Shabana Sheikh

Born: 1950

Pakistan, India

Date of interview: 11th May 2006

Map showing where Shabana Sheikh came from

Tell me about when you went, when you were married and went to Nairobi, what was that like?

I got married, I got married in 1965, I was fourteen, went to Nairobi, moved there, lived with my in-laws and my sister in-law, Masooda, she was our teacher and meantime she wanted to go for pilgrims to Mecca and I think I was married only about twenty days, and she went for pilgrimage and from there she came to, came to England.

My husband, my father-in-law we were staying in Nairobi, the main thing was, is I didn't know how to cook, I didn't even know how to make a cup of tea, because we used to go to school on the train early morning, come home that evening, do the homework that evening, there was no time for cooking or learning how to cook and then dad had servants at home.

My mum told them that she can't cook, she can't do nothing so they said it's okay she'll learn herself and when they were gone the next day I had to cook, you know, my husband went to work in the morning and he says he'd be home for lunch and I thought, Oh my God! I said to my youngest sister in-law 'What shall I do?' She said 'It's your husband, you think about it, you know', I thought 'Oh no', I said 'I've got an idea what mum used to do, I'll just do that', so I put meat and onions and garlic everything in the Prestige Cooker, I didn't put no water in there, nothing and I put it on the steam. I just sat inside listening to the music, you know only fourteen years old. I could smell something and my father-in-law came and said, 'Something is burning.' So I went in the kitchen and I thought I'd better open and check, I went a bit nearer and I thought, it does smell, so I switch it off and checked it quickly, put it under the water to open it quick and the meat was black, it was all burnt, he says, 'What have you done?' I said 'I don't know, this is how they cook and this is what I did.' He just went off downstairs, he came back upstairs and said, 'I'd better go and get some more meat' and I said, 'Yes dad you have to because I don't know what to do,' I just sat there crying thinking Oh God you know I've burned the meat and I can't even cook, what shall I do?