Munawar Hussain recalls being one of the first Asians in Tod.
25 Jan 19
Ever since I moved to Tod in 1967, all I’ve found is friendly and welcoming people.
I was sixteen years old when I moved from Pakistan to Tod. My father had moved here four years earlier for work. He used to be in the armed forces during the Raj but had come to England after hearing the country was looking for workers because of a labour shortage.
My first Tod home was a small house in the centre of town which my father shared with six Asian men. There was only a handful of Asians in Tod, all men, and they tended to work in one of the town’s many mills. It wasn’t long before my father found me work too, making yarn in a local mill.
I didn’t speak much English but evening classes and watching programmes on our black-and-white TV helped me improve. Whenever I came across a word I didn’t know, I jotted it down in a notebook and later looked it up in my Urdu-English dictionary.
One of my first memories of Tod was how beautiful it was and also how cold, especially during winter. I definitely think winters were much colder back then. For a start, it always snowed. And imagine, there were no indoor toilets either. Every time you wanted to go, you had to trudge through snow. That definitely came as a shock to me.
My other big memory of Tod was how quiet Sunday mornings were. There were very few cars and with all the shops closed too, the streets were ghost-like. The only thing you’d hear were church bells.
I never got homesick. I had work, friends and even Indian food. You couldn’t buy Asian groceries in Tod, but you could order them from a shop in Preston. Every week, me and my housemates would go down to the phonebox and put our order of groceries in. If we weren’t at home when the delivery came, the shop owner would let himself into our house – he had the keys to all the Asian houses in Tod.
In those days, there was no mosque in Tod – we would travel to Rochdale or Halifax for Friday prayers. I always looked forward to these trips because I got to catch up with friends. In 1979, Tod got its first mosque, a former church. The church trustees helped us secure our bid and we were really grateful. In recent years, as a way of giving back to the town, we've started holding mosque open days so people can pop by and see what we do.
I got married in 1973 and soon afterwards we had children. By now, many of Tod’s mills were closing down and Asian families were leaving. Luckily, I was offered a job at the local foundry, where I would work in the laboratory for the next thirty-eight years. This is how Tod finally became my home. People sometimes ask if I’ll ever leave Tod. My answer is, Why should I? The people are lovely, the park is a short walk from my house, the shops and GP surgery are close by, my family is near, and the mosque is a five-minute walk. What more could I want from a home town?