Choudhury Zaman Ali

AN ACCIDENTAL MIGRANT

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Choudhury Zaman Ali was born in the early twentieth century in the village of Kalyal, Mirpur, in Azad Kashmir in modern Pakistan. He received little formal education and could only speak Mirpuri.

Local opportunities were few for a poor, uneducated man from a rural area. When Zaman was growing up, Pakistan was part of Britain’s Indian Empire and, like many young Asians, he found employment in the merchant navy.

Sailing the seas might have been the summit of his achievements had not his ship docked in Hull, Yorkshire, at some time during the 1930s. Zaman went to explore the town, got lost and missed his ship when it left port. He could not speak English, but he found his way to London. London was a place of opportunity and it already possessed an Asian community. The first two MPs from British India were elected to Parliament for London seats in the late nineteenth century. Gandhi had lived there and the city was home to students who were supporters of self-government for British India.

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