Explore the lives of Bengali and Sylheti-speaking communities living and working in the Cathedral and King St quarters of Norwich.
There are 14 excerpts in total for you to enjoy. You can download a Stories From the Quarter map here and embark on the walk yourself, or follow along online by listening to the story below. Explore Stories From the Quarter in full here →
Listen to Giyash Miah, a talented chef who began his career in the 90s washing dishes, and now owns the award-winning Tamarind Fine Indian Dining in Bloefield Heath.
I am Giyash Miah. My address is Kiln Close, Porringland. Born on 20 October 1975 in Sylhet, Bangladesh, I moved to England when I was only two years old. This means I have no memory of growing up in Bangladesh, but I often visit there. In fact, I just returned from a short vacation there a few days ago. The heat and humidity are completely different from Norwich. Since my family is from Bangladesh, that’s where I locate my cultural identity, my legacy, my heritage. Every fibre of my body yearns to be there, and I want my children to know my culture. So I go back often, sometimes twice a year. Britain is definitely my other home, I have made my second life here, but the crowd, the culture, the vivid colours of Bangladesh are always with me, I just love it.
My father died four years ago, and my mother still lives in Bangladesh. I love my mother very much, she gave birth to me, and she shaped my character. I am very open with her. When I see and hug her after a long time, that feeling is surely the best this life can offer. If I had to choose the single moment from my life when I was the happiest, I would choose my wedding day. My parents were there, and the whole family was present. The look of joy on my father’s face was unforgettable.
My wife Hena is from Shropshire. Ours was an arranged marriage, and the time between our first meeting and the marriage in Bangladesh was only two weeks. My father-in-law was a politician in Bangladesh, so he wanted to organise the wedding on a big scale. We resided in Norwich and Shropshire, but we felt it was more appropriate for us to be married in Bangladesh, in the presence of our parents. We have been married for 13 years now and we have four children. Our eldest daughter, Manha, is 12 years old. Our eldest son arrived next – Aaqib, like me, is football mad, and he plays for Blofield United. Then my son, Aadil, aged five. And the youngest daughter, Inara, is three years old. You would be right to think that my house is full of noise. My happiest travel memory is visiting the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, for our honeymoon. Pleasurewood Hills is near our house, the kids love going there. I enjoy spending time with them.
I am a chef by profession. I have been cooking since I was 18. These days I manage a restaurant, ‘Tamarind’, located in Blofield Heath. It has been going for ten years. You feel like a proper Bangladeshi when you go inside. I am blessed to have customers who, to me, are more like friends or relatives. With the restaurant as our ‘centre of operations’, we do a lot of charity work for and within the community. We have organized charity events for Big C, Great Ormond Street, East Anglian Air Ambulance, etc. My late father always urged us to do something for this country.
My father remains my ultimate inspiration, my hero. He loved his village, he was sensitive to the needs of the local people and gave them time. Everything I learned, I learned from his example. His memory is imperishable in my heart; it constantly reinvigorates my enthusiasm, my appetite to walk and work on the path of life. My parents visited Norwich, but they are accustomed to Bangladeshi village life, its wilderness, open-air lifestyle, freedom and joyful society of relatives. This weather doesn’t suit my mother. Everything here is tied to the rules, grid-cut and regimented. They have to depend on my siblings, my children or myself when they want to go to the shop.
I went to nursery, primary and high school in multicultural Bedfordshire. During lockdown I reunited with those school friends, and memories of that innocent time came flooding back. In Bedford, I was heading in the wrong direction so my parents decided to send me somewhere where Asians were in the minority. As a result, I came to Norfolk in 1993. I used to wash dishes in Fakenham. Once I realized I cook well, it became my passion. Norwich was like a small, intimate village then, the lifestyle was relaxed and not the eclectic multicultural mix it is now. I have been in Norwich ever since, and never felt like going anywhere else. Our friends in Ipswich call Ipswich ‘the waterfront town in East Anglia’; the sign at the entrance to my city Norwich says ‘UNESCO City of Literature’. My pride at living here is so large that my wife says I should get a job with the Norwich Tourist Board!
Before COVID, I ran a course at Norwich City College, which I will soon be resuming. I became ‘Manager of the Year’, as well as ‘Chef of the Year’, and my restaurant became ‘Restaurant of the Year’ for the whole of Norfolk. I want to pass on that knowledge and experience to others. One must find alternate means of interesting the young in traditions. Food is a culture, a matter of tradition, it should be passed on.
Giyash Miah was born in Sylhet, Bangladesh in 1975. He moved to England when he was two-years-old, and attended school in Bedfordshire, before moving to Norfolk in 1993. He is a chef by profession, and is the proud manager of Tamarind Blofield. He lives with his wife and four children in Poringland.
Stories From the Quarter is a National Centre for Writing project in partnership with Norfolk Record Office, funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund.
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