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My father's obituary

I wrote the short obituary below in 1987 at the request of one of our family friends, Mr Latif, who published a local magazine for elderly Asians.

OBITUARY: Shadi Mehrban 1905 - 1987

We regret the death of Mr Mehrban on 10 March. He was one of the Asian pioneers in Manchester.

He was born in the village of Chuheki in Jalandhar, India around 1905, the eldest of six children. His father died tragically at an early age. The family were left in great poverty, so Mr Mehrban set off in 1931 for England. He could not speak any English, but knew that he would find in Manchester two or three Asians, who would unselfishly help him. Even now, with tens of thousands of Asians in Manchester, some of us remember the times when there were so few that you knew everyone, and each one was a friend.

The 1930's was the "Great Depression", and even for the native English work was hard to find and lowly paid. What hope for Asians, who did not even speak the language? His friends helped Mr Mehrban to buy enough clothing to fill a large suitcase. With this he tramped the streets selling door to door in his broken English. It was a hard life, but it kept him fit, paid better than working as a labourer and provided enough money to send home to India for the family.

Religion was a great source of strength to men who had left their wives and children behind to live in a foreign land. One Eid, Mr Mehrban organised and paid for a meal at the Bombay restaurant on Upper Brook Street. After it his friends collected money to repay him. Mr Mehrban refused the money, and banked it as the first step towards a Mosque in Manchester. Many of us later gave money to build the Victoria Park Mosque, but we owe a debt to Mr Mehrban and his friends who showed us the way.

Grief was commonplace in those days. He left India while his wife Riaban was expecting their first child. His daughter Hamida died at the age of 12, but Mr Mehrban had never seen her. In 1947 he returned to the horrors of Partition, and spent six months amongst refugee camps finding his wife. Another daughter Rashida was born, who delighted in playing with him. She was under 2 when he left again for England in 1950, but he never saw her again. (He cherished his last daughter, Rabina, and her children Samina, Anjum and Saleem.)

Later in 1950, he learned that God had at last given him a son, Mohammed Amin. His friends suggested he buy them all a drink! He refused, but organised a meal attended by not only the Indian Muslims but many Syrians who were here to study. Afterwards, they wanted to take a collection for his son. He refused and asked them all, together, to seek a blessing from God that his son would grow to be as educated as themselves. In his later years, Mr Mehrban always said that God must have listened to them, as he proudly watched his son attend grammar school, graduate from Cambridge University, qualify as a Chartered Accountant, and marry his wife Tahara.

In 1980, Mr Mehrban suffered a serious heart attack. However, God was kind to him. Afterwards, he lived to go on Hajj, to see his grandsons Ibrahim and Ismail and his granddaughter Scheherazade who played with him every day until he died.


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