Brij Sood

Brij Mohran Sood, India, 1956

Coming to England

"We were not brought up on this culture of benefits. There is no benefit system in India at all, you all had to look after yourself or earn a living, or the family if need be, the family supports each other. So there is not benefit culture, and we never had it in mind to go and draw some money or benefits.

I came here on the 9th December 1965, and I went looking for a job in the local Exchange on the 10th or 11th of December. It is a sad story, which still lurks in my mind all the time…

I was looking for obviously an office job, because that was what I had done all my life. My wife could not pick up a job immediately, because we had a two year-old baby, and we had to make some arrangement for him first. And I went to the local Exchange and I said, I'm looking for an office job, and I told him what my qualifications were, and what my experiences were.


The Sood family celebrating Christmas at home in Dulwich, 2000

The man sitting there said, there is no chance of me getting any office job and I could do a labour job, unloading. And he said, "No there are no office jobs at all", and I said "No, I have a lot of experience of office jobs and I was working, and I have a background in law, and worked in office jobs".

And this fellow rather bluntly told me, "The chances of you getting an office job, are the same as of snow falling in Delhi". That is exactly what he told me!

I was just shocked by what he meant by that, and obviously he thought I didn't know anything about snow. And I wished I could tell him that I had seen more snow than he probably has seen in his life! But that is exactly what he told me that I couldn't get an office job, and he offered me some labour job of unloading, and I declined it and I came back and I said, "No! I have no intention of doing that!"

So, then I spoke about this to a friend, and a couple of days later, he introduced me to someone in an office, and I got a job as a clerk, and that's where I started in London. It was not what I was doing, but obviously you had to take what was available, because I wanted to work and earn a living."

Family life

"Of course because we live in this country, we are now residents of this country, I have spent 40 years of my life here, the children have spent all of their lives here. They have to live in this country, and we should also integrate. This is part of integration.


Krishna Sood with her first son Kapil, 1963

Christmas is the most important festival and occasion of this country, so how can we just ignore it? No we cannot ignore it, and when Christmas comes, the feeling of Christmas is there. You go out in the shops, and you see the programmes on TV and it's all about Christmas, and no, we do not want to be left out of it. Even our youngest granddaughter already knows what is a "Christmas tree". "Cistmas tree" she says. No we would like them to know; they are for all practical purposes residents, citizens of this country now, and therefore they are British nationals.

We may have come from other lands, but we still have links with that land. We cannot divorce ourselves from the country, we don't want to. But then the children must not only participate in the enjoyment of the celebration of Christmas, they must also know about it. We encourage them, and we have a Christmas tree in our house every Christmas and everything, and on that day we celebrate in our own way, not with a turkey, we have a cake, and we have a pudding…Christmas is very much part of our lives now."

"The children, after finishing their education, they started work so that because we were still one family unit, this obviously improved the financial situation of the family unit. We are still one family unit, obviously we are happy because we have a much better place to live now, but it's all, I must say, due to the hard work put in by the family as a whole, and the family sticking tighter, which has made it possible, which would not be possible individually.

It is in the Asian culture, that not only when the children are grown up and finished the education, their schooling or jobs, but getting them settled in life, and married, is also considered to be a parents' obligation, if not responsibility.


Kapil Sood outside the house, New Cross Road, 1967

There is something to be said about Indian culture, and Asian culture, in broad terms. The families do tend to stick tighter and they care for each other, and it is perhaps in their blood. That is true in this family; we care for the children, and in turn they care for us."

"We tend to be really close in terms of family. The term "leaving the nest", which you hear and is very common here, you know "when are they going to leave the nest?". I never heard of that in my younger days, and you still don't hear of that in India. There's no such thing as leaving the nest, as children tend to stay."

Daily Life

"We survived on earnings of £8.00 or £9.00 a week. Again like people from the east, we have it in the blood to save a little out of what they earn.

We never forgot that formula, and though my earnings were very small, and my wife couldn't work because of the baby, if she'd put the baby in a nursery it would cost even more. So we eventually tried to save, even if it was only a pound a week, so we saved out of that. And it was after a year that she started working part time, and we left our son with a baby-minder, and things became a bit easier.


In the front garden at New Cross, 1966

We both worked and saved, and we were able to buy a place in 1969. So effectively within four years of coming here with only £9.00, we had saved enough to put a deposit of about twenty per cent on a place, and we bought our first place in Peckham. It was £2600, that was the average price of a terrace three bed-roomed house, yes £2600. And there were a lot of people after the house, and we were able to put up the highest deposit for the house which was about £700-£800. The sellers preferred that, the bigger deposit, and we raised our first mortgage and bought a place."
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