Lancastrian learnt the two languages, as many customers cannot speak English
13th July 2010: If you are an Indian, you would love to buy milk from Lancastrian John ‘Jimmy’ Mather. The 69-year-old milkman has turned fluent in at least two Indian languages, Gujarati and Bengali, as many of his customers cannot speak English.
It all started in the 60s. Mather struck a cord with families from India and Bangladesh, while delivering pints to his customers. As the passing years saw the influx of more and more Asians with little or no knowledge of English, he embarked upon the process of learning some of their language.
Even locals say Mather’s command of Gujarati and Bengali has strengthened ties with the community.
Mather says when he started in 1960 there were handful of Asian families in the region. They were good and decent, but their English obviously was not good. As such, he picked up the language and made things lot easier.
His method of learning was not too complicated. He would listen carefully to what the immigrants said, make a mental note in his head, and next time just repeated the words.
Mather does not know how long it took him to learn. The milkman says he has known the language for about 30 years, and once you pick up the words you remember them.
After overcoming the language barrier, Mather says he realised the Indian families needed specialist stuff to prepare traditional meals.
Mather says those were the days when stuff like ghee, butter and chapatti flour were really hard to get. The Indians wanted natural yoghurt, ghee, and type of things they were used back home.
Mather says he eventually went to Leicester where there was a large Asian community and then to Birmingham to get what they needed.
An expert in Indian cultures, Prof Rachel Dwyer, says very few non-Indians learn Gujarati.