The trunk to the branches of my heritage, culture, and identity

South Asian Heritage Month: Tanisha's Story

Tanisha was a graduate of EY Foundations' Impactful Futures programme in 2023.

Heritage, culture, and identity. This triage are major aspects in my life that shape whom I am today and structure the basic components of my personality.  I am Tanisha Zaman a multi-generational immigrant, a girl with Bangladeshi heritage interweaved with British culture. The living definition of a British Bangladeshi.

My journey with my heritage primally started with my grandfather and great-uncle moving to Britain in the 1950s, with encouragement by the British government to help rebuild the country after WW2. Some could say they were British before they were Bangladeshi, as they technically never lived in a country called ‘Bangladesh’, but rather a country deemed as ‘East Pakistan’.


They spent decades working hard, labouring and starting from the bottom to ensure I could be where I am today. My grandfather is what my father would deem a ‘grafter’, a hard working ‘bloke’ in the heart of the east end, and this came with many hardships. He worked, lived, and survived in a time when racism thrived, when local pubs, shops and other public spaces explicitly said, ‘NO DOGS, NO BLACKS, NO IRISH,’ yet this never brought him down.


It is recorded that he would spend time mingling with other east enders in a pub located on Whitechapel Road, called the ‘Blind beggar,’ where it’s only best to assume this was one of the many places he conjured up and mentally organised his multiple business ventures. A man beyond his time, an intellect, and an entrepreneur, my grandfather was the man who started the lineage of the Zaman’s. He was but a humble tailor to some but in my eyes, he was the man who subconsciously constructs my mindset, a hero in his own right. He led by example for my father and is perhaps one of the largest reasons as to why I think as I do to this day. Although I never met my grandfather, Sufi Miah, his teachings, and knowledge resides with me. He taught my father impeccable mannerisms and was known to be loving and nurturing.

Some could say the lack of tangibility in this complex relationship makes me all the more infatuated. My inability to actively communicate with my grandfather leaves me feeling lost and confused. On one hand I am the granddaughter to a Bangladeshi immigrant and on the other I am the granddaughter to the accustomed British citizen. Who I am and where I stand with my heritage is anything but clear.

Despite this, I know my grandfather would be proud to see his descendants honouring him by still living our culture, by coming together on Eid and wearing south Asian attire, by respecting our elders with simple gestures like sacrificing our seats in the living room when all of us scream, shout and joke on a Saturday evening. And by using the tattered old prayer mat he gifted my grandmother in the 1980’s. And places where I have lost or diluted my culture, I am sure my grandfather would be proud to see me replace parts of my Bengali culture with pieces of British culture, and to have faith that I only adopt the best of both worlds.

My grandfather was the trunk to the many branches of my culture, heritage and inevitably my identity. I would like to thank my grandfather for sacrificing his livelihood and his continuity of hard work to raise all of his children, and for always ensuring that he provided the best he could. It is possible that the tales my father reiterates are glorifying my grandfather, but I am confident he was the amazing man who built the foundation of my family’s ambition, and he will stay the amazing man that sits in the back of my mind sustaining my humbleness and fuelling aspiration.


Thank you, Dada (Bengali terminology for grandfather)!