It was 6am, I was 11 years old, and my mother was tugging at our heavy duvets to get me and my siblings up at this unholy hour of the morning.
The family had just bought a newsagents shop in Romford, Essex and the year was 1977. Santosh Goyal or Mataji, as we all fondly called her, had grown up in harsh conditions and had worked hard all her life.
She was now instilling these values in all her children.
Growing up in the 1970’s in Essex was tough; we came to the UK in 1970 as a family of ten with almost nothing, but my Mum had a vision. She would get her children educated, and we would make a better life for ourselves than the family had managed to have in Kenya and India.
Born in Nairobi on February 8, 1933, as one of six siblings living in one room in a house with five other families, she knew all about hardship and wanted a better
life for her children.
I have fond memories growing up of us all being together, eating together and having lots of gatherings with extended family, with my mum in the kitchen busy
cooking wonderful Indian food.
Nothing made her happier than seeing us all together. She made sure that despite us not having much in those early years, there was always food on the table for all of us.
She, my Dad and my eldest brother Vidya worked hard, as I was growing up to set us all up for a great future.
Mataji knew that we could do better if we had private education, as the schools in the area we lived in weren’t very good.
So, she lobbied my dad to send us to a private school even though money was tight, and, luckily for us, she got her way.
Mataji believed in getting on with everyone and she instilled these values of unity in us from an early age.
Nothing made her happier than us getting along, and she constantly drummed into us that five fingers individually would never be as strong as when they come together as a fist.
Mum didn’t care for nice clothes or holidays: her focus was the family, making sure that we were fed and ready to go to school or work.
As we all got married and bore her grandchildren, she set about instilling her values into them.
Her desire was to always make a difference to other people’s lives, and this inspired the setting up of the Hemraj Goyal Foundation in 2010 in honour of my dad. Since then, the foundation has donated millions of pounds to good causes.
In her autobiography, which we helped her write a few years ago, she says, “I have enjoyed all the places I’ve been, I’ve enjoyed being with my children and family. My life has been full, and I have lived it well.…even though we lived through financial hardship in the 1970s and ’80s, it all worked out well in the end”.
She leaves behind seven children, 22 grandchildren and seven great grandchildren and a huge legacy for the Goyal family, with her values instilled in us to continue being successful and making a profound difference.
Santosh Kumari Goyal (February 8, 1933 – November 5, 2022) will be missed not only by her huge family but by the whole community.