Springingtiger's Blog

Neelam Part One

Today is my wife Neelam’s birthday, I won’t reveal her age, but our daughter Ambika will be thirty next month. I think it’s fair to say I love her more today than I did thirty seven years ago when we began to go out together.

I actually first met Neelam when she was fourteen. A group of us from Glasgow’s “Sharing of Faiths” were invited to the Hindu Temple to observe worship and share a meal. Neelam was there because she spoke English and could communicate better with us than the old ladies performing the worship – I say old, but I am probably older now than they were then! – I asked Neelam to explain the worship, but she knew less than I. However when it came to the dishes in the subsequent meal she was a mine of information, hardly surprising as her mother is one of the best cooks I have ever encountered.

We didn’t see each other much at all for two years, but then things changed when she became much more active in the “Sharing of Faiths” and the “International Flat”. Somehow we came to go out together, it was not easy as her parents were opposed to her going out with a white boy. I am very honoured that she was prepared to alienate her family for my sake, she obviously saw something in me that neither I nor they did! Neelam is stubborn and she was not prepared to let her family go either; eventually her parents were ground down and accepted that she had chosen me and they could not change that. After over five years of difficulty Neelam’s parents agreed to our marriage, but that was not enough for her, she wanted them to provide a hindu wedding so that the community could see that they supported us. We were married in the Hindu Temple, it was not a large wedding, but even now I am deeply moved when I remember it; people say one’s wedding day is the happiest day of one’s life, in all honesty I cannot think of a happier. When our daughter, Ambika, was born a couple of years later we truly became part of the family, she was their first granddaughter and they loved her so much it still makes me smile.

Our lives were not easy at the start, the difficulties of estrangement from her family, moving away from home and studying medicine exacerbated the depression to which we both, on occasion, succumb. Neelam was studying and doing two weekend jobs to make ends meet, I left my job in Yorkshire and moved back to Glasgow early to support her and after some time got a job as a telephone operator with the GPO. Eventually it became impossible for Neelam to maintain her studies and so she quit university and took what work she could, eventually getting a job in John Smith’s bookshop in St. Vincent Street.

We were poor, but Neelam spotted an offer from the building firm Barratt’s that would allow us to buy a flat on a five hundred pound deposit which her father lent us, but would not let us repay. The company found us a mortgage and the agent, Bob Martin, managed to use the timing of our purchase to not only get our white goods included in the price, but also get us a week in a Barratt’s chalet in Aviemore. We had no money for a honeymoon so the holiday was very welcome, we travelled by bus and the best restaurant we could afford to visit was The Pancake Place. I have rarely been happier than I was that week, we walked quite a lot, even through the treetops at Carrbridge, and visited the agricultural museum at Kingussie.

When our daughter arrived we were both working. Neelam had not been with John Smith’s long enough to be entitled to maternity leave  but the company promised to keep her job open for her. We could not afford a car and we were both working, Neelam by day and I at night , so every evening I strapped our baby into a papoose and travelled into town to meet Neelam, I then strapped Ambika onto her for the journey home and I walked into work. It was in Smith’s that Neelam first discovered her talent for training and spent some time dividing her work between being a sales assistant and the assistant training officer.

Eventually it was time to move on and she joined the Inland Revenue as a Revenue Executive. This is the period of her time as a trades union official and Labour Party politician and a good place to stop for today.


1 Comment so far
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Thanks for sharing the story. I love to hear these.

Comment by Robert Frost

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