Meah Monirul Alam, one of the UK’s longest-serving and most successful Bangladeshi restaurateurs, and former president of the Bangladesh Caterers Association (BCA) passed away on 23 July at the age of 82.
The prominent businessman and community leader, who championed the curry industry for more than five decades, first arrived in London in 1960 as a student aged 22. He worked part-time in his uncle’s restaurant before opening his first business three years later.
He had interests in 25 restaurants across Kent and London during the 1970s, and his sons still run the Kashmir restaurant in his home town of Canterbury.
Meah quickly recognised that the public appetite for curry was greater outside the capital, seizing the opportunity to relocate to the south coast. His first restaurant, Calcutta, was the only Indian restaurant within a 60-miles radius and also housed a nightclub for diners who hadn’t worked up enough of a sweat with their curry.
The father of four actively encouraged other Bangladeshis to set up restaurants in Kent and offered loans to help them get started. His interest in raising the profile of Bangladeshi restaurateurs and championing the fact that it was predominantly Bengalis, not Indians, who were spearheading the industry led him to become president of the Bangladeshi Caterers Association in the 1990s.
He successfully raised the organisation’s membership as he did in another high-profile role, as the leader of the UK branch of the Bangladeshi Nationalist Party. His community activities included setting up an Islamic cultural centre and mosque in his adopted home and acting as an advisor and confidante to the local community.
They say behind every great man is a woman, and his wife, Raushon Ara, says one of her greatest battles was getting her husband to retire from an industry he helped shape for nearly 55 years. Speaking to Curry Life magazine in 2017, Meah said he had no regrets.
“It was hard work, but I always remained interested and passionate about my work,” he said. “It’s been a pleasure helping my fellow countrymen get started in the business, flying the flag for Bangladeshi caterers and serving the public. My advice to anyone starting in this industry is to work hard and be nice to people. Success will come.”
Meah Monirul Alam was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Curry Life Awards in 2017 for his contributions and services to the British curry industry, with the awards hosted by journalist and broadcaster Michael Buerk.
At the time, he was not well enough to attend the ceremony, with his son Ruhul Alam receiving the award on his behalf. Kashmir restaurant customers left many tributes to MeahMonirulAlam, saying: “He was a wonderful man,” and “What a legacy your father has left to his family and all of Canterbury.”