The events described in Sarfraz Manzoor’s autobiography Greetings from Bury Park mainly take place between 1971 – the year when Sarfraz was born – and 2007 – the year when he published his memoir.
Sarfraz Manzoor was born in 1971 in Pakistan, just before the beginning of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. In his memoir, Sarfraz talks about his mother and siblings witnessing Indian fighter jets bombing the city of Karachi, where they lived:
Our home had no windows or doors and we could see the jets flying over our heads as they dropped bombs on oil depots and refineries. The bombing caused a power cut in the area and the lights went out in our house. My mother grabbed me in her arms and, taking Navela and Sohail with her, crouched under the stairs waiting for the raid to be over. I was six months old. (My Father’s House, 23%)
The dramatic events persuade Mohammed to promise his family that they would be reunited soon in Britain.
Sarfraz often talks about the time before his birth, when his parents decided to get married:
Mohammed Manzoor and Rasool Bibi married in 1960 – neither could recall the precise date – amidst controversy. My father’s family were against the marriage because they thought he could do better. Mohammed’s brothers and sisters could not understand why he was willing to marry someone with such poor prospects when there were other more attractive girls available. (My Father’s House, 11%)
The events that took place before Sarfraz’s birth help him build a complex portrait of his family, particularly of his mother and father. In sharing stories about his father’s past – including the eleven years he spent away from his wife and children in Britain – Sarfraz begins to understand Mohammed and reconcile with him after his death.
The physical setting alternates between the different districts in Luton where the Manzoor family lives. At first, the Manzoor family lives in Bury Park, in a “two-bedroom terraced house on Selbourne Road” (My Father’s House, 30%). Later on, Navela and Sohail convince their parents to move to Marsh Farm, a Luton suburb that is closer to their school. Sarfraz leaves his family house when he moves to Manchester to study, and then to London to work. He also spends a summer in the US, where he often returns for Bruce Springsteen’s concerts.
As well as this, the contrasting depictions of Britain and Pakistan help readers understand Sarfraz’s struggle to find his identity. The two settings also help Sarfraz create a complex portrait of his parents, who have different interpretations of the concept of home.
The two-bedroom terraced house in Bury Park is Sarfraz’s first home when he immigrates with his mother and older siblings to Britain. The house is rather modest and the family initially cannot afford to furnish it:
We slept side by side on the living-room floor on bed sheets spread out on the maroon carpet. When we eventually bought furniture it was all from salvage yards and second-hand stores, which my father visited every weekend without fail. (My Father’s House, 32%)
Sarfraz also recalls the hard times of living in Bury Park, when “Everything we bought was from second-hand stores or jumble sales a...