Friday, 21 August 2009

My first real blog

1. I was born into a Jewish family. My parents were very Jewish, though not strictly Orthodox. I have one brother, David, 3 years younger than me, who lives in York. He has 3 adopted children and 6 grandchildren, all under 5.

2. Till I was about 16, I was taught that the people in the world consisted of Jews and non-Jews. Then I joined a branch of the International Friendship League and discovered people from different countries, especially India. There were a lot of Indians in London in those days, and I did meet people from East Pakistan, now Bangla Desh.  But to me then they were all exotic and exciting, but I didn't know much about the difference between India and Pakistan.

3. When I was 17 I wrote to an Indian penfriend magazine. My letter was published and I received hundreds of replies. I also had penfriends from many other countries in those days. It was all "snail mail" then - no computers, email or mobile phones lol. It was fun and exciting waiting for the postman each day. And I would spend hours in my bedroom writing letters to all my penfriends. I learned so much about other countries; it was fascinating.

4. One of my penfriends from India was very different from the rest. His name was Pyare Shivpuri. He was a young documentary film maker and he wrote marvellous letters and seemed to live a glamorous lifestyle. I was a very impressionable teenager at the time! Well, our correspondence got romantic and he managed to come to England to take a film course. I arranged for him to stay with some Indian friends of mine. My parents didn't like him, as you can imagine. But after a couple of years we got married!

5. A year later our lovely daughter Avanti was born. She is a very special, unique person and I fully believe that the main reason Pyare and I got together was to produce Avanti. As it happened we were really totally unsuited and the marriage only lasted about 2 years. He was 6'3" tall and I was only 5'0". He was intellectual and I was not. He was of Hindu origin from Kashmir, but religion was not one of our differences. I did try to learn Hindi then, even the script, but have forgotten how to read and write it now. I still understand it a bit when spoken.

6. Even after my marriage broke up and we got divorced, I was still fascinated by India and still had some good penfriends there. I always wanted to go there, and finally managed it, with Avanti, when she was aged 8. We travelled around for 4 months, visiting Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta (as they were then), Shimla, Ambala, Chandigarh, Agra, Meerut and other places. We stayed with friends everywhere and most people were so charming and hospitable and made us so welcome. I loved it but Avanti didn't. She was a bit disappointed that she didn't get any decent presents on her 9th birthday, which we spent with Sneh in Shimla.

7. I worked from when I was 16 till I retired at 60. I was a secretary in various firms and organisations. My last and best jobs were in Oftel (then Office of Telecommunications - now called Ofcom) and the DTI (Department of Trade and Industry - now called BERR [Business Enterprise Regulatory Reform]). Everything changes here.... Well, I am glad I am not working now. With the recession and everything, I would have lost my job for sure.

8. Twenty years after my first marriage, I got married again, to Sam Vroom. He is an ordinary Englishman, born in Liverpool, worked in the Post Office. The only difference about him is that he is black - well brown really. His grandfather came from St Kitts in the West Indies but his mother was born in England. We are still together, and he is a lot older than me. So our real lives are as an old couple living in an upstairs flat in London with our cat Smudge. Quite boring and lots of mobility problems. That is why I love my computer and my online life lol.

9. Now what you have been waiting to know, I think lol. Why do I love Pakistan?  To start with, I'd better explain about the first time I made friends with a Pakistani person.
I used to go on trips to France and Belgium to buy cheaper cigarettes. On one visit to Brussels, about four years ago, I went into a small shop to buy cigs and the man in the shop made me a cup of coffee and let me sit down - which is not usual in shops, is it? He was Pakistani, named Assad. We had a nice chat and that was that. But I remembered him, and when I wanted to go to Brussels again I wrote him a letter to the shop. I gave him my mobile number and email address and he phoned me and we started chatting online and became good friends. I went there again and met him and we got on really well. Just after that he went back to Pakistan - I thought to Lahore but in fact to Narowal, and I didn't hear from him for many months. I was worried because of the terrible earthquake there, but he was unhurt. He came back to Belgium for a few months, but he was not happy there and went back to Pakistan again, this time for good. So that was my first Pakistani friend, who made a great impression on me.

10. In London there are lots of Pakistani people working in the shops, and I got talking to some of them. They are very friendly and helpful to this funny little old lady and we have nice chats. Those in the local Sainsbury's supermarket where I do my shopping all know me and help me to find a trolley and reach things down from the high shelves. So I got to know more Pakistani people and found them very friendly.

11. I also found some more Pakistani friends on Facebook and recently on Twitter. My very special friend Shehzad is much younger than me, maybe doesn't write perfect English, but I think he is a wonderful caring person and I am happy to help him in whatever way I can. So now I am happy to have a lot of friends in and from Pakistan. You are so kind and welcoming and I love you all, and feel so happy to be part of a team - the Go Green campaign and rooting for #Pakistan on Twitter. It's great! I am trying to improve my knowledge of Urdu (not the script) and can understand some of what Twitters write. I really hope I will be able to go to Pakistan one day and meet some of you and see your beautiful country.