To get to the heart of the story of Drummond Street’s Bangladeshi community you have to first take a seat in one of the oldest Bengali restaurants there and soak up its charming atmosphere. The Diwana Bhel-Poori House lies in the middle of the busy street midway between Euston Station and Hampstead Road. It’s been there since 1971 and its interior of pine benches and wooden panelled walls is reminiscent of its early days when poor university students from UCL and the LSE would enjoy cheap but sumptuous vegetarian street food from the Indian Sub-Continent.
Life on Drummond Street was not as peaceful and harmonious as it is today. It has been hard fought for. Countless residents who still live there can remember the extreme poverty and racism they faced.
Mohammed Salique, the current owner of Diwana, came to live in Drummond Street in 1980. He worked in the restaurant as a teenager and eventually took over the business in 2010. When I arrived to interview him, he was busy serving up a delicious plate of Masala Dosa. I took a seat on one of those pine benches and waited and when the lunchtime rush ended, he told me his story.
Story by Lainy Malkani