When the partition of India and Pakistan began in 1947, my father, Ghulam Hussain, who has died aged 81, joined the Muslim exodus from Bombay (now Mumbai) in a perilous journey to the north. As part of the largest single migration of peoples in history, on his hazardous journey he witnessed many atrocities and deaths. He told me that a single handful of raw beans between himself and three other villagers was all there was to stave off starvation travelling on the back of a truck from Rawalpindi to Peshawar.
Born in the north-west frontier province near the hill cantonment of Cherat, a sanatorium for British troops, my father was one of the seven children of Sheraz Khan, a contractor supplying food and materials to the army, and Mareeb Bibi. From the age of seven he transported goods from village to village, and had no formal education, but he later gained some literacy, and in adulthood acquired some English.
At the age of 14 or so, through family connections, he managed to get to Bombay to work in the fledgling Bollywood as a PA for Nargis, most famous for her role in the film Mother India. But the job ended with partition.
In his early 20s, Ghulam joined a family friend in Cyprus working for the British Army in an MoD canteen until 1961, when he came back to Pakistan for his arranged marriage to Khatam Noora Gul, the daughter of a wealthy government contractor.
The couple moved to Britain in 1962. After a short stint in Birmingham, they settled in Aylesbury, where they already knew people. As a gregarious and outward looking young man, Ghulam made friends very easily and enjoyed his evenings with his fellow immigrants, who included Irish and West Indian friends. Like the majority of immigrants he wove another fibre in to the fabric of British society.
After a short stint as a factory worker my father once again worked for the British army, this time in Northern Ireland. Having lived under the British Raj and witnessed the division and brutality, it was clear why he supported the republicans’ cause, although he was against all violence. However, the travel bug did not go away, so that by 1980 he wanted to travel to Pakistan again, by road. this was at the time of the Kurdish insurgency in eastern Turkey, the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and a fervent, post-revolution Iran, which assigned a guard to accompany our journey to its border.
In his spare time Ghulam tended an allotment, fixed up cars and enjoyed DIY.
Ghulam is survived by Khatam, their six children, Niknam, Mumtaz, Ashraf, Mohammed, Noora and me, 20 grandchildren, and his brother Faisal.