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    Desi in demand


    by Rohin on 13th May, 2006 at 2:20 pm    

    Cast your mind back to the 60s. Ignore the fact most of you weren’t even a twinkle in Dad’s eye at that time, just roll yourself a joint, throw on your kaftan and strum your sitar.

    Led by the Beatles, assorted Maharishis and even the Beach Boys, India was centre-stage - at least in the fashion and music world. I mention those two facets as periods in popular culture are defined by the music and fashion trends that shaped them. The 60s were, without doubt, the decade of free love and flower power. The hippy movement embraced certain aspects of Indian culture, Goa was transformed from a small Portuguese Christian town to the drug-fuelled love-in and every other person could channel their karmic force.

    Today, the average white Brit probably has a better knowledge of subcontinental culture, as opposed to the tokenistic view the 60s brought. Of course this is a legacy of the large South Asian population in the UK, who have done much to educate other Brits. However, is the perception any less tokenistic; do Bollywood, bhangra and bhajis represent India more accurately than joss sticks and yoga matts?

    Earlier this week I had a few drinks with Gautam Malkani, author of a book we’ve been discussing on PP, Londonstani. Previous posts have tackled topics such as in-fighting amongst British Asian authors and Malkani’s take on the rudeboy mentality. However one of the themes that came out of our conversation was the inclusivity of the ‘desi’ scene. Upon reading a recent interview with Malkani, he makes the point that:

    “The beauty of the desi scene is that you don’t have to have brown skin to be part of it.”

    I’m not so sure, do you agree?

    I suppose one should start by defining the desi scene. We’re familiar with the monikers Asians throw at each other - rudeboy, try-hard, coconut etc. It would be erroneous to think that all desis are part of the same social scene. I suppose the modern cousin of the hippy movement lives on in the form of the ‘Asian Underground’, a term most left behind several years ago. The drum & bass-dominated culture evolved from its predecessor via Ananda Shankar and became personified by artists such as Talvin Singh, State of Bengal and Badmarsh and Shri. For those of you who have been to a gig where any of these chaps or their colleagues have been performing, you will surely agree that the crowd is normally a healthy mix of funky people of all colours.

    However the majority of British Asians are not into this sort of pursuit. And I do realise that our PP family is a skewed sample of British Asians. Most brown kids in Britain are more concerned with phones, shitty bimmers, black clothes, gangsta rap and feeling up Beena behind the Treaty Centre. These are the kids who feature in Londonstani, these are the kids who piss me off when I go to Hounslow, these are the kids I actually feel a bit peeved to be linked to. However, is this scene inclusive? On the contrary, these young people have created a niche for themselves which relies heavily on their cliquey nature. Whilst copying much of young black culture, they integrate poorly with any other race.

    I’m certainly not suggesting that rudeboys and rudegirls are a criminal element. Most of the time they’re entirely harmless, just a bit irritating. But just because they are not building bombs or listening to radical preachers, should we be less concerned they are isolating themselves? They are unwilling to interact not only with other races, but even different social strata within their own wider community.

    Asians in Media recently ran a light-hearted article by Rehna Azim, which I disagreed with strongly, as did many of the commenters (I think the fact she called Sunny cool was asking for trouble). She asks whether Asians are, or will be, cool. My one-line response is that cool is whatever you make it. The aforementioned funky drum&bass Brick Lane parties would not have black and white attendees if they did not think it was cool. The very fact that they feel welcome is cool. But as a sizeable third generation is growing, are British Asians still a bit exclusive? That ain’t cool.
    .
    I don’t know what desi culture will become. I think a third, different scene is developing. I think many of the people here fall into it; neither a rudeboy nor a coconut, as knowledgeable about their parents’ culture as they are about Britain’s, friends of every hue. Corny though this all sounds.

    I think a large proportion of British Asians are responsible for the continued Asian cliché. As long as we continue to depict the dregs of Indian culture as our trademarks (Bollywood, backwards families, religious inflexibility), we maintain the same tokenism that existed in the 60s. Even media aimed at Asians themselves is one-dimensional, such as the BBC Asian Network which often takes a parochial slant on current affairs.

    If the British Asian scene is seen by all as being as varied as any other, it will invite more interest from ‘outsiders’ and a greater degree of interaction and integration. The inherent insecurity amongst many brown Brits that provokes questions such as “Are Asians cool?” will give way to confidence to not only praise, but also criticise, ourselves. Because, after all, we are cool.

