Shah Jolal Restaurant


The Shah Jolal Restaurant was established by Ayub Ali, a former lascar, who arrived in London in 1920, having jumped ship at Tilbury Docks. Located in the heart of the East End, this café served as a hub for the Indian community there. It was frequented by ex-lascars who inhabited the area, and also served as a meeting place for the East End branch of V. K. Krishna Menon’s India League. In this last respect, its visitors included renowned cultural and political figures such as Mulk Raj Anand, Narayana Menon and Krishna Menon, as well as its more regular working-class clientele.


L/PJ/12/455, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras, p. 80

Secondary works: 

Adams, Caroline (ed.), Across Seven Seas and Thirteen Rivers (London: THAP, 1987)

Visram, Rozina, Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History (London: Pluto Press, 2002)


This file includes reports and correspondence relating to the East End branch of V. K. Krishna Menon’s India League. This extract is from a New Scotland Yard Report on the League and details the inaugural meeting of the branch which was held in the Shah Jolal Restaurant on 13 June 1943.


The East London branch of the INDIA LEAGUE…has been opened at 76, Commercial Street, E.1., the office being situated over an Indian café owed by Ayub ALI, a Bengali ex-seamen…About 80 persons attended, of whom only three were Europeans; the remainder were mostly Indian seamen and factory workers. Kundan Lal JALIE presided, and with him on the platform were: V. K. Krishna MENON, Mrs. Asha BHATTACHARYYA, Ismail ALI, Mrs. J. K. HANDOO, Mrs. M. N. BOOMLA, Alexander SLOANE, MP and Dr K. C. BHATTACHARYYA. Others present among the audience were: Surat ALI, Said Amir SHAH, Dr. H. K. HANDOO, I. A. MALLIK, Moina MEAH alias S. A. Majid QURESHI, Abdul GHANI, Manek KAVRANA, Abdul HAMID, Mulk Raj ANAND, Narayana MENON and N. B. Ker (High Commissioner’s Office).

Key Individuals' Details: 

Ayub Ali (founder and owner of the café; co-founder of the Indian Seamen’s Welfare League)


This short extract highlights the function served by the Shah Jolal as a focal point for the community of working-class ex-seamen that inhabited the East End of London. It also suggests that the working classes were concerned about colonial rule and politically active – which contradicts some representations of them as passive and absorbed solely in their own livelihoods. The attendance of many elite cultural and political figures, including Mulk Raj Anand and Narayana Menon, suggests that there was some interaction between working-class and privileged South Asians in Britain within the political sphere.


Ismail Ali (attended India League meetings there), Surat Alley (attended IL meetings there), Mulk Raj Anand (attended IL meetings there), Asha Bhattacharyya (attended IL meetings there), Kundan Lal Jalie (attended IL meetings there), V. K. Krishna Menon (meetings of his India League were held there), Narayana Menon (attended IL meetings there), Shah Abdul Majid Qureshi (close links with Ayub Ali through the Indian Seamen’s Welfare League; attended IL meetings there), Said Amir Shah (attended IL meetings there).

Archive source: 

L/PJ/12/455, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras


76 Commercial Street
London, E1 6LY
United Kingdom
Involved in events details: 

Meetings of the East End branch of the India League

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