A Healthy Indian Takeaway

Bharat Patel has reported on events throughout the world for the BBC and ITV, but his own story has never been told. By the age of eight he had lived on three continents and his journey from India to Zambia to England raises an intriguing question: why did a family with five servants and a farm uproot to Africa and a smaller house with two servants, then to England to a house without servants or bathrooms and with an outside toilet?
The book is full of funny and bizarre stories you could not make up but which happen to be true, with a touch of journalistic embellishment.
Imagine you are eight years old and have never met anybody English. ‘Why don’t English people have caste names like “Patel” to denote their place in society as farmers or merchants? Why are they instead named Crook, Ramsbottom and Smellie?’
In his new book, Indian Takeaway, Queniborough TV reporter and documentary maker Bharat Patel finds his first Leicester neighbour astonishing:
‘I thought the most fascinating aspect of Norah was her legs. Not that they were objects of beauty or art; rather they were stout and uneven, like tree stumps. Both legs sported a distinct brown line up the back, which I was convinced grew out of her thighs, knees and ankles. As I noticed more and more women with identical bulging lines I decided that all English people must bear this deformity. I suffered from this delusion until summer: the balmy day Norah appeared wearing shorts, her abnormality vanished and I learned about seams and stockings. It was a relief to conclude that the English were built like us, not marked and swollen in odd places.’
Bharat was filming in the Gujarat in India following an earthquake when he had an epiphany.
He says, ‘I was born near the disaster zone but could remember little about the village where I grew up or my early childhood. I understood the local language, but felt like a foreigner in my own country. Yet still I had a strong sense of belonging, even though I had become ‘English’. I had been taken out of India, but India had not been taken out of me.’
Over the next decade he asked his family hundreds of questions and uncovered many tales. Each continent forms a section of the book, revealing the challenges faced by early Indian immigrants. ‘I didn’t want the memories to die so I recorded them on scraps of paper until I had enough to write Indian Takeaway, which mostly views a bewildering world through the eyes of a small boy.’
Indian Takeaway is stocked by several businesses in Syston including The Continental Café, The Gurkha Embassy, Byrite, Watermead Dental Services and High Class Ironing. Or you can email [email protected] or call 01162 700 101.
The cost is £8.99. Additional donations are welcome as all profits go to the Leicestershire and Rutland research charity, Hope Against Cancer.