History & Culture

Asian locality in London city

Asian hub: The High Street at East Ham   | Photo Credit: FR

It is well known that London city has many nationalities living in it; in fact the city has the distinction of having almost every major race in the world in it. It was a historical necessity that people from a majority of the countries of the world have settled in London, the capital of Britain, the colonial power. Multi-ethnic and multi-racial status for London thus was the legacy of the country’s colonial past.

What’s interesting in the demographic spread of London is that immigrant populations are settled in localities based primarily on the country of their origin. East Ham is a well known locality of Asians in London, with a majority being Indians. East Ham extends to nearly 20 square miles and is largely self contained, residential and shopping district. It has excellent transport facilities, including an underground railway station , and coach services connecting to every part of London. The residential areas are dominated by Tamil, Malayalee and Punjabi settlers. The migrants from Pakistan and Bangladesh make numerous clusters of localities in East Ham. Manor Park for example, is predominantly Tamil populated with Sir Lankan Tamils in great numbers.

The High Street opposite the East Ham Underground station is the core of the locality. The entire stretch here is vibrant and full of life, with shops and establishments catering to every need of this sprawling district, including everything that a south Indian middle class family needs, right from a coconut scraper to grinding stones, saris to spices.

East Ham has two major temples; one for Murugan and the other for Mahalakshmi, both within two miles distance. Though London city has a number of temples in different localities the Murugan Temple here is one of the largest and most modern. The tall traditional temple tower at the entrance is very imposing and attractive. There is also a large prayer hall, sub shrines dedicated to Ganesha and Shiva are also artistically executed. It was consecrated with an elaborate Kumbhabhishekam in 2006.

The Mahalakshmi Temple, close to the busy High Street, though smaller, also is highly serene and is visited by large crowds in the evenings.

East Ham also has two Mosques with Jamia Masjid, being the largest. In Madarsas attached to mosques, the Muslim children are taught traditional Islamic languages and religious texts. A Gurudwara on Browning road caters to the considerable Sikh residents here. St. Mary Magalene Church in East Ham is considered as one of the oldest religious sites in London. Constructed in the 12 Century, its original design and architecture have been preserved till date.

There are a large number of hotels and restaurants here run by Asians. The well-known restaurant chain Saravana Bhavan, has a beautiful restaurant in East ham. Anantha Puri, (Sans Thiru), run by Kerala immigrants is famous for Kerala specific dishes. Kalpana, Taj Mahal and Ann Purna (Annapurna, anglicised ), are the other popular eating places. The ambience and décor of thee hotels and restaurants give an authentic regional flavour.

At the sprawling Central Park, you find mostly Asian crowds. Men, women and children gather here in the evenings for fun and frolic. It’s a great venue for families to meet friends for social gatherings over the weekends .

A number south Indian students in East Ham who come to pursue their courses in Management studies live here. A number of Management Colleges, in recent years have come up in the neighbourhood of East Ham and this explains for their preference to stay here. As per existing U.K. immigration laws, non- EU immigrants could be employed part time for not more than 20 hours a week during the college working days and full time during holidays. What students earn thus comes handy to pay their monthly bills. However, the David Cameron government is contemplating to tighten immigration laws so as to restrict Asian students from taking up jobs there. Yet, East Ham is certainly a thriving hub of Asians, nay south Indians.

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Printable version | Jan 11, 2021 4:45:56 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/history-and-culture/asian-locality-in-london-city/article7561709.ece

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