Gujaratis in London: Our Nani’s Life Journey

FROM KAMPALA TO KENTISH TOWN

Gujaratis in London are very common these days, but when our Nani, Sushila Trivedi first immigrated to northwest London from Uganda in the 1960s, the Indian population in London was sparse. Back then, Nani says it was hard to find Gujarati groceries or even many South Asian faces. Nani’s life has spanned many countries, picking up life stories and lessons along the way. Despite the many hardships she faced, Nani somehow maintained her strength and kind heart right till the end. We hope you love hearing Nani’s stories just as much as we did.

OUR NANI - SUSHILA TRIVEDI

Birthplace: Kampala, Uganda

Countries she’s live in: India, Uganda and England

Best known for: Her delicious food, seva at the mandir and singing. Also every year as our cousin Neal reminded us, Nani would not only send us a handwritten card with some money (don’t you just love our elders), but she would also call and sing us “happy birthday” on the phone.

Memories of Nani: As soon as she woke up in the morning, Nani would shower, then sit on the floor to comb her long grey hair and wrap a saree onto her short frame. Even though she was a widow, Nani opted to wear a bright burst of coloured sarees with vibrant patterns. She was particular about her saree collection.

Nani’s Food: Once she was finished getting ready, Nani would open a small prayer book and sing in front of the little mandir in her room. Then she would come downstairs to make an oh-so-sweet and creamy cup of the best chai you’ve ever had infused with lots of elaichi and ginger. After breakfast, she would ask me, “Su kawu che aje?” (what do you want to eat?) and then she would sit in front of the television watching her Bollywood serials with a newspaper unfurled in front of her as she peeled potatoes or pulled the waxy strings off of a huge pile of green beans.

What Nani has taught us: Many, many valuable moments over the years. Nani was one of the many Gujaratis in London who came from East Africa. Whenever Nani came to stay with us in Toronto, it was an opportunity to practice speaking Gujarati with her. And despite the many grammatical mistakes I may have made, Nani never laughed. She just corrected me and kept the conversation moving. Nani also taught me all her recipes which I carefully jotted down in a notebook. Whenever I am craving her food, I pull out those notes and try to recreate Nani’s cooking magic (it never tastes the same!)

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