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Born in Kenya in 1960, Rajesh is one of the many Asians who came to Britain from Africa to seek a better life. Like so many of them, he has established himself running what is known in the trade as a CTN – a confectioner, tobacconist and newsagent – which proliferate throughout the country. He and his brother Hitesh arrived in 1980, following in the wake of their father, who was already working here as a storekeeper.
Holidays are almost unheard of, although they have managed to find time twice to visit the state of Gujarat in north-west India, where their families come from originally. In fact, Rajesh works a much longer day than shop opening hours. He begins with a half-hour car journey from his home in Croydon, arriving at his shop in time to sort out the daily newspapers before his delivery boys and girls arrive, and if the newspapers arrive even 20 minutes late from the wholesaler, that’s when the trouble begins.
Rajesh says: 'Sometimes I have to deliver the papers myself, because young delivery kids have to get to school, or they might be sick. Then I’m struggling to catch up for the rest of the day. It can be a hard life, but on the whole, I enjoy it. I’ve got some wonderful regulars, but it’s tough being polite if I know a customer is in the wrong. It’s good being my own boss, and even better at closing time if I know I’ve had a good day. You can’t sack yourself if you are the boss, although I might do just that if I win the Lottery.'
oil on board
H 119 x W 119 cm
on loan from the Royal Society of Portrait Painters