    Incidentally, for the non-Asian Indophiles among us, ever fancied starring in an Indian movie? Despite all my criticism of them, why not aim for superstardom, you’re in demand! And here’s another reason to embrace Eastern culture.



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    59 Comments below   |  

    1. Sunny — on 13th May, 2006 at 2:33 pm  

      I interviewed him yesterday, and it was an ace interview. Can’t wait to write it up and then link to it.

    2. Roger — on 13th May, 2006 at 3:09 pm  

      The ideal model cultures for immigrants moving easily into their host community are probably the jewish and the post-WWII Polish cultures. Both are extraordinarily successful. the problem is that they are so successful that they look like vanishing completely as independent cultures.

    3. Rohin — on 13th May, 2006 at 3:56 pm  

      The Jewish community is immensely successful. But also one labelled with a stand-offish and ‘only help their own’ stereotype. I don’t necessarily agree with that, but I went to a very Jewish school and tbh can see why the reputation came about. Also, comparing Jewish immigrants to Asian ones is confused by the cultures being so different. Most Jews were from Europe and looks-wise did not stand out. Blacks and Asians coming to the UK a few years/decades later not only looked different, their whole way of life was ‘alien’ to white Brits.

      Asians are also not a homogenous community - East African Gujarati immigrants would be a more suitable group to compare to Polish Jews coming to the UK. And both have been very successful economically.

      I think many Asian immigrants did a very good job of trying to mix with their adopted country’s natives - it seems to be their sprog who are distancing themselves.

    4. Chris Stiles — on 13th May, 2006 at 3:59 pm  

      “Independent cultures” is a largely meaningless shibboleth though. Virtually everyone has multiple identities and associated sub cultures within which they move - the ones threatened are always the ones held dear.

      Cultures don’t exist in a vacuum - and are never in stassis - to try and preserve an Indian culture circa 1960 or 1980 - where is the value in that exactly?

    5. Rohin — on 13th May, 2006 at 4:02 pm  

      “to try and preserve an Indian culture circa 1960 or 1980 - where is the value in that exactly”

      None. Exactly. This is what many British Asians have done and to be less eloquent for a second, it’s what fucks me off more than anything.

    6. Katy Newton — on 13th May, 2006 at 4:04 pm  

      Rohin -

      1. All ethnic communities in this country, whether brown, black, Jewish, East European or other, have a reputation for being stand-offish and only helping their own, and in all cases there is some truth in that because members of those communities feel that they can only rely on themselves for support. I’m not sure why you give the Jewish community a special mention on that basis.

      2. Some Jews may not stand out lookswise, but plenty of them do and non-Jews aren’t shy about letting them know it.

      3. Plenty of Jews are not financially well off and are sick of being told that they are.

      Katy

    7. Katy Newton — on 13th May, 2006 at 4:10 pm  

      I agree with you, though, that the previous generation and the one before it in pretty much all cases seems to have done a much better job of integrating than those which followed them. My grandmother considered herself to be English, whereas I’ve always felt “other”, although I would like not to.

    8. Sunny — on 13th May, 2006 at 4:16 pm  

      This is what many British Asians have done and to be less eloquent for a second, it’s what fucks me off more than anything.

      Rohin - I disagree. Gautam’s book skirts around this issue a bit. The boys in the book, like many British Asians, are trying to search for and make sense of their own identity as they grow up.

      Some of them hanker for 1960’s / 70’s culture from India but that is as harmless as modern day 60s/70s/80s club nights.

      This is an expected reaction - young Asians feel different so they will try and express that through culture. Plus, much of British Asian culture has evolved in the little time it has been around, specially music, and taken in new influences. It isn’t static.

    9. Bikhair — on 13th May, 2006 at 4:18 pm  

      Rohin,

      What is :shitty bimmers, black clothes… feeling up Beena behind the Treaty Centre.

    10. Rohin — on 13th May, 2006 at 4:25 pm  

      Katy: I was going to mention your point 3, but chopped my comment for brevity. I’ve recently got very interested in the history of Brick Lane and have read quite a bit about the Jews who arrived there during the first half of the twentieth century. They also get ticked off with people assuming all Jews are loaded.

      Your point about not all Jews looking like British people is also true - which is why I said ‘most’. Perhaps most is wrong too, but you can accept the point that blacks and Asians stood out more. Not just skin colour, but turbans, saris etc were very foreign. I’m not saying it was EASIER for any community, I’m just replying to Roger’s assertion that “Jews are the model for all immigrants” by saying you can’t compare so easily.

