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Q & A

Amarjit, Hackney

As told to Harriet Maxwell, digital manager

Amarjit has lived in Dalston for nearly 40 years in the home where she raised her children. She moved to the UK from the Punjab, in India, in the 1960s as a child.

Amarjit in her home in Hackney Amarjit in her home in Hackney by Mina Salimi

Where is home for you?

Hackney. Where I feel safe. Where I feel I belong. Where I have familiar things around me. Where I can sing. Where I can throw things around.

When I first came to Hackney I had a feeling of belonging. I'm the child of refugees. I lived in Leicester for 16 years and it didn’t feel like home. When I came to Hackney I felt home. There was a freedom of thought. There was a diversity and I said if I'm going to have children I want them to grow up here.

What's your earliest memory of home?

My parents went from Pakistan to live in the foothills of Himalayas in Shimla. There they have a lot of monkeys.

My mum is making chapati. Me and my brother are sitting there and a monkey is at the window. She puts the chapati on the hotplate. The monkey comes in, takes the chapati and puts it in his mouth. He burns his mouth and my mum says 'serves you right'.

What one thing would you bring with you if you had to move today and why?

Passport. It's become so rigid. You cannot be a fluid human being, you have to have a solid identity.

What meal makes you feel especially at home?


Nowadays I don't need to have anything else – just chapati. I make them with chickpea flour. It's a source of protein, when you're vegetarian you need protein. And then I put maybe spinach or onion.

How do you make people feel welcome in your home?

I make pakoras.

When I cook I always cook a little bit extra because I know somebody's going to come. Food is the main thing to make people feel welcome.

And I give them my time.

What smells or sounds do you associate with home?

I recognise the knock on the door or the footsteps, even if it is the delivery person.

Who does the housework in your home?

Me – I'm the only one there.

Give us a great housekeeping tip

If you know somebody's coming, who likes cleaning, you make sure your smart television is dusted.

Quickly do the cushions and if there are too many newspapers hide them.

In the passage don't switch on the light so they can't see the dirty floor.

If they really want to look around and make judgement make them sit on a hard chair so they leave quickly. 

What's your getting home ritual?

I take off my shoes and put on my in-house shoes. I have a check if anyone's broken the windows. I used to listen to the telephone but I don't bother nowadays.

If you could change one thing about your home?

I would get my garden looking prettier.

I don't know the flora and fauna of the country. I'm not physically strong and it's too cold to go out.

Certain weeds take over. If I'm growing weeds I want a lot of different weeds. But one kind takes over the others. I want interesting weeds.

Quickfire round

  • Ketchup in the fridge or the cupboard?  I don't eat ketchup 
  • Shoes on or off? In-house shoes
  • Shower or bath? Bath, if I haven't got to go anywhere
  • Curtains open or closed? Shutters
  • Do you make your bed? No

Does anywhere else feel like home?

I think the whole world is my home.