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My Socialist English Landlord


By Prof Dhirendra Sharma

Those days, in the ‘50s, discriminatory To-Let Notice Boards were common in England: No Irish please. No Italian please. No African/Negro please. But No Indian please, was rare.
Still, if I knocked on the door, the white English lady – seeing an Indian face –would say, “Oh, just gone.”
“But I phoned you that I was coming.”
She would say: Oh, Yes, Yes, so sorry, young man! But my husband had already let out the room.
One Friday evening, as I knocked, the landlady opened the door: “Madam, you have an attic room to let?”
“Oh, yes, but only for girls, we don’t let to young men,” she said as a matter of fact.
“You are racist; you don’t want to let to an Indian. Your Notice does not say girls only,” I rebuked the landlady.
She retorted: I did mention ‘girls only’, but you accuse me of being a racist! Just wait here please!
And she rushed back, leaving the front door ajar.
Within a few minutes, she came back, and led me to her kitchen where I met her husband. Somewhat indignant, the English gentleman lectured me: We are not racist. We are Socialist. Our Labour Party had supported your Freedom Movement. You Indians come here to study and never go back. I want you to study – learn things here, but promise, you would return to serve the Indian people. You are welcome in our house, but India needs you.
I was truthfully their first male tenant and their daughter, Christine, 19, was my first English friend, who taught me how to dance while not hugging the girl on the dance floor!