Concordia Winter 2023

From Adversity to Achievement


Pranai Buddhdev (1997-2002) is a Consultant Paediatric Orthopaedic Surgeon. He writes of his family’s journey from Kenya to London and the challenges they faced in building a new life.

A s I write this piece on 15th September 2023, I am on an aeroplane taking the reverse journey that my father and his family did exactly fifty-one years ago today; returning to East Africa from England. But this time it’s different; and it is only because of their sacrifices, hardships and commitment to ensuring that my generation had the best education that I am returning as an OMT and a paediatric orthopaedic surgeon. I am proud and humbled to be returning to Tanzania, the country where my father was born, to deliver specialist healthcare to children who have inadequate access to basic surgery. Like many other families of Indian origin living in the UK, my family had moved to East Africa in the early 1900s during the Gujarat famine, with the promise of land in return for helping the British to build the East African railways. They were victims of the ripple effect of the panic caused across East Africa as a result of Idi Amin’s expulsion policy from Uganda, which abruptly uprooted so many from the land they had called home for three generations. Like many of these families, who had been given British Subject status by Queen Victoria, ours chose to make Britain their new home.

Landing in the UK on a brisk autumn morning was a shock to the system after a long journey from Kisumu, Kenya. They brought with them only what six wooden crates could hold and a small amount of jewellery stitched into the lining of a toy doll, to avoid it being stolen during security searches by the army and border forces. This was the sum of their belongings from a life far away. With four children in tow, my grandparents took a long bus ride from Heathrow to East London to stay with family to build a new life and new memories. What followed were years of turmoil. For the first year, the family had to live apart because everyone old enough had to find work to get the family settled. My father, his brother and parents lived in a single rented room where the boys were permitted to sleep on the floor of the living room only after the owners went to bed, often after midnight! My two young aunts were of school age, so they joined local schools almost as soon as they arrived, living with different family members. Although this separation lasted just for a few months, it felt like years to them before they were reunited and able to live together as a family.

Made with FlippingBook Online newsletter creator