A life in the shift of

Navin Patel, owner of Raj's Newsagents in Ashford, Kent
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Navin Patel, 40, and his father, bought the newsagent/off-licence in 1971, having been expelled from Uganda by Idi Amin. He is married and has two daughters, 12 and nine, and a six-year-old son. They live above the shop.

"I get up at 5am. We are Hindus and everyone has to have a bath and pray before breakfast. I pray for about 15 minutes. My wife does half an hour, and my mother an hour. Dad retired in August, and for the last two he's been raising money for the new Hindu temple in Neasden. It was Dad who first saw the shop advertised in Dalton's Weekly. 'This is a very good shop,' he said. 'In four or five years we will make our money back.' He was right. It's been a gold mine. I drive three cars. One is a Mercedes.

"In the Eighties we bought a nursing home, too. My wife works there. Sometimes she works until 4am and still gets up at 6am to cook for us. It's in our genes: work, work, work. I sometimes think Indian people are mad. I have a boy who works for me - he is a good boy, but he doesn't like working. Like some English people, he thinks if he's worked a 40- hour week he's worked very hard. I work about 100 hours a week.

"At 5.30am my head boy arrives and we go into the garage and count out the papers for the paper rounds. The shop opens at 6am. There are always people waiting.

"I have breakfast at 8am - two toast and some Bombay mix. I eat Indian food, not crisps and fizzy drinks like my children. I was one of the first Indian men in Ashford. Sometimes people call us "Paki bastards", but not often. Bricks have been chucked through the window. But it's not personal. We have shutters now.

"At 8.15am the school kids come in and spend their dinner money. The biggest problem with them is fags. We've clamped down a lot because I've been told off by the police and the school. My children go to a private school. I want them to do better than me. One daughter wants to be a doctor, the other a skin specialist. Traditionally the son takes over the father's business, but I want him to do something better. My wife won't let them slack about. She says: 'Look how hard your father works. I expect you to do the same.'

"From 9am I run the post office and the other staff run the shop. I have lunch at 1pm - vegetables and rice - and am back in the post office at 1.30pm. I break at 5pm so we can eat our main meal together, and then work until the shop shuts at 7.30pm. In the evenings I do my paper work. I'm never in bed before 11pm. My only break is on Sunday afternoons when I play with the children. We go ice skating or play badminton.

"I must be getting old because I find the long hours hard. We don't need any more money and I am thinking that if I had a manager, I could take life easy. But what else could I do? This is all I know."

Sally Williams

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