Festivals of Our Lives Mr Pravant
I was born on 8th July 1939 in Kenya, east Africa. My father and my older brother worked as draughtsmen. I had five sisters and four brothers so you could say that we were a large family. Life was very good in Africa, we enjoyed the weather and the open spaces and life was less stressful.
I can remember from my early recollection celebrating Vaisakhi. In the morning mum and dad would wake us all up and we would take turns to have a bath. Our parents would buy us new clothes especially for the day. During the day we would all go to pray with all of my family and the rest of the community. We would go to the temple regularly throughout the year, but this day was special because people would turn up in their best clothes, bringing special food and sweets which were given to everyone. We would wish each other Happy Vaisakhi and my brothers, sisters and I used to enjoy the fireworks and watch with amazement.
In the 1950s there was an Independence Movement that was going on in Kenya against the British called the Mau Mau. In 1955 seeing all that was going on around us, my father decided it wasn't safe for us to stay in the country. He took all of us to India, where we stayed for four years. I was educated at Punjab University where I studied my Punjab Metric Examination.
In 1959 I went back to Kenya where I found a job in an office doing clerical work. I would work there for 1? years.
In 1961 I decided to come to England. A lot of people were coming and we were told by people that there were a lot of jobs and good opportunities to make something of yourself. I had a brother-in-law in England, so I stayed with him. It was quite a shock to see all the black smoke, the dirt on the streets and the weather was cold, it seemed as if it was raining all the time. I had several jobs, first I worked as a labourer on a building site, then I cleaned cars for a car company, then a hospital porter, I also sold ice cream, then I tried my hand at becoming a driving instructor, then I finally became a bus conductor.
In 1979 tragedy hit my family. I lost my wife in a very bad car crash. I was left with my four children, ages ranging from seven to fourteen years old. With the loss of my wife I was forced to give up my job so I could look after the children. During that time I became very ill and developed so many illnesses.
Vaisakhi in England was not the Vaisakhi of Africa, as life here was very busy. I was working seven days a week and sometimes seventeen hours a day in my first job as a builder's labourer, so I did not celebrate it at all in the first few years. I wasn't able to go to the Temple or anything like that because I was so tired after a day's work, life was work, work, and work. In later years I did start celebrating it. There is a Temple in Balsall Heath which I went to, I still go there today. Vaisakhi is still celebrated in the same way it was then back in Africa. We still have fireworks and food is cooked and given out on the day and people wish each other happy Vaisakhi.