Book recalls epic journey to UK by Indian broadcaster

Book recalls epic journey to UK by Indian broadcaster

AN eminent British Indian broadcaster’s epic journey on foot, ship and plane from Africa to the UK via India and the Vietnam War is graphically recalled in his new memoir.

Rajni Davda, the prominent Gujarati language radio-presenter at Sabras Radio, based in Leicester, has told of his amazing travels as a young man in a memoir called Delhi to Dover.

Dreaming of a better life outside his home in Uganda, Rajni Davda and a friend were in search of an adventure and certainly found it. His story begins in 1967, about three years before the mass migration of Ugandan Asians to the UK during dictator Idi Amin’s reign of terror.

The young men hitchhiked from Uganda to Kenya, boarded a ship to India and then hitchhiked across the sub-continent from Calcutta to Singapore. By 1968 they reached Hong Kong, found a job and trained to work in the US Army PX (retail stores) in South Vietnam, during the Vietnam War.

Sadly, a year later Rajni had to return to Uganda as his elder brother Narendra died. Then, in 1970, on his way back to Vietnam through India, Rajni unfortunately left his passport and other relevant documents needed to enter Vietnam in a taxi. Worse still, while stranded in India as a result of this, he contracted typhoid and was bedridden.

Recovering some months later, he decided to go to his maternal city in Gujarat state and met some friends who had arrived in India by sea from Kenya. All seven friends were penniless and so, in an audacious plan, agreed to hitchhike to the UK.

Having walked across India, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Austria, Germany and Belgium en route to the UK, their luck ran out at the final hurdle. At Dover, one of the group was hospitalized with typhoid. The remaining six friends were deported back to India.

Far from being crushed by this major set-back, in January 1971, all six members camped inside the British Deputy High Commission compound in New Delhi for 28 days. It wasn’t long before a local journalist picked up the story and created a media storm that concluded with Rajni and his five other friends being put on a flight to London, arriving on February 19, 1971.

Today, only four friends out of the original group of seven remain and one of them lives in Canada.

Delhi to Dover gives a detailed description of the plucky young men’s life in Hong Kong and war-torn South Vietnam, and also the difficulty faced while travelling through nine countries to reach the UK. The book also outlines the treatment that the group received from the officers of the British High Commission in New Delhi during their 28-days stay in the compound.

  • Delhi to Dover will be published on May 29, 2016, and has been supported by Leicester Multicultural Association and grant aided by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

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