Diaspora Stories is a podcast of stories and interviews with people who left home to make a new life someplace else; those who settled - first and subsequent generations; and those who came for a time and then returned.
The podcast begins with the UK National Health Service - the NHS - because as the daughter of an overseas doctor, it is a familiar place for me to start. However, I hope that this will be the first of many chapters and that there will be many other stories that this project will reach.
I asked a family friend once about her experiences as an immigrant doctor in 1970s England.
She paused at that question. I heard a steadying intake of breath over the phone.
When she spoke again, it was with notes of both pride and reserve. 'We were not immigrants,' she said. 'Do you understand? We were invited here, we were guests of the government. They needed doctors.'
Diaspora Stories represents a conscious decision to step away from the word 'immigrant' and the politics it embodies. It is a decision to step instead into the stories of those who have left their homes behind to find the many worlds beyond, into the stories of their children and their children's children.
Diaspora Stories is also an aspiration to recast stories of migration in the truth and courage that they deserve.
My family migrated endlessly. The first journey was from India to England, but then we moved back and forth, settling and re-settling. Each one of us, within the family looking for our own individual versions of belonging.
My father had left his home behind once already in pre-partition India; the belonging he craved was to a place that no longer existed. My mother's belonging was to her own mother - the only grandparent I had remaining at the time we decided to return to India, aged nine. I saw my paternal grandparents three times in those years. Back then, in the early '80s flying a family of four, then five back home on a single salary was a once in a two to three year kind of a trip and that too with considerable saving and sacrifice.
We lived for all of those years in hospital accommodation. We didn't buy a house because we never intended to stay.
There was a time, when steeped in the rhetoric of 'immigration', I did not see my parents' journey for what it was - an immense act of bravery. It was a different world back then; for many, it still is. Although this podcast is not focused on the global pandemic, it is impossible not to reflect on the time that we are living through. For those who are far from home, far from loved ones, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken us back to an era when the heartache of distance was in some moments unbearable.
The NHS has a long tradition of employing staff from overseas, with significant recruitment drives for clinical staff in the 1950s and 1960s.
More recently, government figures indicate that nearly 14% of NHS staff say that their nationality is not British; and just over 20% of NHS staff are from non-white ethnic groups.
In the first chapter of this podcast, we would like to hear from those who have come from around the world to work in the NHS. It is their stories, and the stories of their families, their children and of subsequent generations that we want to discover.
We welcome contributions from anyone who has worked or is currently working in the UK healthcare or public health systems, in any role and from any diaspora, from those who made the journey a long time ago and those who have done so more recently.
Please get in touch. We will work together to craft the stories you want to tell.
Click below for more information on how to take part.
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Copyright © 2020 Ishani Kar-Purkayastha - All Rights Reserved.
Photo Credits: Marc Bullock