Pasang Tamang

Born: 1st August 1951

Kathmandu, Nepal

Date of interview: 29th August 2006

Map showing where Pasang Tamang came from

I was born in a village close to the Himal which is the mountain ranges and its four hours journey from Kathmandu .

I'd like to ask, what are your earliest, from a very young child, what is your earliest memory of where you lived?

Ours a very picturesque village, they were they weren't any tourist here that travelled through the village because there was no path way there was another path way they took that sort of went all the way round the village so no there weren't many tourists where I was. Also the Tibetan, there was a lot of Tibetan tradesmen coming through that area.

And what can you describe when you say 'picturesque', can you describe the scenery?

It's a very, it's a village in the jungle, within the jungle, and all around the jungle you can see the mountain ranges.

Is this quite high up?

Its very high up, approximately 2,000 feet.

And thinking back as a young child, what sort of thing, can you remember?

At that time we women weren't taught, there were no schools in the area. The boys did go to school, some of the boys went to school but they had to go further away to learn.

What did you do as a young girl? If you weren't at school what would you do in a typical day?

At home doing the chores and housework. When I was seventeen I got married and then went to Kathmandu.

So going back to the village life, what about the family? How many brothers and sisters?

Seven big brothers, sorry, six older, one younger, and one older sister. Nine in total.

And what did your father do? And what did your mother do for a living?

Farming.

What sort of things would be farmed there?

Flour, corn on the cob, rice of course which they grow. All hand there's no machinery there.

Who would do the farming? Did the family, did the children help with the farming?

Everybody helped. Children, whatever they could do did. The ones that couldn't do the actual physical work would help with giving water, bringing food and so on to the ones that were working.

And you said 'a small village', how many people lived there?

There was one thousand homes at that time there, but when we talk about villages in Nepal, you've got one village there, you could have a river there and there'd be another, it'd be regarded as a village, it could only be sort of, you know, couple hundred yards or so but it would be regarded as another village.

How would you describe family life as a child?

They didn't have hospital facilities and so on, everyone was born at home. The eldest, whoever was the eldest would look after the younger ones until they got to an age where they could actually go and work for themselves. Mother made all the food, the eldest went, the ones that were old enough went to work and all the other smaller children would be looked after at home either by the mother or the next oldest adult/child.

What's the main difference between family life there in those days and family life now?

It was a lot more hardship over there but food wise it was always fresh it was always plentiful because it was provided. Over here there's 'yours', 'mine', over there wasn't so much of, there was more sharing involved.

What would happen if somebody was ill?

If someone was ill they'd stay at home, they'd have certain knowledge about medicines which were available from the plants there, which they'd use and all the family would help to look after the ill member.

OK so when you were seventeen you said that you got married, how did that happen? Where did you meet your husband?

My husband was from a village two hours away walking distance but he'd moved to Kathmandu to study, learn, read, to go to school. And then I got married and went to Kathmandu. It was an arranged marriage.

So your parents arranged this marriage with his parents. What was his name?

Yeah the two parents had to arrange it.

So, you got married in your village and what happened next?

At that time, my husband was working seven until ten he went toschool, in the morning and then he worked at the king's palace ten till five. He used to arrange the, take the food to King Birendra.

How did he get that job?

It was advertised in the paper that whoever passed their SLC which is 'school leavers certificate' which is similar to the GCSE over here, then these jobs were available. And he applied for the job and he got it

So he was studying and working at the same time, and this was in Kathmandu, so you had to move to Kathmandu from your village, andhow did you find that move? What was it like for you?

It was nice because I'd never ridden cars or vehicles before, there weren't any in the village, you had them in Kathmandu. In the village they didn't actually speak Nepali, they spoke a dialect called Tamang which was my own clan's language as it were.

Was that a problem for you?

Yeah I didn't know it at first, but it was very difficult, but because everyone spoke it in Kathmandu, I picked it up.

You said it was four hours from your village to Kathmandu - how did you travel when you left home?

Four hours in a vehicle - it took about six days to walk. Now they've roads to the village and they've got electric aswell.

So for a six day journey on foot, what would you take with you?

You'd walk for five or six hours then stop. Tourists used to walk for six hours and stop, we used to walk for fifteen hours before we stopped. You'd stop, normally knock on someone's door and they'd have some food there and so on, someplace, someone would provide shelter. You'd carry your own blankets and stuff but you'd knock on the door and someone would provide you with shelter.

The first time I went from her village to Kathmandu, it took me thirteen days.

How old were ...

Thirteen years.

Thirteen days and thirteen years old.

[laughing]

Where did you live in Kathmandu when you got there?

We stayed in a place in Mukundo. We stayed there for four years. And then Shyam my son was born and my husband had to go with the king who was touring, round Nepal so I stayed with an aunt. Then after another son was born.

Was he still studying, your husband as well?

He graduated and then stayed with the king to work. And then when my husband came back, then they bought a house.

Working for the king, what was the pay?

270 a month although the position he was in was regarded as quite high up.
I mean at that time before we were paying rent for fifteen Rupies per month.

