Oral history of British science
Islam, Saiful (1 of 8) Oral History of British Science
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Department of Chemistry, University of Bath
Islam, Saiful, 1963-(speaker, male)
Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)
Part 1: Saiful Islam born Karachi, (then) West Pakistan, August 14th, 1963. Comments on life of mother, including birth in Calcutta, India, large farming family, move of family to East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) after 1947 partition, reasons for restricted education of mother, marriage aged c. 18. [1:26] Further comments on mother’s childhood. Mentions own visits to Bangladesh as a teenager. Comments on maternal grandparents, including their ownership of land. [4:14] Comments on life of father, including similar material/caste background (to mother), higher education, large family, death of father’s mother and maternal role of stepmother, employment in civil service based in Karachi. [6:30] Comments on father’s left-wing political outlook, including interest in aspects of Chinese communism. [7:10] Mentions father’s posting as an administrator to the Pakistan High Commission [PHC] in London, in 1964; father’s move from PHC to post in British civil service at time of Indo-Pakistani War [1971 – resulting in independence of Bangladesh]. Mentions effect of this war on own family’s decision to remain in the UK. Comments on father’s work in British civil service, for Department of Trade. [9:22] Detailed comments on parents’ decision to remain in UK, led by father rather than mother. [11:01] Discussion of belief that mother missed Bangladesh more than father. [12:33] Comments on parents’ ‘arranged’ marriage. [13:33] Description of earliest memory, involving visit to hospital, aged 4, to visit newborn sister. [14:25] Comments on own childhood homes in south London (Stockwell) and then (in the late 1960s) north London (Crouch End [CE]), including house bought in CE, 1969. Story of experiences as a child in Stockwell, before move, including relations with ‘elderly white couple’ in neighbouring flat. Mentions photographs taken by parents at this time, in south London. [17:46] Comments on mother’s experience as recent immigrant in London with limited spoken English, with related story. Story of relations between own and mother’s learning of written English. [20:10] Mentions 8 year age difference between mother and father. Comments on father’s relatively more ‘westernised’ outlook. [21:15] Description of childhood home, CE, including details of family life. Mentions parents’ photograph albums. Comments on playing of records on family record player. [27:55] Comments on mother’s role as ‘house manager’; own and sisters’ view of mother’s education. Mentions memory of father ironing his clothes. Comments on memory of family watching television together. [30:08] Comments on parents’ encouragement of own and sisters’ educational achievement, including tendency for own (and other British-Asian parents) to encourage pursuit of professional careers, especially in medicine and law; loving relations between self/siblings and parents; parents’ valuing of good behaviour at home and school. [33:39] Comments on tendency not to have lots of toys and games. Brief description of garden of family home, CE, with comments on playing of football/cricket. Comments on interest in popular music; watching of television. [36:11] Detailed comments on parents’ Muslim faith, including father’s less strong faith (with related story), own freedom as a child from obligation to attend mosque or read the Quran (in contrast to children of other families with Pakistani/Bangladeshi heritage); reasons for/development of own humanism/atheism; mother’s view of own lack of Muslim faith. [40:34] Description of manifestation of mother’s faith, including comments on mother’s keenness that own wedding should be a Muslim ceremony. Comments on reading English translation of Quran as an undergraduate; lack of learning of Arabic as a child; nature of religions in general. [44:26] Comments on childhood reading, including those books read at/for school; development of habit of reading at university. [46:57] Comments on outdoor play with other children in CE, at different ages. Brief story of seeing fire at Alexandra Palace. Comments on relations with small number of other families of Pakistani/Bangladeshi origin in north London (referred to as aunt, uncle, cousin). Comments on the range of ethnic backgrounds of children played with in CE. [53:19] Comments on the range of ethnic backgrounds of children at primary and secondary schools attended, CE. Detailed comments on period in the late 1970s during which own family experienced racially motivated verbal and (in own case) physical abuse from ‘skinheads’, with related story of being attacked in alleyway near home. [56:51] Detailed comments on experience of primary school, with stories of teaching/learning. [1:02:02] Story of helping mother in kitchen, and with shopping. Brief comments on time spent with father as a child. Story of origin of interest in supporting Manchester United football club.
Interview with Professor of Computational Materials, Saiful Islam