“Cemcho bhai, harisani, ano chokra kabar?”
That is Gujarati for: “Hello brother, how are you? Any news about your son?”
Not too unusual as the start of a conversation in the heart of the Asian community in Blackburn, apart from the fact that the words are being spoken by a 69-year-old white, English-born milkman.
John Mather, aka Jimmy, has been doing the rounds in this north-west town for the past 50 years. And as he has gone from door-to-door in the town’s large Asian community, he has become almost fluent in Gujarati.
“When I first started the rounds here there were only a handful of Asian families, about eight or 10, in the London Road, Whalley St and Altom St areas,” says Jimmy.
But as more arrived on the foreign shores from Kenya and Malawi, Jimmy’s ability to go beyond delivering just milk – and procure the sorts of foods they couldn’t pick up in the local supermarket – put him in greater demand.
“They wanted natural yoghurt, ghee, goats and chickens, the type of things they were used to back home. I’d gone to the dairies here and they said that there wasn’t the demand, but they couldn’t have been more wrong.”
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