A letter that changed life of ambitious young man

Mark Andrews

It is 48 years since a letter dropped on the doormat of Manmohan Singh Maheru’s home in the Punjab region of India.

The letter, from the British High Commission in New Delhi, informed the young man that his application to live in England had been approved.

"I was really excited" he recalls. As was the case with thousands of other ambitious young men from India during 1960s.

‘That letter marked the passport to a new beginning, a land of opportunity where drive and hard work would offer untold rewards that would never be on offer in his homeland.

"When I was a student in India, Britain was the unobtainable idealistic dream, the land of milk and honey, the land of poets and prophets, of sages and seers, and above all of beauty and freedom," he says.

The plan was to stay for five years, but almost half a century on, Mohan – as he is known to his friends – is still here, and now a pillar of the Wolverhampton community.

A director of two manufacturing companies in the city, he employees a total of 60 people, and as vice-president of the J W Hunt charity football tournament, he has helped raise thousands of pound for charity over the years.

He has now put his memories on paper in a new book, Four Decades in England, which looks at British culture – and life in the West Midlands – from an immigrant perspective.

"I think for most immigrants the idea was to work hard for three or five years and then return to India and buy a tractor," he says. "Back then in India, farming was still done by bullocks."

But he soon found that the rewards on offer for anybody prepared to work hard in British manufacturing industry far outstripped any opportunities he would get in his homeland.

When he arrived in Britain in 1965, he had just £ 3 in his pocket, and his only possessions were in a bag slung over his back.

Having arranged to stay with a friend in Finchfield, he traveled by train from Euston and remembers there was almost a feeling of disbelief at some of the sights he saw.

"I remember seeing the crowds at the football, I had never seen anything like that before," he says.

And although he could already speak English when he arrived, it was a while before he became tuned in to the local accents.

He didn’t think much of the weather, but said the warmth and kindness from his new neighbors more than made up for it.

Even so, he is quite frank that the main motive for staying was financial.

"I worked in a metal polishing works for a few years, and the money was better than a teacher got in India," he adds.

His company Merridale Polishing and Plating is still going strong after 40 years, and he now has another company manufacturing polishing mops for companies in the metal industry.

Mohan now live in the Ettingshall Park area and says he has no regrets about taking up the opportunity to make his home in the Midlands all those years ago.


(Published in Kafla Intercontinental - Jan-April 2014)