I was born in Lahore, Pakistan at the end of October 1968, but because my father was due to start work in the Pakistani Embassy in London, the whole family relocated to England the very same week.
We started off living in a two-up two-down in Southfields… but only in two rooms of it! Mother, father and my two elder siblings really had to rough-it in the beginning – the chaos of living arrangements was certainly to become a theme of my childhood.
We moved around other houseshares in the Wimbledon area, but it was only two years after my younger brother Irfan was born that we had anywhere we could really call home. In 1972 my father bought a house in Wimbledon Park, but even then, we rented out upstairs just to make ends meet.
We then moved to Clapham, but thanks to my father’s employment at the Embassy, we managed to get a place at Holy Trinity School near Sloane Square, despite living well outside of the catchment area. The family moved back to Wimbledon in 1977 and still travelled to Sloane Square for school.
But even the simple matter of going to school was thrown into doubt when my father tragically died. It was 1978 and I was just 9-years old. This was obviously a life-changing experience for all of us, and put an incredible strain on everything we did. Because we’d lost nearly all of the family income, I can remember my brother Haroon having to write a letter to the council, pleading with them to give us free-school meals, rail passes, and also for them to let my youngest brother Irfan go to Bishop Gilping primary school in Wimbledon.
We had to rely on the kindness of others just to survive. A friend of my father’s who owned a grocery store was kind enough to give us our food for over a year, for example. It was touching that in these dire times, many different people showed such generosity – we simply couldn’t have carried on without it.
And it was also during this time that my future in property was defined. My father had put most of his savings into an investment property in Wandsworth, hence why we struggled so much after his death. When my mother was eventually allowed to sell the property after the year-long process of probate, she decided to invest the cash into more investment property. That one decision was the catalyst for so much of the rest of our family’s future.