Savitri Devi Chowdhary


Having worked as a high school teacher in her native Punjab, Savitri Chowdhary arrived in Britain in 1932 after a four- or five-year separation from her husband, Dr Dharm Sheel Chowdhary, who had come to Britain for postgraduate medical studies and recently begun work at a practice in the small Essex town of Laindon. On arrival, she found her husband had, to a large extent, adapted to English life and encouraged her to do the same. Shedding her saris for dresses and cutting her hair short, Chowdhary sought to fulfil the role of a doctor’s wife in an English town and to immerse herself in community life.

However, she also remained in touch with her Indian self, wearing saris for evening engagements, cooking curry at home, and socializing with the middle-class Indian community in London. Not only did she and her husband help establish early British Hindu organizations such as the Hindu Association of Europe and the Hindu Centre, but Savitry Chowdhary, on the encouragement of an English friend, Miss Cresswell, also became involved with the India League, attending – and occasionally speaking at – political meetings in London.

In the early 1950s Savitri Chowdhary published one of the earliest Indian cookery books with Andre Deutsch, subsequently giving talks on Indian cooking and even making television appearances to demonstrate her skills.

Published works: 

I Made My Home in England (Laindon: Grant-Best Ltd, nd)

Indian Cookery (London: Andre Deutsch, 1954)

In Memory of My Beloved Husband (Laindon: Grant-Best Ltd, nd)


Chowdhary, Savitri, I Made My Home in England (Laindon: Grant-Best Ltd, nd), pp. 7, 9, 65


In her memoir, Savitri Chowdhary recounts her experiences of migration to and settlement in Britain in the 1930s. She describes her adaptation to the role of a doctor’s wife, and then to that of a mother, in the rural Essex town of Laindon, and the ways in which she balanced Indian cultural practices with English provincial life. Her involvement with the Indian community in London, and participation in V. K. Krishna Menon’s India League, is also documented, as are the effects of the Second World War on the local community. Finally, she recounts her first return trip to India thirteen years after migration.


Dharm Sheel Chowdhary, Sir Learie Constantine, Agatha Harrison (involvement with India League), Krishna Menon (involvement with India League, both visited India Club), Paul Robeson (visited India Club).


[Sheel] had mostly mixed with the English people, got accustomed to their way of life…He liked the various styles of dresses worn by the British ladies and the bobbed hair seemed to have a great appeal to him…I kept my beautiful saris for wearing on our days off, when we went to London to see our Indian friends and for evening wear in Laindon. After I got over the initial strangeness of English dress, I found I could move about and work more freely in that than in a sari. After a little hesitation, I consented to have my hair cut short as well. So now I was all ready to get down to my duties’ (pp. 7, 9)

It wasn’t easy to belong to two countries…Was it possible, or even wise for a person like myself, who had been born and brought up in India, a country which had its own strong culture and traditions, to get completely absorbed in this country…? (p. 65)

Secondary works: 

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


These extracts, and the memoir in general, are interesting for what they reveal about one early migrant’s response to issues of integration and assimilation. Savitri Chowdhary appears to balance a desire to adapt to normative British culture (and to please her husband who clearly wishes her to do this) with a keen recognition of the importance of maintaining Hindu Indian cultural practices and traditions. Ultimately, despite her self-conscious westernization, she doesn’t seem to perceive a contradiction in belonging to two countries or cultures.

Involved in events: 


Celebration of Indian Independence at the Albert Hall, 1947


India League meetings

City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
Current name country of birth: 


Laindon, SS15 6ET
United Kingdom
51° 34' 31.3176" N, 0° 25' 20.0028" E
Date of 1st arrival in Britain: 
01 Jan 1932
Precise 1st arrival date unknown: 
Dates of time spent in Britain: 

1932 until death

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