Sunday, 21 April 2013

Diversity multiculturalism or lack of integration

Some time back, a few of us Asian families organised an Indian Mela, to raise funds for a charity which works in the field of wildlife conservation, and which is organising an expedition for our daughters.

None of us had done this kind of thing before and it was a great experience for the girls who created posters and tickets, kept the accounts, went on door to door trips around the neighbourhood and the High Street to sell tickets and to get sponsorships for auction and raffle prizes, respectively.

On the day, they dressed traditionally, in half sarees, did tika and aarti to welcome people and performed Bharatnatyam.

Our major clientele was the neighbourhood and the hospital. They came and gorged on the food, all authentic home made stuff except for ice cream, which was served with GITS Gulabjamun. They also danced to Bollywood, bought Indian trinkets and shawls and pronounced it a success. We partied on the leftover food, patted ourselves on the back and discussed organising similar events in future for hospital attached charities.

We believe that our children should be proud of their culture, should know where they come from and the values we stand for. We often discuss the fact that NRI kids seem much more in touch with their culture as there is an exoticism attached to it and parents seem to encourage it. But is clinging on to our indigenousness likely to cause a problem for our children, will it impact their ability to integrate and assimilate into the British society?

As a doctor one hears about the areas dominated by ethnic minorities, where women don't access health services, face language as well as cultural barriers and in turn put themselves at risk due to all these factors. These are places where people have not moved on...So if they left India or Bangladesh in 1960, they have maintained a community and family which behaves like India or Bangladesh in the sixties, not taking into account the fact that their children are growing up in 21st century Britain and even if they were growing up back home, times have changed back home in our countries of origin in a major way too.

As a people, we Indians should be used to the slogan "Unity in diversity". But every state of the Indian Union has a different language, cuisine, dress and culture which the people of the state are quite rightly proud of and it results in phenomenon, which people from outside India find difficult to understand.

In Norfolk, a county in the tiny island of  Great Britain itself, we have a Malayali Association, a Sikh association with their very own Gurudwara and of course numerous smaller social groups of Gujaratis, Tamils, North Indians, Bengalis...We celebrate our own and get together for many others depending on many factors including religious alignments.

So it is often fun to watch people get defensive brickbats from wronged communities in response to posts on Facebook which are hilarious impersonations of how a Malayali or Bengali or Bihari person's accent would sound or some other not so politically correct jokes.

Of course politicians in India would like us to remain divided. But English being so important for employment, Internet, Satellite TV and acceptance & popularity of inter state marriages have all meant that more and more regional languages, traditions and cultures are losing their sheen.

Whether good or bad, with so much immigration within countries and out of countries, multiculturalism and integration is inevitable. It is important for us to maintain a balance between being true to our culture while being able to adopt the new.

Indians have always been lauded for doing this quite well in the countries they have immigrated to. As a result they contribute to the British economy while not being a burden, unlike some other ethnic minorities. But they are also known to live in tight knit communities, who tend to socialise and marry amongst themselves.

I wish my son would speak better Hindi or that my daughter would not be excluded from being able to enjoy the wonderful works of Premchand or Amrita Pritam, but.....

There are other things to worry about- I still have to deal with dates, late nights, clubbing and God knows what else!!!


Sushmita Joshi said...

Nilanjana, again you wowed me with your evocative write up. Today, we are a globalised world, we do not have boundaries...yet to have an identity is important. What should be that identity? Do we decide or do we let the society decide?
Like you pointed out , India itself is diverse, we migrate to other States and still remain true to our roots. Doesn't mean we ignore our foster State. We rejoice in the differences. Likewise, the same applies to our Global community, so what if we live in a foreign land? We are global citizens, Indian global citizens.

garam masala said...

Very very relatable,Nilanajana....and loved the end as the generation we are parenting would certainly not have issues that nag us....they are truly marching towards global citizenship,which as you say brings new headaches for us :)
Kudos for the flow of thoughts