One reason why I enjoy canvassing is the glimpses it provides into the many styles of London life. Some of the glimpses are, however, almost unbearably sad.
One group that arouses such emotion are the South Asian women who meet you at the door with a look very close to terror in their eyes. It is, I think, a varying mix of a fear of encountering a world that is strange and foreign, and that they’ve probably been warned against, fear that their behaviour will be judged inappropriate by husband or mother-in-law, fear that their lack of English skills and other “life skills” will be exposed.
I thought of them when I read the story of a Bangladeshi woman treated with great sense by a judge, who gave her a suspended jail term.
Rahella Khanom, 24, caused the five-month-old boy in her care to suffer fractures to his breast bone and ribs as she tried to rid him of evil spirits, Southwark Crown Court was told.
The story reveals how, despite living in London for years, she was effectively still kept in a Bangladeshi village:
The judge said that Khanomâ€™s strong cultural and religious beliefs, and the fact that she had been forced by her husband to live in isolation since coming to Britain from Bangladesh, meant that there were exceptional circumstances in her case.
So sad, so sad for the child, who suffered brain damage, and so sad for any children she might have, who will have a parent unable to be any sort of support in their world, and, of course, so sad for her, able to develop to only a tiny fraction of her human potential.