Fifteen Rupies a month and being paid 270 Rupies a month, so that was very good.

At that time that was very, very good. Whenever people used to come from the village that they were from they used to send them their rice and vegetables as well so they were able to save money and buy a house. And then sometime in 1974 my husband came to the UK.

Basically he wanted to come over here to work, his friend organised a work permit for him to work in a restaurant in Southall.

After two years he brought me over. We stayed in Southall a year and a half, then Ealing Broadway for a year, and then my third son was born born at Hillingdon hospital.

So, going back a bit, your husband who was working for the king, a good highly paid job, what made him decide he wanted to come to the UK?

There was four of my husband's friends all worked at the palace at the same time, one of the friends became a lawyer, studied there, one became a doctor, the other two which was including my husband wasn't able to study. Because he wasn't able to study and had two children, he worked at a hotel at night so he worked the king in the daytime, nine till five for the king and six till twelve. Well, someone had reported that my husband was working there, I don't know why. It wasn't allowed, I assume it was, well it wasn't allowed anyway. And that's why he decided to not work for the king and do something else and that's when he got in touch with his friends who organised a work permit for him to work in the UK.

What did you think England would be like before you came?

Well when I moved from the village to Kathmandu it was much better, and then I thought the same thing would be when I came over.
[laughing]

And when you did come here, what was your first impression? What time of year did you arrive in the UK?

Very cold, it was snowing, I came over in December and then inFebruary, my third son was born.

So quite heavily pregnant, and you arrived and it was snowing in December, and what was your first impression of England?

When I came over it was snowing, it was very, very dark, very cold, and my husband came and picked us up, took us to a room in Southall. We had one room in one house, and then after hehad dropped me and everyone else off he went to work. And then he came back with a takeaway from the restaurant a little bit later. I didn't really like it that much because when I was in the village I had my family, food was plentiful, I understood everything, and when came over I couldn't understand Hindi either or English.

Tell me about coming to Reading

Five years were in Southall that's the limit of time on the work permit. After five years he told the boss of the restaurant he was working at that he'd like to go and do his own business and he went into partnership with the other three partners that already existed at the Ealing Tandoori.

Because my husband wasn't a smoker, drinker, card player, they had a fight, the partners had a fight and my husband got out of the partnership. They said 'you've got three children, where are you gonna go?'

So why Reading?

He'd been looking around for businesses at that time and one the businesses that was going for sale was the Star of India which was on the Caversham road actually, just opposite 'TG1's, there's new, obviously some new big office buildings there at the moment. They wouldn't sell the restaurant but they said they would give it on rent.

When the restaurant was ... when we took it over there was no business at all, and the rent was a hundred and fifty a week.

So this was your husband, he rented the Star of India-

So my husband went back five days later to the partnership he'd left and told them that he was leaving, he wanted his share of the profit, they owed him a thousand pounds which he'd put in at the very beginning, out of that they only paid him five hundred. When he went back he called upon- my brother was working in Southall as well so he brought him over to the Star of India to be his partner.
So with his five hundred pounds he rented the Star of India and started
this, running this restaurant. It took about a year, we changed the menu. After one year when the business started picking up and so on, the landlord took the restaurant back. So at that time this was in a café, Joe's café. Machines, I think arcade game machines. So we started looking at this place.It would be one four three Caversham Road at that time. And we changed this café after a year to the Standard Tandoori.

Did you buy the English café?

At that time the café that was here they bought it for twenty five thousand. It was, can't remember exactly but it was somewhere around there.

Was that a lot at the time or ...

At that time that was a hell of a lot of money. At that time a vegetable curry was 60p. On the first day of the opening day from ten till twelve all the food was free. At that time there weren't any other restaurants, there was one - the Istanbul in town. When they opened this one the two restaurants that were in Reading closed.

Why was, why did you give the food free?

My husband, he knew a lot of people by that time in Reading and he'd invited them all as a promotional thing for the restaurant to get, just as an opening day thing.

Going back then, when you came to Reading and, your husband was working in the Star of India where were you living as a family?

There were four rooms above the Star of India, and after when we bought this there was rooms on top of this place. When I came over here I didn't know much English, so there was two people called Elaine and Chris who now works at the BBC I think, Elaine works in the library.

Elaine Bradshaw? Scottish ...

Yes, yeah. She came at nine o'clock, nine till ten she used to come over. But I didn't really have that much time because we had the restaurant and the kids and my husband was busy with the business. I had to take the children to school and I used to drop off the younger one in town at the nursery, and then I used to come here to work.

You worked in the restaurant as well?

And then because of the time schedule and so on Chris and Elaine changed it to the afternoon to come and teach me. Even though I didn't learn to speak English much I do understand a lot more. They did quite a lot for me and I learnt quite a lot of the basics.

So how did you find Reading? Was it different from Southall? In what way? And Ealing?

A lot of Indians in Southall is a bit like being in Deli. In Ealing there's a lot of English. When they came into Reading there was no big buildings none of these big buildings. It looked like a small village.

