The Guardian: Other Lives – a piece I wrote about my father

 Originally published, 3 April 2013

Naeem Malik obituary

Naeem Malik as a student in the 1950s in London, whose cosmopolitanism he loved
 Naeem Malik as a student in the 1950s in London, whose cosmopolitanism he loved

The working life of my father, Naeem Malik, who has died aged 83, was characterised by restlessness. He worked as a tutor, a restaurant reviewer and as a broadcaster for the BBC’s Urdu language service, supplementing these jobs with import-export. He was asked to set up a margarine factory and a fish farm; there was also an ill-starred adventure with a rotating advertising sign.

He was born in Amritsar, north-west India. His father narrowly escaped the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar ordered by General Reginald Dyer in 1919. Amritsar was just 15 miles from what became, unexpectedly and violently, the line of partition between India and Pakistan in 1947. Naeem took to the streets that year armed with a molotov cocktail, which exploded before he could throw it. At the railway station, on a stretcher, his red-stained arms nearly provoked a riot – although it was “only” the red of the antiseptic mercurochrome.


When he and my English mother, Marion, got engaged in the early 1960s, her family thought he might be an Indian prince – a rumour he never quite denied. Officially a republican, he loved the spectacle of monarchy. A committed anti-racist, he was convinced (wrongly) that he had never suffered racism. He loved England, but his England, like everyone’s, was selective. He had his flashes of national feeling: watching the FA Cup final, hating Mrs Thatcher.

He fell in love with London: Italian coffee and European cinema, exclusive department stores, a then-shabby South Bank, Hampstead Heath, the theatre, concerts and opera. He also developed an encyclopedic knowledge of the city’s bus routes and tube lines.

For his nephews and nieces going west – mainly to the US – he became a model of a different life, secular and cosmopolitan, and he will be remembered by all as a great cook. In his later years, illnesses put paid to his vigour, but he loved being Grandpa with his grandson, Luca. His failing eyesight made him miserable, but he got great pleasure from his talking books, finally reading Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children and Shame, after years of procrastination.

He is survived by Marion, me and Luca.

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