Character inspiration

Thu 28 Feb 2019

Belgrave participants took inspiration from real people to create their performance piece about the Ugandan Exodus.

Read their stories here.


Bhagwanji Lakhani

“I have lived 35 years in Leicester. 

“I am 78 now so I don’t think to go anywhere”

Mr Lakhani founded the first Indian restaurant on the Belgrave Road –  Bobby’s it became world famous and still is. Sadly, Mr Lakhani has passed away now.


Maz Mashru

“We lost everything there, except our lives”

Maz became a successful photographer and took photos of Hollywood stars and the Royal Family


Mala Kotecha

“Leicester had actually put an ad in the newspaper, ‘Please do not come to Leicester’

Mala went to Charles Keene College.


Shantibhai Thakrar

“Our people came from Uganda and they developed the Belgrave Road.”

Shantibhai’s family ran Paul’s Fruit and Vegetables. He said that the Ugandan Asians made Belgrave Road what it is today, ‘Our people did that…  ‘


Dayalji Govindji Thakrar

From India to Uganda to Leicester

Dayalji came to Leicester in 1984  –  not part of the ‘Ugandan Exodus’ in 1972 but one strong impression was that they ‘found it very cold  ..  ‘


Amritlal Sevak

From Uganda to Leicester

Amritlal had the opportunity to live in the USA  –  he refused as he didn’t agree with people having guns  –  “all the gold in the world was not worth it!”


Mahendra Rayarel

“We settled down in Leicester

“Worked at Imperial Typewriters  –  at first it was very difficult as it was ‘dark after 4 o’clock’  –  also, people weren’t used to travelling on buses  –  but gradually we became more familiar and settled in”


Vinod Kotecha

“My diploma .. was not recognised

“My qualifications as a pharmacist were not recognised  –  seeing snow for the first time  –  receiving spices from India in giant parcels that cost a lot until the first India grocers was set up.”


Pradeep Popat

“Uganda is our home and we miss it”

He founded Mirch Masala  –  the first Indian vegetarian restaurant in the city  –  Belgrave Road is ‘like a mini India or a mini Bombay’


Pal Singh Lotay

“We came with what we were wearing”

His family moved from Pakistan at the time of Partition  –  on trying to get a job he was asked if his turban was necessary  –  he was also a painter


Mrs Kalwant Kaur Kalsi

“I was a wealthy lady”

“When I arrived in Leicester ‘it was December, winter weather, the house was very small, we were used to a large property, 17 bedrooms compared to 3  ..  ‘  she joined Lady’s Pride doing tacking work  –  it was frightening at first but one year there was a Christmas party for everybody and she realised she had made new friends  –  she contributed to the community through the temple  –  she takes part in activities at the Ramgarhia Centre and now says, ‘I wouldn’t go back there (to Uganda)  ..  now that we’ve tasted the life here.  Safety, security, discipline, everything.’


Other Quotes

“It was a culture shock for me to see a lady smoking.”

“We had a room, there was a huge double bed, and I remember all of us sleeping in this bed. There were four or five of us stuck in this huge bed, so we’d have three across one side and on the opposite side.”

“The first few years, it was subdued, because there was a feeling, that look ‘we’re immigrants here, let us behave, let us not expose ourselves.’  Our religion and religious activities were always kept within ourselves.”

“I got my driving license and I was the only driver.  So, literally, I used to pick up everyone  –  15 or 20 people and then drop them back and take them for Navratri.”

“I see myself as a British, East African Asian.  When I go to Kenya and abroad, sometimes I realise I’m more British than I think I am…”