Maya Malhotra

Born: 27th January 1937

Agra, India

Date of interview: 7th June 2006

Map showing where Maya Malhotra came from

Is there anything else that you wanted to say, that I haven't asked you about?

Yeah, I think for any immigrants whichever background they come from, when they come, to my mind, if they decided to come and stay in this country, so then they should have an open mind as well. You read a lot in the paper about the host community but they, if the host community have a obligation then the immigrants should have to fulfil their duties towards the host community. You can't have everything one-sided. It have to be both sides make effort. I do believe that you can keep your culture, you can keep your identity, you can keep it but still there is so many common grounds where you can integrate better and I don't believe in seclusion. One thing I will, I don't agree with these faith schools. I have never liked them. Whether it is a Roman Catholic school or a Shi'ite school or a Sikh school or whatever school, I don't believe in it. I think children are better off ... being taught together. And they, when they are in school they should learn how to live, how to be educated.

I remember there was a ... when I went to my daughter's graduation, a very nice thing the speaker have said in the welcome speech that the university is not a place just to get a degree. University is a place, university education gets them prepared how to live a normal life, how to be sensible in our life. It's not just to get a piece of paper in your hand. And that is what education is all about. So if you segregate children, like make a special school for the Shi'a, for Muslim children, a special school for the Hindu children, Sikh children and then just try to teach them the Sikh values or the Hindu values or the Muslim values. What that will do? But the value of every religion should be the common ground, the humanity. Human values are more important. All right your culture, your traditions can be still kept within a limit. There is no harm in it. But you cannot overlook the basic faces of humanity. So that is where they should be taught tolerance.' Cause nowadays everybody knows their right but nobody knows their duties. [pause]

So that is a thing I, I'm all for these temples, all for these, you know, places of worship because there's the best place where you can meet, you can meet in your own society, you can mingle. And I find it now, I see people coming from India when they come and meet there they have a nice place to meet people. And then I look back that when I came to this town there were no such place where I can go and meet people, I can talk to people. I remember because we miss it so much, we have had no common place. We start an association of the young people, Indian Association, and that time we don't have a place. We used to meet in our ... well, houses. They were, we were living in homes, even and then once a month we will get together in one room, all the friends. We bring our own things and we get together and eat it there because they don't have enough facilities to cook for so many people. And then we say already, everybody will bring one dish. At least we share and we started celebrating our, you know, special days, Diwali and festivals and all that, our Independence Day [unclear] you know democratic day. All this ... we started doing that because there was a need to get together, need to know each other and that's how this thing developed. Nowadays there are so many community centres. When I came to Reading there was not any. So there were ... nice development in the right direction.

And now all these places of worship are there. I see now every week there's somebody new comes from India and I know there a lot of IT people coming in this country now. So where they come, when they will come, they stay with their work they say 'Oh there is a temple over there. You go and you meet people there. And they all come running there and they feel so homely, that they can see so many faces there. So that is the place, that is the central focal point for the society, but that should not be a point where they separate, [quietly] no I don't agree with it.

I think this is the main thing, if we had made this country our home because as I said to you in the beginning, the day I came I always thinking 'Oh after two years, after three years, I'm going back home.' And now I'm ... sixty- six years old and I can't see now when I'm going. Now only last two years I accepted it that I'm not going to go back home and this is my home now and I will die in this country. [laughs] Only last two years I have accepted it.