As I walk my daily path from the car park in town to the restaurant , I look at the many changes around me and I start to reminisce about my childhood in brighton and my summers in india with my family.
I find myself thinking of how we got here, my dad, a haematologist arrived in 1968 and then followed by my mum in 1970 with my two brothers.
It was an unfamiliar terrain and at times, quite hostile for my mum taking the kids to school in her saree and not speaking much English at all. It was a far cry from the streets of Jamnagar, Gujarat. Brighton was a very different place then.
My dad founded a small group comprising a Bengali family, a sikh family and a muslim family. They all used to get together at our house and my mum used to cook her famous “mamaji” chicken for everyone and her chapattis would be stacked up fresh and devoured just as quickly as they were made. They used to play cards with matchsticks as the currency and would be up till the early hours in the morning.
Today the indian community here is of 100’s of families and the popularity of real indian food goes from strength to strength
In the early days my dad was well known in the ‘bangladeshi’ restaurants as he used to finish work and between calls and when finishing work he would pop into the kitchens and always ask the chefs to make ‘ home style ‘ food and not the food they were marketing for the public. he would then bring some home and say to my mum to take a break from cooking and my mother would always say “I can make much better at home” and so the dialogue would continue…….
My dads passion for good food would start early in the morning… he would always have to have his freshly prepared indian tea made with freshly crushed ginger and cardamom with ladles of sugar. And if this was not on time then all hell would break loose.
He loved entertaining and the indian hospitality sowed its seed in me . The highlight for my dad was to invite the touring indian cricket team to our house, Back in1971. I was still in nappies but pictures of kapil dev, bishan singh bedi, sunil gavaskari in our house eating puran poli ( a chapati stuffed with jaggery, lentils and spices )
Became famous in our house.
There was nowhere to eat proper indian food in brighton then, so my dad walked into sussex cricket club and entered the indian dressing room and invited the team for homestyle food. They all gladly came as they were missing the taste of india
As the youngest member of the family, I had to follow my mum and dad when they went to india . my brothers would be looked after by friends. most summers mum would fly with me first and then my dad would follow a bit later
I remember the old Mumbai airport , bustling with chaos and loud voices and drama everywhere.
Getting from the airport to the train station was an ordeal and then jostling your way to a booth in the train without getting your head knocked sideways from someones oversized luggage was the aim of the game. my job was to be hurled through the window and save a booth for my mum and uncle who had come to pick us up. I always used to say “cant we have a reservation in 1st class” and I would get silenced with the questions of affordability
What seemed like an endless journey of 18 hours in the train from Mumbai to Jamnagar actually now fuels my most fondest memories……
The chaiwallah bringing his crushed spiced tea and I would lick my lips at the clinking of the small glasses in his hand
We would stop at a station where we would order a Thali .
it arrived piping hot with chapattis, dal , subzi and some pickles.
It would not stay on the plate long and we would hand the metal plates back through the windows as the train departs the station.
Further down the line another street vendor would negotiate his way down the carriage with “roasted dal”
A paper cone with roasted lentils in it and sprinkled with chilli and spices mixed with red onions and a squeeze of fresh lime
This was just pure heaven for me as a snack…
So a little snooze and in the early hours of the morning we arrive at our destination
I come back to modern day brighton with my latte in my hand as I make my way through the laines to the restaurant and smile at my colourful childhood as I unlock the door to indian summer and then hear my mum’s voice talking in my head “wouldn’t it be great if we could open a real indian restaurant”