A child of three continents

A talk by Sejal Sachdev

Members were privileged to be given a talk by Rotate member Sejal Sachdev who spoke on how her family came to the UK from India via Uganda.

She started by explaining how the British had used workers from India to construct railways in Africa and how many of these had settled there providing an Indian community.  Her grandfather had emigrated from India to Uganda in 1920 and had set up a general store there and then a cycle shop also.  These had been very successful and he had been able to send her father, who was born in 1938 to boarding school in Mumbai for his education. Back in Uganda her father rose to become a bank manager there and he took Ugandan citizenship.  Her mother was from Kenya and she retained British citizenship so was able to pass this on to Sejal.  Under the British Indians were given a privileged status which was resented by the native population and after independence in 1962 the government started to revoke the trading licences of Indian nationals.  In 1971 the government was overthrown in a coup and Idi Amin came to power and he shortly gave notice for all Indian nationals to leave the country within 90 days. Her family, including Sejal who was only 7 years old then left Uganda on 4th March 1972 with only £55 in cash, some personal possessions including some trunks which they managed to ship to the UK via Kenya.  She told us that some 76,000 people were expelled from Uganda of whom around 30,000 came to the UK.  On arrival in the UK she remembered that they were met by groups of volunteers who provided them with warm clothing before they were taken in a double decker bus to a refugee camp in Sussex.  This was also run by very kind volunteers although the local population were quite hostile to them.  Her father managed to get a loan from Barclays Bank to take over a Post Office and Off-licence which they made a great success of.  As with most families from India great store was placed on getting a good education for their children and Sejal ended up qualifying as an accountant.   She has now stopped working as an accountant and devotes her time to trying to help other less fortunate than herself including volunteering with “Great Little Chalfont”, “Small acts of kindness”, World Medicine” and in promoting the celebration of 50 years of Ugandan Asians in the UK.

An inspiring and thought provoking talk.