Sat in Palma, Majorca, on holiday with my kids, it’s hard not to reflect on a couple of things that have brought together a number of factors over the last few days. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still dementia on my mind even though the point of the holiday was to get away from work and University – letting my own mind relax a little.
Anyway, catching up with my beautiful friend Julie in Palma and calling her an ‘immigrant’ in jest – lucky Julie gets to spent most of the year in Palma – reminded me of what it must have been like for mum and dad when they migrated to England.
Dad (may he be resting in peace) used to talk about the difficult days of migrant labour and the desire to create a better life for his family. The English didn’t want the jobs in the textile mills and so South Asians (and others) were invited to come and work to rescue the British economy. Britain not only became home for almost all of his adult life, but it also became his ultimate resting place… so it’s home!!
Trying to keep a connection with the other ‘home’ dad would go visit every so often and on most occassions take the family too. Now and again he’d be able to convince our gran to come and visit too -but she didn’t like the cold, grey and often wet weather of our Isles – choosing instead the dry heat, the monsoon and the humidity of Pakistan. “We’re made of the soil of Pakistan” she wold say.
Well that brings me to another issue – the independence of Pakistan and India from the over 200 years of colonial rule by the powers that be of the country of my birth and that of my children – England. We are indeed proud Brits, but this in our view should not prevent us from talking about the horrors that were inflicted on around 15 million Indo-Pak citizens.
I was lucky enough to share a morning celebrating Pakistan Independence Day in Bradford on the morning of 14th August with Pakistani elderly men and women – marking 70 years of Pakistan. The evening was another highlight in the shape of a celebratory dinner – this time joined with my kids, again marking the Pakistan Idependence Day in Rochdale organised by my good friend Shahid – who also happens to be an ‘Expert by Experience’ when it comes to BME dementia and carers. Another surprise of the evening was to meet up with the Manchester based Consul General of Pakistan – the honourable Dr Zahoor Ahmed, who has worked tirelessly on community cohesion.
Getting back to the point I was trying to make – India and Pakistan celebrate the independence of their transition from British rule to that of self determination. But I wonder if the experiences of partition will ever truly remove the reality of 14 million displaced and 1 million murdered during those awful months around August 1947.
The sands of time as the title suggests stop for no one. Whether we leave our ‘home’ for a better life for our families and children or we seek the sun and sea for a better quality of life. It is never an easy transition, needing to get used to a new culture, a new language, perhaps sometimes being under the spotlight or even a microscope for the way you eat, dress or worship.
Our elders need to be supported through their dementia as do the carers that look after them. Having died and been buried in the beautiful county of Yorkshire – both of them – I can’t help but think about gran’s dementia and dad’s difficulty in trying to connect gran’s dementia back to her life in Pakistan.
So the mixture of people, languages and history of Majorca -Roman, Muslim and Christian rule has left a mark of their time – did you know that the beautiful Cathedral here in Palma faces Makkah? I’m pleased Julie is enjoying Palma and often plays host to her friends from back home. Julie’s Spanish classes are paying dividends – the proof of the pudding is in her hubby Peter’s delight in saying he has a PA when he is out and about in Majorca.
Here’s to Julie and Peter – stay blessed beautiful people and thank you for making it a possibility for the kids and I to have an especially wonderful this beautiful historical city.
The mark of history on and of the UK has also been recorded -even if from an imperilist viewpoint. It’s just another phase that we too are currently going through and learning how best to support those who chose to make the British Isles their home from home. History will judge us for how we continue to treat individuals and communities; but also for our part in being an equal and not superior to the other.
Until next time…
Mohammed Akhlak Rauf MBE
PhD Student (School of Dementia, University of Bradford)