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Living room

Why Fatima is #AgeProud

"Bangladeshi ladies, the same age as me, are not thinking in my way at all. People don’t like to change, they are just traditional."

Fatima, Manchester, is one of five people that we interviewed for International Day of Older Persons 2019. This is their story.

Fatima sitting on a sofa
Photograph and words by Mark Epstein

We married in Bangladesh in 1959. More or less four years later, Muhammed came here to study pharmacy, and that was for almost five years. This was a long time for him to be away from his two daughters and me. It was difficult but I got support from his father and my father. He used to so much miss his children. He used to keep two photographs in his wallet and he used to show everybody. One photograph of me, and one of Saira and Homaira. Every day he used to look at those photos. After four years and nine months, then we came to join him in Manchester.

There was no telephone. He was writing a letter without fail every week. Now people can speak every minute, every day. I never heard my father’s voice once I left him in Bangladesh. He loved us very much, he used to say “My heart is in five pieces – my five daughters”.  He was desperate to see me but I couldn’t make it because my husband’s financial situation was not that good and with four children it was a very hard life. He used to support his family in Bangladesh as well with money.

You don’t know what your future holds for you. It’s my destiny that I stayed here. My daughters are all educated. When the girls were young we had a happy family life and friends but now, many things have changed – my attitudes have changed. When I go back to Bangladesh now, I can see the difference. The way I entertain somebody, when guests come – it’s very different than Bangladesh – nothing wrong with it, but I’m different now.

I’m very open-minded. I adopted knowingly and unknowingly quite a lot of British traditions. Bangladeshi ladies, the same age as me, are not thinking in my way at all. People don’t like to change, they are just traditional. I travel to Bangladesh and people say to me “You’re going on your own?” and I say to them, “Plane full of people, how am I on my own?” He’s sleeping in the graveyard, I can’t make him go with me. Naturally I’m on my own. Saira says I’m a courageous lady.


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