Shah Abdul Majid Qureshi

Locations

Percy Street
London, W1T 2DA
United Kingdom
51° 31' 6.006" N, 0° 8' 0.6072" W
Dilkush Delight
Windmill Street
London, W1T 2JU
United Kingdom
51° 31' 8.0904" N, 0° 8' 1.194" W
Other names: 

Moina Meah

1
Date of birth: 
25 Sep 1915
City of birth: 
Patli-Qureshbari, Jaganathpur, Sylhet
Country of birth: 
India
Current name country of birth: 
Bangladesh
Date of 1st arrival in Britain: 
01 Jan 1936
Precise 1st arrival date unknown: 
Y
Dates of time spent in Britain: 

1936-46, 19??-67, 1975/6-

2
About: 

Shah Abdul Majid Qureshi was born in a village in Sylhet, the eldest of three brothers and a sister. His father was forced to sell his land after spending much of his income on educating his sons, and the family lived in impoverished circumstances. To escape a life of hardship and help his family, Qureshi decided to follow the example of many of his fellow Sylhetis and try to get work on a ship with a view to migrating to America or Britain. With this in mind, he left for Calcutta in 1934. After various failed attempts, he finally managed to escape from a ship docked at Tilbury, making his way to east London where he found lodgings with other recently arrived Sylhetis.

Qureshi began his working life in Britain selling chocolates in pubs. He soon moved on to working in various Indian restaurants (including the Bengal Restaurant in Percy Street) and, in 1938, opened his first restaurant, Dilkush Delight, in Windmill Street, Soho. By 1944, he owned a different restaurant off Charlotte Street. This became known as the 'India Centre' because numerous politically active South Asians congregated there for meetings. During this period, Qureshi himself became involved in political and welfare activities concerning the South Asian community in London. He was an active member of the Hindustani Social Club and co-founder (with Ayub Ali) and President of the Indian Seamen's Welfare League. He also attended some India League meetings. A Muslim, Qureshi worshipped at the East London Mosque and helped form the London Muslim League with Abbas Ali.

Qureshi married on his first return trip to Sylhet in 1946 and eventually, in the 1970s, brought his wife and children to England where the family remained.

Connections: 

Abbas Ali, Ayub Ali, Mushraf Ali, Taslim Ali (early pioneer of facilities for Muslims in Britain), Surat Alley, Syed Tofussil Ally, Mulk Raj Anand (both attended inaugural meeting of East End branch of India League), B. B. Ray Chaudhuri (on the executive committee of the Indian Seamen's Welfare League), Abdul Hamid (barrister and involved with Indian Seamen's Welfare League), Kundan Lal Jalie, Krishna Menon, Narayana Menon (both attended inaugural meeting of East End branch of India League), Mr Nandev (helped him out with restaurant), Mr Rahim and Mr Yassim (original owners of Shafi’s Restaurant), Said Amir Shah (both attended inaugural meeting of East End branch of India League), Maharaja of Siraikullah (served him and his party at restaurant), Dr C. B. Vakil (on the executive committee of the Indian Seamen's Welfare League).

Involved in events: 

 Attended Indian Seamen’s Welfare League meetings

 Attended Hindustani Social Club meetings and events

3
Secondary works: 

Adams, Caroline, Across Seven Seas and Thirteen Rivers (London: THAP, 1987)

Visram, Rozina, Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History (London: Pluto, 2002)

 

4
Example: 

Adams, Caroline, Across Seven Seas and Thirteen Rivers (London: THAP, 1987), pp. 140–77

Content: 

This is a transcript of an oral narrative by Shah Abdul Majid Qureshi in which he recounts his reasons for migration to Britain and the conditions and events of his life after migration.

Extract: 

In 1938, I saved enough to open my own restaurant - in Windmill Street. I can claim that I was the first Sylhetti man to own a restaurant...At that time most of the customers were Indians...We used to get English customers too - those English people who had been in the Indian Civil Service and all that...Then the student community from Bengal, they started coming, because they knew that they wouldn't have any worry for shelter, and they could find work as waiters, and at the same time they used to take admission in the Law Institutes, or in any institution. Students from all Bengal - East and West, Hindu and Muslim. So all the credit goes to that fellow who started the restaurants.

Relevance: 

The above extract emphasizes the pioneering work of early working-class South Asian migrants and how they impacted on British culture through the establishment of South Asian restaurants which, even in this early period, were frequented by the British as well as by South Asians. It also hints at the cross-class interactions among South Asians (waiters and students) and at the role of Indian restaurants as community meeting places where people congregated to socialize and sometimes to mobilize politically. The fact that the two restaurants owned by Qureshi were in Soho indicates the presence of working-class South Asians in the very heart of London.

Archive source: 

L/PJ/12/455, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

L/PJ/12/630, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

L/PJ/12/646, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras