Rishi Sunak married an Indian girl. But the Sunak family had roots in Kenya and Tanzania too. Therefore these countries too should celebrate his ascent to the pinnacle of British power.
Sunak’s maternal grandmother Sraksha, a remarkable woman who grew up in rural Africa, gambled everything she held dear to give her children a better life.
Born to Hindu Punjabi parents in a remote hut in the heart of Tanzania’s lion country, Rishi’s grandmother learned Swahili as a child and considered Africa her home, although her family retained close ties with the India they had left behind.
At the age of 16, she had an arranged marriage with Rishi’s grandfather, Raghubir Berry, a railway engineer from Punjab, then working in Tanzania.
In a move highly unusual at the time, this smart, confident young woman persuaded her groom to build a new life in Africa – a reversal of the usual wedding custom of ‘bidaai’ whereby the bride leaves her childhood home to join her husband.
Raghubir found a job as a tax official in his new country and the couple had three children: Rishi’s mother, Usha, and her two younger brothers.
By the 1960s, the family had set its heart on a move to Britain, inspired by Sraksha, who was beguiled by the idea of the land of Oxford and Shakespeare. While immigration rules made the move possible, finances were more of a problem.
Undaunted, Rishi’s grandmother sold all of her wedding jewellery to buy a one-way ticket to Britain, leaving her husband and three children behind in Tanzania in the hope – by no means certainty – that they would one day be able to join her. It was an immense risk to take.
Arriving in the UK in 1966 with no family or friends to greet her, Sraksha made her way to Leicester and rented a room as a paying guest of a distant acquaintance.
Making the most of her head for numbers, she found a job as a bookkeeper with an estate agent.
She saved every penny and a year later was finally able to pay for her husband and children, including Usha, then 15, to join her in Britain and began the family life she had so long dreamed of.
Her vision was the start of a remarkable success story that, with the meteoric rise of her grandson Rishi, is still unfolding.
Usha went on to study pharmacology at Aston University. Shortly afterwards, she was introduced by mutual friends to Yashvir Sunak, a medical student who had recently graduated from Liverpool University and whose upper-middle-class Punjabi family had moved to Britain from Nairobi during his young adulthood.
Usha and Yashvir were married in Leicester in 1977 before relocating to Southampton, where their first child, Rishi, was born on May 12, 1980. Another son and daughter followed.
Additionally, Britain’s King Charles is Christian, its Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is Hindu and the Lord Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is Muslim