Best known for his role as Masood Ahmed in the BBC soap opera ‘EastEnders’, Nitin Ganatra traces his family history this week. He discovers how his ancestors overcame a number of hardships in life – including one relation who was married at just 6 years old!
Nitin Ganatra was born in Kenya on 30th June 1967. However, this was a difficult time in Kenya, as the country had only just received independence from Britain in 1963. Relations between Africans and Asians were tense, and Asians were asked to acquire Kenyan citizenship. The majority of Asians refused to give up their British passport, including the Ganatra family - they were seen by the government as disloyal and became subject to increasing discrimination by the government.
Like many of those who kept their British passport, Nitin’s parents fled Kenya. They moved to Coventry when Nitin was just four years old. They had little money - their house in Kenya had been taken from them, as they had refused to give up their British Commonwealth passports.
Once settled in Coventry, his father used his mother’s jewellery to get a loan from a bank, which they used to set up a family newsagents. Business was going well, as they repaid the 3-year loan within 9 months.
Nitin went to Coundon Court School and Community College in Coventry, before studying Drama, Film and Television at Bristol University. He married his wife Meera in 2004, and they have two children together.
On his maternal side, he discovered that his grandmother married when she was 6 years old – her husband was only 10. She had ten children, and sadly only two survived to adulthood, while eight passed away at a young age.
Tracing his paternal line also uncovers hardships. His great-grandfather was a labourer recruited by the British Empire to build a railway through Kenya. Over a third of those recruited either died or were returned to India as they had become too ill to work. Sleeping in tents beside where they were working, they also had to be wary of lions – around 28 workers were eaten.
This week’s program looks to be an interesting journey for Nitin Ganatra. Will you be watching?