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Times are a changin-Ridhi Chhabra

Britain: Seeing A Sea-Change

Ridhi Chhabra-fnbworld By Ridhi Chhabra/London



A street in London-fnbworld

All photos by the author. Copyright: Right Impact Media Inc.


A good conversation with a resident of long standing in a foreign land can lead to profound understanding of that country and its people. During my stay at Hemel Hempstead in England, I was all too curious to know how a country that ruled mine (India) has changed over the decades. I was fortunate in meeting the Ahuja couple, the Indian immigrants who settled in England about 45 years ago. 

The Ahujas-fnbworld

The Indian-born couple, now in their early 70s recollected their memories who came to London as newly wedded. “We arrived with a trifling three pounds in the mid 1970s, which is the amount of money that was allowed to bring in at that time. Our respect for the adopted country, its laws, our hard work and perseverance is what has got us where we are today in leading a dignified life. All young people can work towards their goals with persistent determination and make the most of their youth,” asserts Mrs. Ahuja.


The Victoria Station-fnbworld


Elaborating on the changes that he has witnessed, Mr. Ahuja says “One of the things that has changed the most is job opportunity. When I came here, I remember that if someone walked out of a job, within a matter of half-an-hour, the person could land up with another one; as long as one wasn’t shy of doing the assigned work. There were always people who thought it was below their dignity to work in a production unit. But now even those jobs are gone - there are no manufacturing sites, only warehouses. The disappearance of manufacturing units is not a good sign for any country. Due to this, we are dependent on a country like China”. 


Primark clothings chain-fnbworld


“Made in Britain is nowhere to be seen. Our manufacturing jobs are taken up by China and its policy seems to be to provide low quality goods so that people have to make purchases again and again. There is no quality. That is why these days Primark (clothing retailer chain) is number one in the UK. The quality of the material used/manufacturing is the same that is for instance, for Marks and Spencer, but there is wide disparity in the prices,” says Mrs. Ahuja.


Famous London Buses-fnbworld

The land and the people have changed too, Mr. Ahuja shares “London has changed quite a lot over the years, any green corner the developers find, they build a flat over there. This is because the place has become too crowded. People are not as honest as they used to be. Europeans are coming here in search of jobs but you can see them begging and stealing on roads. All this could not be seen earlier at the tourist spots but now things are changing”.

Talking about the dissimilarity between the beliefs of the old and young generation, he says: “This is a welfare state, which means that the state supports you where you are hard up. Old people who are hard up have the right to take help from the state, but they do not take it. They think it is below their dignity; they have great self respect and feel as if they are asking for some kind of a handout although they are entitled to it. Whereas young people think it is their right. This is a big difference in the generations”.

                                                   {Below: File Photo}

Maggie Jones-fnbworldWhile Maggie Jones (44, name changed), whom I met during an evening walk at the famous Regent’s Park, said: “UK’s climate has changed drastically and we have witnessed extremes - the worst flooding and hot temperatures in the recent past. Technology too, has taken its toll and now children from 10 years onwards are busy with their hand held devices, therefore, there is less social interaction among various age groups. An added fear is that of terrorism. Nobody feels safe going to a public place, especially to a mall or to the theatre”. 

Following the Brexit, I asked Mr. Ahuja about his opinion. He said: “The fate of British exit is unknown. I had voted to stay. Time alone will tell how as a country it faces up to it. I was talking to my father this morning and he asked me the same question. Margaret Thatcher was a very strong lady and a great Prime Minister, she never wanted to be in the common market but the cabinet surrounding her kicked her out. David Cameron, who wanted to stay in the common market, has just resigned from the same post. My view is that either we should not have joined the EU, but if we have joined it, no big point to come out of it. Now, slowly, countries like France and Germany are feeling the same as immigrants are not coming only to England, they are going all over the continent”. 

Londoners on a busy day-fnbworld


“Most of these countries do not like the English because after hundreds of years of wars within the European continent, all of a sudden we want to become brothers. It is just like today, it will be unbelievable if India and Pakistan say that we want to unite because there is so much of enmity and bad blood that something like this would be impossible. Moreover, internal politics here was getting worse as there was a division among people who wanted to stay and those who wanted to leave".


"People who have voted to leave are the people of our generation because they have seen the good times in England and are not used to seeing so many foreigners coming in. The young people have voted to stay. Old people comprise 21% of five crore people which is the population of this country. The unemployed English people who don’t want to work have also voted to come out. But those who are in good jobs want to stay because their jobs are linked to Europe. So, this is how the voting pattern has been. Now, with the exit, we have gone into the unknown, we do not know what is going to happen, what will be our financial position. Within two days, our currency has dipped, the pound has lost value. Who knows how much it will lose in the future”.

I wondered  how much more different things would have been 30-years ago. I thanked them all for the candid views and bid adios with the hope that the apparently gloomy new world order will change for the better soon. 

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