Jalil Uddin


Jalil Uddin was born in Sylhet, a rural region of Bangladesh, in 1940. By his twentieth birthday, his family had pooled enough money to send him to England inspired by a very different image to the one Jalil discovered.


Home was a damp, run-down house in Chicksand Street; shared on shifts with twenty other Bengali bachelors. Halal being scarce, they ate kosher and Jalil gained a love for Fox’s biscuits. Unable to speak or read English, whenever he went out he would strategically place a brick to help him identify his home. Language difficulties made work hard to find, and Jalil’s first job was with a Jewish furrier, where he learned skills he later adapted for the cut-make-trim workshops that soon established among the Bengali community.


Sending money home didn’t stop Jalil dating several girls before marrying Rose Brady in 1969, and fathering twin sons a year later. Visiting Bangladesh in 1972 made him long for London, but in his homeland Jalil was considered a man of prospects and was married to a Muslim girl in his parents’ village. On his return to England, Jalil met a murubbi (elder) with no sons who offered to teach him the restaurant trade. This fruitful venture enabled him to manage ‘The Bengal Ruby’ in Brick Lane for almost thirty years.


A stroke in 2004 left Jalil paralysed and incapable of working. No longer at the centre of things, he hated his dependence on Rose and the diminishing respect of his Anglicised sons, so sent for his Bangladeshi wife to care for him. Just before his death in 2006, she found an old biscuit tin filled with mementoes of London that Jalil had collected since his arrival 46 years earlier.






(2007) found objects: 120 x 300 x 150 mm