We were a farming community living in a village, I was about 61/2 7 years old when my father came over to England, but prior to that he worked in Karachi and I remember my mother and I living in Karachi with him and then going back to our village. Then my father actually came over to England in 1959. Going back to it is a very very long time and my memories are not so sharp on that. Very ,very feint memories that we had relatives who lived some miles away and we had to walk through some sandy bushy type of area, it wasn’t so heavily populated. There were only a few houses in between, compared to what Karachi is today it was very barren in those days.

Well it was early March in 1967 when my mother I we came to England I remember coming with some fairly sort of thinnish type of clothing and it was very cold here and that was the first type of thing which struck me..and my father on the very next day he took me out to get me some warm clothing and so on and so forth so those are first sort of things. The other thing which struck me was that the buildings, the houses they seemed very similar to each other compared to houses say in Pakistan which were all different shapes and sizes and build and so on and here it seemed as though that every street you went on they just had similar houses.

"I was 13 and half at that stage and I went to school in Acocks Green called Heartfield Crescent it was a secondary modern school as I learnt later that they were used to be 11+ examinations and children who were bright went to grammar schools and the rest who failed the examinations went on to these other schools and I was sent there as I had come at the ages when I was 13 and a half and no standard grading could be applied at that stage."

This was 1967, I was the only coloured boy in that school and of course the other more important feature was that I couldn’t speak a word English. I had very little knowledge of English I could read a little bit but I could not speak because my mother tongue was Punjabi. So that was another dilemma which I faced as I went through school but strange enough my Maths was very strong and I think in the very first week or in the second week we sat a Maths test and Mr Mccuan who was our Maths teacher he gave me this paper which I did, and I scored very high marks on that. So he of course took me straight to the headmaster Mr Cooke and he said to him either this child is very bright or he’s copied it straight from a book. So Mr Cooke started asking questions which I couldn’t really answer a great deal because my English at that stage as I said was really next to nothing but he soon discovered that I wasn’t copying from anywhere and my Maths was quite strong so then Mr Cooke made a decision that what we’ll do is during lunch time we’ll go together for lunch which used to be a hour and half back in those days and from refectory we’ll have lunch come back and Mr Cooke will teach me English and that’s what he did for the next 6 months and strange enough after 6 months I could speak or at least communicate in English and also read and so on and so forth.

Well in the beginning quite honestly I remember people saying things and laughing which I didn’t understand, but I could figure out that obviously there were certain names being called, there may have been certain things said to me and knowing that I didn’t understand other children would laugh at it and I would soon realize that something nasty is being said about me. I would let it go for once or twice but then after that I started getting angry and I started showing fists and so on to some of the children and even at the age of 13 and a half, I was 5 foot 6, 7 and some of the boys would get fairly scared in case I got angry with them, so that soon stopped.