Don's Diary

July 19, 1996

Thursday. Wake feeling cold and still jet- lagged. It is only 36 hours since I returned from a two-month research trip to Pakistan and Azad Kashmir. Rush in to attend the 10am short-listing meeting for the new combined posts of PhD student and IT demonstrator which were advertised while I was away. There is a strong candidate for my project on changing patterns of household formation in the South Asian communities in Britain.

Unfortunately there are good applicants for all four potential projects but only three posts, and with the current budget cuts some hard decisions will have to be made at final interview stage. A brief meeting with the reader in social policy to confirm my commitment to a joint funding application focused on the British Kashmiri community. Then across Luton to the community centre where one of my research students is helping at a health fair targeted at women from the Pakistani/Kashmiri community. First person I meet is a health visitor who spent a month in Azad Kashmir two years ago and stayed with the same family in Kotli with whom we had just stayed. Go across the road for a samosa with the student and get tempted by the boxes of Pakistani mangoes.

Friday. Have to face the fact that I must tackle the accounts for the research trip. Most money changing was done through contacts without any paperwork and that, combined with receipts in Urdu for purchases, is not a situation our accounts department will find easy to work with. Also ring the university's insurers for a claim form for the cost of my day in hospital in Mirpur after becoming dehydrated- just as well that one of our contacts was a doctor.

Monday. Finish off the accounts and clip all the receipts to explanatory notes for the accounts section. Meet research student to talk through the outline of a joint paper exploring some of the potential issues for Muslims in Britain for a conference on citizenship and minorities in September. Realise that I am also committed to two papers next month at European conferences with my Kashmiri colleague. It seemed a good idea a year ago when we wrote the abstracts.

Tuesday. Taxi to the university and the Kashmiri driver tells me that he saw me in Kotli three weeks ago. I find that his family house is only half a mile from where I was staying. He refuses to take the fare from me because of my Kashmir connections. First mail I open is the published copy of a book review that I had written six months ago for a South Asian Studies journal on a book about Kashmir. Given the accounts I have been hearing over the past two months at all levels of government, I think maybe I should have been less diplomatic in my criticism of the volume. Must finish off the report to the funding body about the research trip. Write about the formal interview data collected from politicians, professionals and key families in the villages in relation to the links between Azad Kashmir and the British Kashmiris. Realise it would be just as valuable to write about the informal conversations we had, for instance with the jeweller in Kotli when I ordered some gold bracelets and he talked about their shop in Birmingham and the plans to open a branch in Watford or about the grand house we saw being built in one of the villages which was financed by profits made by a driver selling his worker shares when Luton's bus company was taken over.

Wednesday. Call from BBC Radio Cleveland to contribute to a programme tomorrow marking the anniversary of the hostage taking in Kashmir - one of the hostages is from Cleveland. Lunch with an old friend who is finishing his stint as an external examiner in one of our departments. Reminisce about being students in the 1960s and how our paths have diverged over time. Decide that I have had, probably, more interesting experiences but that he makes some serious money via his business consultancies. Then rush off to a meeting at a voluntary agency struggling for money and discuss a potential project we might put forward to the local urban regeneration fund. Across the road to my Kashmiri colleague's house to discuss our joint papers only to be greeted with "I gather you've been buying Pakistani mangoes". Local information networks are amazing.

Thursday. Go to London for a project meeting at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation where I am an adviser on a project on marital wellbeing in the Gujarati community. Difficult to concentrate as I am thinking about the radio interview. When they ring through I listen to the anguished parents talking about their daily wait for their son's return and hope that I am not asked to comment as our various contacts are sceptical that the hostages are still alive. My contribution to the programme is to point out that while most Kashmiris deplore the taking of hostages, the lives of four Europeans is a minor issue for them compared to the deaths in the dispute of at least 40,000 Kashmiris in which the European media has shown little interest. When I started working on the settlement of British Kashmiris as an aspect of race relations I never anticipated how far this would pull me into the politics of the sub-continent. Taxi from the station to home with a Kashmiri driver who I discover is the nephew of one of our hosts in Azad Kashmir. Another taxi fare is refused because of the Kashmir connection.

Director of the Centre for Ethnic Studies, University of Luton.

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