Breaking The Silence is a book of writing by Asian women put out by Centerprise in 1984. In it various women, identified only by their first name, wrote of their experiences. The work is in English as well as a handwritten in their mother tongue. There’s writing in Bengali, Gujerati, Punjabi, Hindi, and Urdu.
No Money In My Hand
My mother’s heart will break if she come to know or see my life here today. I was very special to my mother among her four children. I was brought up under the Muslim religion. I had to stop school at age of 12 years. I lived in Boroda, my father had a soap shop – we were not poor, compare to the lots of people in India we were not short of food and clothing. At 19, I had to get married to my cousin. My father was very happy about this marriage as he was in England earning lots of money. My mother was against this marriage. Because sometimes he used to come to Boroda and stayed in our house. During those days he shouted at us for every little cause. I did not mind that much though he is 15 years older than me, coming to England excited me more than anything else. When some of our cousins used to come and stay with us, we used to take them to see Hindi coloured film. All those films sing song in London, Paris, New York made a great impression on my mind. Still today very large number of Indian people look at England with high admiration. Those who manage to come here and their occasional gifts back home make quite a sensation. My husband is a religious man – he regrets he could not go for higher education and wants our children to become doctors. He works in a dress factory and always moans about it.
After I came here, all joy and dream disappeared. I felt lost, really completely lost. At airport, looking all around me so many people and so much things happening – still today I can’t explain that confusion. All the way from airport first by tube and then by bus to his Stoke Newington bed-sitter. Worse to come carrying heavy bags. I started to realise my husband is very mean though he impresses family back home with gifts. He helped me first few days how to use gas, shops and laundry etc. He always talked about money how much someone can earn here. Because of my lack of English I started to feel very unhappy – I did not have any friend either. Whole day I cried, on top of it my husband come home and showed his temper and beat me up even. He is very unhappy at his work. He felt better when I started to make dresses at home. All day long making dresses then cooking good Indian meal, again sit down with machine – I really feel like committing suicide – but I am now pregnant. We moved to a council flat near Whitechapel Market. It is one of those old block of flats on the ground floor. Group of 11/12 years boys broke one of our windows. I could hear from inside shouting calling Paki, Black, etc. My husband could not take it anymore. One day he slapped the leader of the gang and took him to his mother next block.
After that incident they quieten down a lot. Salim was born. Still I feel very lonely and no friend – my husband does not want me to mix with other Indian/Pakistani people I meet at Halal meat shop/market. All my relative live at Leicester. My husband came to know about a drop-in centre for women and under 5, from clinic. For my English he took me there with baby. Though I don’t speak and understand English they accepted me very nicely. Everybody try to talk to me and love Salim. I feel very happy when I go there. Now I understand a bit more English and can say one or two sentences. I want to speak English but think always I will be wrong. I have got another girl now Nargis. It is so hard managing on my own shopping, cooking, laundry also whenever my husband can get some work to make dresses he bring it at home. He only thinks of money and food never thinks or treats me as human. I know lots of women like me only get used for earning money and keeping home. I have no money in my hand. Being in England I am able to earn at home and being Indian I have no right on my own earning. I cannot revolt it will cause lot of unpleasantness in the family. He is my Uncle’s son. I can’t talk about it. I don’t want to shatter my father’s dream ‘I am happy and well off here’. Man get money mad after coming here.
Now I think all these unhappiness and pressure showing on Salim – he is more than 3 years – he is not talking and behind for his age. For me now only I can see more unhappiness – I wish I was in India just as I was.