Maya Malhotra

Born: 27th January 1937

Agra, India

Date of interview: 7th June 2006

Map showing where Maya Malhotra came from

How do your own daughters ... see their culture, having been brought up here?

It's ... again, as I said before I never insisted on a very strict ... upbringing. I knew they are born here, they are living in this society, they are living in this culture. So I don't want to impose any values which are not relevant in this society. I always tease them, what is our values, what is it we would like to do, what we don't like to do it. But I never enforce even the question of ... say very ordinary thing about food, all about your etiquette, all about your social beliefs. I never forced it down to their throat. I said 'This is, I would like you to do it and this is how we do it at home' but never force it.

It was, again was my older daughter Neera was in the nursery, and I never said to school that she shouldn't have something food. One day in those days there were dinner ladies to help children ... to cut their food. And the dinner lady said 'Neera, shall I cut your beef?' And Neera said 'I'm not supposed to eat beef.' 'Why not?' 'I am Hindu, I don't eat beef.' And the dinner lady took the beef away from her and she ... I don't know whether they may not have anything else to give her, so the dinner lady have informed the teacher and the teacher informed the head teacher, so by the time I went to pick her up, I had a message through the teacher that head teacher want to see you. And I thought, when I went there she said 'Mrs Malhotra head teacher want to see you before you take Neera home.' And she said to me 'I can look after Neera, you go and talk to her.' I say 'Fine.' And I thought what on earth this girl had done today? Has she been naughty? And when I went there and she announced 'Mrs Malhotra you never told me that I, that we shouldn't give Neera beef.' I said 'What happened?' She told me the whole story. I said 'Look.' And again, in that whole school she was the only Hindu child so I thought it's too much for the school to ask, just for cater for one child. And I said 'If she don't eat meat in one day does it make any difference? I am not a ... meat-eater any ... so she doesn't get meat at home. Is only vegetarian meals she gets.' So then I said to her 'Oh, don't worry about that.' She said 'At least she should have told me.'

And then a few days later she called me again 'And do you have any objection if she attend the assembly?' because in those days assembly was totally Christian assemblies. And I said 'Miss J, I don't, I'm not that religious person. Let her attend the assembly, for I'm sure no religion will teach you wrong thing. So if she go in and listen the assembly or she sing the hymns, doesn't matter, let her sing it.' So she take part in the school nativity play and all that. And I said later on when they were a little bit older, I said 'Look, you can study, you can go to assembly, if you want to go to Sunday School I have no objection, go to Sunday School. When you are old enough to decide which religion you want to follow, then you follow it.' I'm glad to say that my children say 'No, they are proud to be Hindu, they are born a Hindu, and they are proud to remain a Hindu, that's it.' So I never force anything.