Springingtiger's Blog

Remembering Om Prakash Bakshi
December 8, 2012, 14:15
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The Sixth of December is a sad day, the Sixth of December is the day my Father in Law died, the Sixth of December is the day above all when I remember him and it’s the day when I miss him; he comes to my mind quite often, but today is his day and so today I remember.

He was my friend and a good friend. There are many other people who owe much to his friendship, there are quite a few families that would not be here in Glasgow without his support to come here from Kenya or India. He helped people find homes and work, he provided work to quite a few, I suspect my Mother in Law sometimes found him hard work, but she loved him. A lot of people did, he was a man who inspired affection. He was not famous, but when he died the crematorium was so full that people had to stand outside; there are many so called celebrities for whom such a crowd would not turn out.

His life was one of generous service both privately and publically. He went to Kenya to bring up and support his sister’s family when her husband died. When he was Port Labour Officer in Mombasa in the 1950s he took a team to do some training in South Africa, but when the South Africans would not let him use the same hotel as his white colleagues, he turned round and took his team home, from thereon if the South Africans wanted training they were going to have to come to him. His colour kept him out of New Zealand so he came to the UK to try his fortune and arrived in Glasgow. In Glasgow he was unable to get employment equivalent to that he had enjoyed because, as he was told, white people would not work under a black person (I’m putting it politely). He got employment as a bus conductor and worked every shift he could until he could afford to go into business for himself. His shop the Neelam Dairy (named after my wife) opened early and closed late, and was a big part of we students who relied on it in the evenings. When I first met him he lived in Glasgow Street, this was not his first house here; because no one would sell to an Asian in the early 1960’s Bakshi’s lawyer had to buy the house and then sell it to him otherwise he would never have got onto the housing ladder.

Although he was on the receiving end of racism, Bakshi did not let it stop him from working with people of all and any race. Many of his family were slaughtered by Muslims when India was partitioned and Bakshi, then a child, had to flee for his life in just his underwear; he never forgot and yet he never allowed it to affect his relationships with the Pakistani Muslims with whom he worked and with whom he even went into business. He left Kenya during the rise of nationalism, a movement he supported, but he always had African friends and still enjoyed it when he found people with whom he could speak Swahili. Although he suffered racism at the hands of white people many of his friends were white and he was happy to play an active role in Glasgow where he was in turn both a member of the Children’s Panels and then a Justice of the Peace. He loved Glasgow and, judging by the turnout at his funeral, Glasgow loved him. Even after he retired he continued to serve on the Committee of the Mel Milaap Elderly Centre where he tended to form a buffer between opposing factions.

He was a film fanatic and a repository of knowledge on Indian Cinema. As a child he would truant to watch films, his Uncle was a projectionist. later he was responsible for showing Indian films on Sunday afternoons in the Classic Grand Cinema. For many Indian families in Glasgow the main events of the week were visiting the Mandir on Sunday morning then going to the cinema on Sunday afternoon. Video players brought about the end of the Sunday films, but he owned for several years a video rental library.  He would have been so happy to see Indian films being shown every day, as a matter of course, in Cineworld and other mainstream cinemas in Britain. I think he would be amused that his granddaughter works in a cinema, keeping a family tradition alive.

There is so much more I could write, the interesting bits of his life alone his life would fill a book without bringing into it his family who continue his legacy of service to the community and tp Scotland. I will stop now because writing of him reminds me of how much I miss him, perhaps another time I shall write more of his sense of humour, his gift for innovation and problem solving, and of what good company he could be particularly as he was introducing me to India. I will stop now because this is a blog post not a book.


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