Where TGI Fridays used to be, there used to be a, I don't know if jungle's the right word but well, wild, it was a bit wild and we used to go and, it was a place for children to go and pick blackberries. There weren't all these houses round here. This road wasn't busy at all, and the road was a lot smaller than two cars could fit.

Was the IDR built then?

No it wasn't. Only old houses were there apart from, parks. There weren't any of those buildings by the station the big ones. It was like coming back from a village 'cos we'd moved back from London sort of thing to coming back to Reading which was more like a village.

Were there any other people from Nepal in Reading?

Nobody, first Nepalese here. And nobody would come and work in the restaurant 'cos Reading was very underdeveloped.

When you say nobody do you mean ...

There were no Nepalese, in a Nepalese restaurant the only people that are gonna be working in the restaurant at that time were either Nepalese or Indian, and because a lot of or the majority of the Indians that we knew were in Southall they weren't willing to come here.

How were you received by people in Reading?

When we came here we didn't know very many people at all but my
because my husband knew a lot of people, the majority of them doctors, and they used to come here quite a lot. A lot of Indians he knew in Ealing who were doctors, they were based in Reading so he became friendly with them so they used to come to the restaurant as customers with friends and so on.

Did any English people come to the restaurant?

After the doctors, the Indian doctors used to come the English doctors used to come and so on. It was only the doctors that were there, Asian communities that came as customers, then it increasingly became more English people that were coming in, more of the public.

So you sent the boys to school, you paid for them because it was important the education. And tell me what's happened then, the restaurant we're sitting in now, its grown, how did this happen?

In this one section we managed to fit in sixty to seventy people, its
actually, very obviously overcrowded. When we came over to Reading a lot of the doctors were already in Reading and because my husband knew them they all started coming here. At that time there were queues as well for the restaurant being only one section allowed only seventy seats but we used to have queues to get into the place. Because we were getting very busy with queues and so on we needed to extend the place so the building one four five there used to be a dog parlour. First of all we got that side on lease, and then we extended it to the two units. And on that side there used to be a laundramat. But the owner of laundramat was retiring he decided to sell it so we bought that and then after that they extended it to part of the restaurant.

So the restaurant now, the address is-

One four one to one four five Caversham Road. When we first started it used to be getting better and better and better all the time. After my husband passed away, in ninety five we lost a lot of customers 'cos my husband used to know them. Obviously when we came over there wasn't many restaurants, a couple of Chinese, one or two Indians. There's a Hong Kong restaurant in town which is a very old restaurant its been there a while. Now there's got to at least forty fifty Indian Nepalese restaurants. And obviously that's affected us because some people will try wherever that's open.

Thinking back over your time in Reading, you said originally you were going to go back to Nepal after five or six years. Would you go back now to live?

At first the idea was to earn a little bit of money and then go back to Nepal, after we had the children and started sending them to schools, giving them an education, the children that have studied over here have more or less become associated with the UK. If you said take all the family back to Nepal then the same feelings that I had when I came over from Nepal to over here would be the exact same that would happen to the people going back to Nepal now. If possible I probably will go back 'cos I can't work any more really, well I won't be able to work much longer. And in Nepal it will be good for me 'cos, I'm a practicing Buddhist so for Buddhist, Nepal would good karma. In '92 I think it was when we invited the Dalai Lama to come over we brought over twelve of our family members to come over at same time as well. Stayed for two three months.

Did he come here to Reading?

Yeah.

As a practicing Buddhist it must have been an honour to have the Dalai Lama come to stay. How did that come about?

Tibetan Foundation and another organisation were organising some talks in London and my husband was trying to organise something in Reading at that time. When he came over he stayed eight days at our house in Caversham. So the Dalai Lama was doing the talks in London and Wembley and he'd come back here and we'd be feeding him and looking after him.

So where do you regard home as being?

[laughing] Across the road.

How would you sum up your time here in Reading? What would you say about it?

At first when we were looking it didn't look like a very nice town, but we liked the people here and the business was going very well. There's a lot more people, a lot more businesses doing well but I think there's too many people here, its, I don't like that because there's a lot of negativity.

Has this been a change then?

I mean the town itself is developed, is very nice but you've too many people, not enough jobs and you've still got more and more people coming in- I don't like that simply because, you know. I'm always hearing all the negative in the news about this, that and-

Is there anything else that you'd like to add or say that you haven't said in the interview?

Shyam Lama [Pasang's son]:
I think my mum's played down the hardship side of things 'cos I mean I can remember sharing a room with about six people, this was in Reading.

When you first moved here or, in the early years?

Yeah when we first, in the early years. And obviously I can remember the amount of work, that my father and mother put in to provide for ourselves, even though I mean we went to private schools and such themoney that needed to be generated to keep that going was phenomenal. I mean it's a case now where I'm looking to put my children in private schools and to be quite honest I don't think I can afford it.

So do you think that it was due to their hard work that this restaurant has been so successful? Its expanded originally from where you started hasn't it.

Yeah I mean I owe a lot to what they've done they've accomplished and achieved quite a lot in the short space of time I mean you're talking less than twenty odd years, twenty five years, and I know they've had problems throughout those years, and its absolutely awesome what they've managed to achieve.

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