A Passage to Britain

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History Documentary hosted by Yasmin Khan, published by BBC in 2018 - English narration

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Image: A-Passage-to-Britain-Cover.jpg

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Dr Yasmin Khan explores an extraordinary collection of ship's passenger lists to trace the changing story of migration from the Indian subcontinent to Britain over three key decades.

[edit] The Viceroy of India

Yasmin tracks down passengers who travelled from Mumbai, known previously as Bombay, to Britain in the 1930s on the P&O liner The Viceroy of India. Yasmin discovers the challenges faced by these new arrivals as they tried to build a life in a strange land and reveals how their individual stories reflect the increasingly strained relationship between Britain and its Indian Empire. Yasmin traces the story of a 21-year-old student Netra Dutt, to discover the reasons why his Bengali parents panicked and forced him to come to Britain. At the Indian High Commission, Yasmin finds out from his daughter about Netra's struggles with his identity as he tried to fit into an overwhelmingly white London. She uncovers the story of Mulk Raj Anand, one of the most famous Indian authors of the 20th century, who despised the British Raj and meets his niece and the surprising family he married into. Raja Stokes, an 86-year-old surviving passenger from the Viceroy, sheds light for Yasmin on the relationships that developed between colonial families and the local Indian population - from his bond with his ayah who travelled with the family to Britain, to the maharajah who was his father's patron. Yasmin also traces the story of Viceroy passenger Sir Lancelot Graham, who became one of the last colonial governors in the Indian Empire. She tracks down evidence of a bloody revolt in the Sindh province to share with his grandson. And she travels to Essex to reveal the sacrifice Ghulam Mum-taz, a law student from Madras, made when he married a white woman and started a family.

[edit] The Asturias

Yasmin returns to the passenger lists held at the National Archives to unearth the stories of those travelling on another ship, the Asturias, in the late 1940s. As this was one of the first ships to sail from Bombay following independence and Partition in 1947, Yasmin is keen to discover the role these seismic events played in the passengers' decision to travel to Britain, and to find out how their lives unfolded once they got here. Yasmin's search takes her from the factories of Ellesmere Port, to exploring the privileged lifestyle enjoyed by some Anglo-Indians in Delhi before independence. Yasmin meets Sikh entrepreneurs in Leeds and uncovers the story of Britain's forgotten displaced persons camps where new migrants from the subcontinent were housed alongside the victims of the Blitz. Yasmin meets Anne Tilley, who was three years old when she boarded the Asturias with her family. As an Anglo-Indian family, those who could trace a European descendant through the male line, the Scotts had led a privileged life in Delhi. But the events of 1947 led many Anglo-Indians to question their future and thousands travelled to Britain in the decade following independence. Yasmin discovers how the Scotts' initial optimism was short-lived as the realities of life in Britain, a country they had always viewed through rose-tinted spectacles, began to hit home. Yasmin traces the story of the Arathoons, working-class Anglo-Indians who served in the army during both world wars and found themselves facing an uncertain future as the British army began to demobilise. They boarded the Asturias to begin a new life in Ellesmere Port, and like the Scotts, discovered that life in Britain would not always be easy - facing discrimination and sometimes violence from those they worked alongside. Tehal Singh's son and grandson tell the extraordinary story of the pioneering Sikh pedlars in Britain and the reception they got from the British as they went knocking from door to door across the country. And the Rubchevska sisters reveal the real reason why hundreds of Polish families were on the Asturias and the incredible journey that had led them to their refugee camp in India. Emotional stories of loss, bravery and resilience that give a new insight into the forgotten Anglo-Indian community and the aftershocks of independence and Partition that led so many passengers to come to start new lives in Britain.

[edit] The Batory

Yasmin returns to the passenger lists to unearth the stories of those travelling on the great ocean liner the Batory, in the 1950s. The decade was one of momentous change for Britain - the postwar boom and a shortage of workers encouraged people from across the new Commonwealth to make the journey to Britain. The Batory's passengers were part of this wave of arrivals, coming to seek their fortunes and they were to change the country in ways no one had predicted. The search takes Yasmin from the terraced streets of inner-city Liverpool, to the factories of the Midlands, to deep within secret government archives. Yasmin uncovers the extraordinary story of Bachan Singh, an ambitious young man from a village in the Punjab, who found freedom in the pubs and clubs of 1950s Liverpool, before making it big in the local ice cream trade. The story of a 30-year-old on board, Ahmed Takolia, takes Yasmin to the heartlands of fifties manufacturing, the Midlands. Here she discovers an untold history of segregation in British factories, and goes on the search for the truth behind a 50-year-old urban myth. Another passenger, a bright medical student, stepped off the Batory in 1956, dreaming of playing a part in the world's first public health service, Yasmin tracks down his daughter to discover why his hopes were dashed. The Batory's passengers, and the thousands of others from the Indian subcontinent who arrived in this decade, were the subject of intense government scrutiny. Secret files, only recently released, reveal the lengths the authorities were prepared to go to make life difficult for the newcomers and the racket in fake passports that resulted from this. Stories of courage, desperation and determination to forge a new life in a strange land give a fascinating new perspective on the early British Asian communities.

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[edit] Technical Specs

  • Video Codec: x264 CABAC High@L3.1
  • Video Bitrate: CRF 19 (~2673Kbps)
  • Video Resolution: 1280x720
  • Video Aspect Ratio: 16:9
  • Frame Rate: 25 FPS
  • Audio Codec: AAC-LC
  • Audio Bitrate: Q=0.45 VBR 48KHz (~125Kbps)
  • Audio Channels: 2
  • Run-Time: 59 mins
  • Number of Parts: 3
  • Part Size: 1.15 GB (average)
  • Source: HDTV
  • Encoded by: JungleBoy

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