Family experience life as Asian immigrants in Birmingham in the ’50s and ’60s for TV experiment

A family have gone back in time to experience life as South Asian immigrants in Birmingham in the ’50s and ’60s for a TV experiment.

BBC Two’s Back In Time For Birmingham, which started last night and will continue tonight, features the Sharma family, from Solihull, who are fast forwarding through five decades of rapid change, exploring every facet of British Asian family life.

Father Vishal, mother Manisha, both of whom work in healthcare, and their children Alisha and Akash, both students, started their experience in the 1950s in episode one.

It saw Vishal and Akash move into a property in Sparkbrook, where they were expected to share a bed between week-long factory shifts, only bathe once a week and share a kitchen with other people in the house.

BBC Two’s Back In Time For Birmingham, which started last night and will continue tonight, features the Sharma family, from Solihull, who are fast forwarding through five decades of rapid change, exploring every facet of British Asian family life

Father Vishal, mother Manisha, both of whom work in healthcare, and their children Alisha and Akash, both students, started their experience in the 1950s in episode one

Father Vishal, mother Manisha, both of whom work in healthcare, and their children Alisha and Akash, both students, started their experience in the 1950s in episode one

It saw Vishal and Akash move into a property in Sparkbrook, where they were expected to share a bed between week-long factory shifts, only bathe once a week and share a kitchen with other people in the house

It saw Vishal and Akash move into a property in Sparkbrook, where they were expected to share a bed between week-long factory shifts, only bathe once a week and share a kitchen with other people in the house

Vishal was also informed that most of his wages would be sent home to India to support his relatives, while Akash was left to prepare their evening meal of baked beans.

He mixed the British staple with Branston pickle and curry powder, serving it alongside some bread.

Vishal bought guests home for dinner, who explained what it was like to move to Britain from South Asia in the 1950s.

The two men lived in shared housing and worked to send money back home to their families at the time.

Dinner guest Pravin was just 16-years-old when he moved to Sparkbrook. He started working within a week of his move, after his parents saved money to send him to the second city in hopes of a better life for their son.

He said: ‘I’d come from work and I used to cry every day that I want to go back. The thing that made me stay in this country was my father, he sent me here, he borrowed money off people.

‘I used to remember my mother every day, it still brings tears,’ an emotional Pravin added.

Vishal and Akash Sharma moved into a property in Sparkbrook (pictured) on BBC Two's Back In Time For Birmingham

Vishal and Akash Sharma moved into a property in Sparkbrook (pictured) on BBC Two’s Back In Time For Birmingham

Father Vishal, mother Manisha (pictured), both of whom work in healthcare, and their children Alisha and Akash, both students, started their experience in the 1950s in episode one

Father Vishal, mother Manisha (pictured), both of whom work in healthcare, and their children Alisha and Akash, both students, started their experience in the 1950s in episode one

He continued: ‘I said “no I’m going to put up with this, I’m going to make life better”. Whatever I am today is thanks to the hard work and faith that my father and mother had in me.’

Eventually, Vishal and Akash are joined at their property by Manisha and Alisha, who as women, were expected to cook, and work from home by sewing items for companies looking for a cheaper workforce.

The family’s fortunes soon improve when entering the ’60s and they are seen listening to music records and are even given a TV. 

They take trips to the cinema to watch Bollywood movies and to the Bullring to sell at the markets.

Alisha is also confronted with the idea that in the ’50s and ’60s a woman her age would be expected to have an arrange marriage with a suitable man picked by her family.

The household (pictured) are fast forwarding through five decades of rapid change, exploring every facet of British Asian family life

The household (pictured) are fast forwarding through five decades of rapid change, exploring every facet of British Asian family life

She said of the notion: ‘I love my parents. But you know when it comes to making a decision about what happens to me for the rest of my life, this will affect my whole future. I don’t know whether I would put that trust in [them].’ 

But she added: ‘I can admit, I think a lot of the long living marriages of my grandparents generation are around because of arranged marriage.’

Meanwhile, recalling his experience, Akash said: ‘I don’t think many people nowadays will share a bed with 10 other people and to think that was their norm and what they’ve lived through what they had to survive on. It’s just blows my mind.’

Manisha added: ‘I feel very proud of our ancestors, and they have worked extremely hard, harder than we could even begin to imagine. And what I’ve learned through this process is their resilience.’

The series is presented by BBC Asian Network’s Noreen Khan, alongside social historian Dr Yasmin Khan. 

It looks at the impact of arrivals from South Asia over the last 75 years. Today nearly 250,000 Birmingham residents, more than a quarter of the city’s population, have Pakistani, Indian, Bangladeshi or Sri Lankan heritage.

The series continues on BBC Two each day at 8.00pm until Thursday 23 June. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk

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