Maya Malhotra

Born: 27th January 1937

Agra, India

Date of interview: 7th June 2006

Map showing where Maya Malhotra came from

Was it, did it become better as more ... Asian people came, for you or ... ?

I have been lucky neither at work, well apart from one or two incidents that ... now I can laugh about it, but at that time they were hurtful but then I thought if I am going to make it a issue, then I am the one who will pay the price for it. If I ignore this issue and then carry on working then I won't ... I will manage it and I think I was right.

When I got my first job in the Civil Service ... in that office at that time there were two offices together. One was run by the Berkshire County Council and the other was run by Civil Service and I was employed by Civil Service. So I was not a Berkshire County Council person but there were two managers in that building. My manager greeted me at the door on the day I have to start work, so as he come in ... he took me out. 'Hello Mrs Malhotra' and all that. I went in and then ... as we were passing he was going to show me my, desk and all that. He met the another manager who was the manager of Council office, Mr S so he introduced me and what greeting I got from Mr S was 'There, there's no room for her to hang her coat downstairs.' I thought 'That's a good welcome!' [laughs] On the first day I am in this office and he's telling me this! And I knew the make-up of that office there was not any Asian person in that office. I was the only one person in that office and I remained one for so many years. Then they haven't had any other Asian there. I say 'All right.' So that was the first experience of his prejudice.

And then there were two ladies in that office who will not respond to my good morning, though they are good friends now but at that time they would not respond to my good morning. And I thought 'What's the matter with these two people? Why they are not even ... ?' I've been a polite person. Every morning when I go to office I will say 'Good morning J,' I will say 'Good morning B.' No answer. After few weeks I say 'All right, I have given them enough chance. If they don't want to respond to me, all right, I will pass them by.' And I did.

But after a few years working with them, when both offices became one and those people, they were employed by Berkshire County Council, when they become in Civil Servant and because, by then, I have more experience of my job so, one day this lady was stuck, she couldn't balance it. So, she went to my manager, she don't want to ask me. So my manager said 'Go and ask Maya she will help you to sort it out.' It was against her then to ask me any questions. She came and dump everything on my desk and says [angrily] 'Can you help me?' I said 'All right.' So I thought I wouldn't be like her, if I want to degrade myself to her standard. I will say 'You ask me nicely,' and I didn't do it, I said 'You leave it, I will sort it out.' So soon I sorted out. There was a mistake which was why she can't balance. So I sort out the mistake and I, in doing that I was so annoyed with her. I just took it back to her. I said 'Look, there is the mistake. If you correct this one you will balance.' Otherwise I should have done the balancing for her but I was so annoyed with her behaviour that I'm not doing it. [laughs] You do it. [laughs] That I regretted afterwards, I say, 'I've become mean with her.' And I know. If she, she doesn't deserve to be, nice so I don't want to do it. And I think that day she changed her mind. Then she start to talking to me nicely.

And now she's a good friend to me, after we retired. ... I, I took this attitude if you don't want me, so I am not going to bother with you. I will fit in if you want me to do it but, you know, I, the very first Christmas they say 'You want to join us?' I said 'Why not? I will join you.' I am here and I, I know that I had to ... and my own religion is my own part but it is here I take it as a social function. And they ask me, there was one lady asked me 'What are you going to do? Do you drink?' I said 'No, I don't drink.' 'Do you go to dance?' I said 'No I don't go to dance.' 'You smoke?' I 'No I don't smoke.' And she say 'What do you do then with your life?' And I said 'That's your point of view with your life. You think drinking and smoking and dancing is the life? It's not to me. My social getup is different. To your, the life may be just that. I have my life, I enjoy my life, do I look miserable to you? I'm not.' [pause] It's a different social ... makeup I think.

And I think one thing I find now, whether it is, I don't know whether it is due to television or due to ... papers or what. The people are a bit more knowledgeable about it now, than they were when I came to it, because that time people had no idea what is the life in India is about. People used to ask silly questions, 'Do you live in a hut?' ... And one lady asked me, is a long time, I don't know where I met her. She said 'Why, did you work in India?' I said 'Yes, I did work in India.' 'So what was your job, was it a tea-leaf picking?' And I thought ... I wanted to tell her, no that's not the only job in India the women do. And I said 'No there's too many other jobs to do it.' And I couldn't turn round and tell her I was a lecturer but I thought how ignorant it is, you should know a bit more about it. And I said to her 'Look, not everybody lives in a hut in India and not everybody just do tea-picking and there so many other' ... and by then I think the ... few years after, they had the first woman prime minister.