From the Punjab to Rugby - Part One

The Crossing Borders group tried several art techniques to explore ideas about identity and memories including embroidery. Handicrafts skills such as sewing, knitting and crochet were passed down from mother to daughter and often formed part of the women's dowry.
Image courtesy of Heritage & Culture Warwickshire and Matthew Cox
Oral history of Gucharan and Jaswinder, for Crossing Borders project - part one


G: Hello, my name is Gurcharan Kaur. I came from India, part of Punjab and my marriage in here. I live in Coventry. After, my husband and me come Rugby and live here. I came in 69 from India and my children – three children – they’re married. And my father-in-law live with us. Last year he died.

I: How did you decide to come here?

G: [Pause. Talking in background] My uncle here…and my mum and dad in India. Later on, they come and my brother, my sister in India. That’s alright.

J: Uncle here. Two brothers here. Then one sister she live in back home in India. Then she come here to married, then she settle down here, ya.

I: And what do you miss?

J: She miss her sister as well.

G: Before I miss my mum and dad as well because they’re there. I live here with my husband. And now my brother here but my sister live still in India. I miss her.

I: Do you see her often?

G: Here, sometime later, four-five years later, sometimes. Last year I went.

I: Are there any other things you miss apart from people. I think it’s your family that were involved in [weaving]? [They speak over each other].

G. and J: Yes, yes. My mom and her family as well.

J: I do too. Every which people come from India they all doing some thing with hand, not machine one thing with hand. We [knitting] with hand, [weaving], we can make all the weaving [rugs] with hand.

G: And knitting.

J: And knitting and we can make some plastic, you know plastic bag with plastic string, we can make this one at home as well

G: And embroidery…make the bedsheet [speak over each other].

J: Embroidery, yes, we do with hand.

I: And do you embroider now?

J: Ya, she do the crochet very well. You know the last time…Claire.. she can make some round piece of crochet [give to Helen as well?], she only doing in one hour that crochet design. She is very good for knitting, crochet, you know, but I don’t know how to do the crochet. I only know how to make one little thing. I don’t make the flower but she can do it.

I: But with the weaving you’re talking about, different ways…

J: Yes, different way, different pattern, I don’t know. Our mothers not go to school but they can make the different patterns. If someone says to us you can do it, we can’t do it. They’re uneducated ladies but they can do very nice pattern [they talk in Punjabi]. Ya, they don’t know how to sew the materials but they can do by themselves. I think people need that…when you need something you

I: Do you use traditional patterns?

J: Yes, we do.

I: Have you brought some of them here?

J: Yes, we brought [laughs].

I: What are the traditional patterns?

J: Like we have some kind of …’case’? Blanket? We don’t call blanket but handmade.

G: Shawl.

J: Shawl, that’s it. The way you can call shawl. Then they do by hand. I can bring some. Anyway, last…next week I can bring some.

G: [in Punjabi] Main bhi le ke aaoongi [Translation: I will bring some too].

J: I have two…we don’t call shawl…

I: What do you call it?

J: We call it ‘case’ [laughs] case. I have two different patterned ones. Can I tell you the truth. We both come from village. When we come here we don’t know anything about all these things. That time when we come from India in 1969.

G: We live in village, different life.

J: We live in village not the city. We don’t know how to use the phone. Because that time not the mobile phones .that time dial phone. I actually tell the truth, I don’t know about her but I don’t know how to use the phone and I don’t know how to go by bus here but we can go by bus in our country but that time I have some problems in language as well. Then I don’t understand what people says because they speak fluent English. They speak very, very fast. Like when we speak our language, we can speak [half] then we understand what we talking. That time I have no clue what the people around us what they are doing, then steady…

G: First very difficult!

J: Very difficult. It’s like foreigners like Scottish people, Dutch people, Chinese people when they speak English I didn’t understand. It’s only when I start do the taxi job…I did taxi job for over 20 years so then I can think…when I fare the people then I think yes that they can do something. Then I understand Chinese people but only you know people from Africa when they speak English I didn’t understand that. They speak good English but sometime they can speak very different way.

I: Accent

J: Accent. Very, very hard accent for these people. Now I understand like Scottish people, Dutch people. Now I can find out when I drive the taxi what kind of accent. It was quite a difficulty for me when I didn’t understand I only did not find out the accent for the Caribbean people because very, very hard when they speak because I have a lot of difficulty when I didn’t understand what they talking about. Steady, steady I can pick up. I have … my husband had fish and chips restaurant in Hinckley. I work over there then I can pick up. Maybe my grammar is no good. I know that. I find out but if I go to the doctor, if I go to the solicitor, I can manage myself. I can explain the people what I am talking about. I know my grammar is very bad. I never use proper grammar but…

[continued in part two]

Crossing Borders was an arts project made possible by funding from the West Midlands Museum Development Small Grant Scheme 2017.  Find out more about the project here.

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