      Lastly, the stand-offish thing. My experience is only anecdotal which is why I say I don’t agree with the stereotype. Any successful immigrant community attracts jealousy and accusations of being exclusive. The experience I speak of is simply at school, there used to be a running joke that the Jewish kids didn’t invite the Asian kids to their birthdays. And they didn’t. I’m not aportioning blame. But I’d be very friendly with quite a few of the Jewish kids and bar Rabbi Julia Neuberger’s son, I never once went to any of their houses!

      Sunny perhaps we’re thinking of different things. 1960s/70s POPULAR Indian culture rocks. That’s cool and as you say, no different from retro clubs here. But 60s/70s social culture is quite different. That’s what I’ve seen perpetuated by immigrants from those periods. My Mum came here in the mid/late 80s and doesn’t find much in common with them at all. And in the last 15 years India has changed radically. Yet many British Asian families remain in a 1960s bubble. The only people who think like them in modern India are villagers.

    11. Katy Newton — on 13th May, 2006 at 4:33 pm  

      Rohin -

      There’s a certain type of Jewish person who isn’t particularly interested in non-Jewish people (presumably every community has its share of people like that - she added defensively) and if I’ve got your school right it had more than its fair share of them, which is annoying because it means that I have to stop being self-righteous.

    12. Sunny — on 13th May, 2006 at 5:06 pm  

      feeling up Beena behind the Treaty Centre.

      I thought we had an agreement that would be kept quiet?

      And in the last 15 years India has changed radically. Yet many British Asian families remain in a 1960s bubble.

      Ok, that I agree with. I thought you were referring to second gen Asians.

    13. Chairwoman — on 13th May, 2006 at 5:41 pm  

      Rohin -

      I would like to tell you about my Mother’s experience as the child of immigrant Jews from Poland.

      My Grandparents came here in 1903 or 1904. They spoke no English, and they had no skills as my Grandfather’s family had been businessmen rather than artisans. They lived in the East End where they could converse in Yiddish and Polish, and my Grandfather opened a fruit shop. He started work at 6 in the morning, and often didn’t get home till 9 at night, does this sound familiar? They had four children, as the children grew up, my Grandparents began to speak English, they learnt from their children (later on, they taught themselves to read and write). Once the children went to school, my Grandmother went and stood in the shop with him. They worked 7 days a week. Although they had been observant Jews, they had to put religion to one side hoping that He would understand that they had to do this to survive.

      I’m sorry, I’ve taken a long time to get to the point, but I’m like that. It’s what happened at my Mother’s school that’s interesting. The headmaster was an ex-army officer, and he took these little foreign kids, and he turned them into little Englishmen and women. I don’t know how, but he did. There was a mural of St. George slaying the dragon on the wall, there was a Union Flag standing in the school hall, on Empire Day (sorry if the concept offends anyone, but I’m just telling the tale), they all came to school wearing red white and blue rosettes, and they saluted the flag. He taught them English history, respect for the law, King and country. He told them it was their country too. Basically, he included them.

      Multiply that by other schools in immigrant populated areas, and you have the reason why Jewish immigrants have integrated so successfully. It doesn’t happen now, and it’s the fault of every administration since 1945. There is no cohesion, no esprit de corps, no feeling of belonging.

      For me the sad result of the failure of successive governments to address this issue is that 100 years after my Grandparents came here, I feel like a stranger in a strange land. I am more at home in America. A place where everyone is an American, even though they are a something else first. Congratulations United Kingdom, you’ve done a fine job.

    14. Chris Stiles — on 13th May, 2006 at 5:43 pm  


      This is an expected reaction - young Asians feel different so they will try and express that through culture. Plus, much of British Asian culture has evolved in the little time it has been around, specially music, and taken in new influences.

      Urm .. yes. And as you point out the majority of the young Asians (actually Indians and adjacents) are “more concerned with phones, shitty bimmers, black clothes, gangsta rap and feeling up Beena behind the Treaty Centre” but then what’s the beef exactly ?

      Arguably they are more mainstream than the average desi .. or is this just a rant saying “They should be more middle class and support what I want to do” ? A variety of ‘I love the working class in the abstract …’.

      I’m a minority of a minority to start with, and am no desi - So I can only view this all with amusement.

    15. Ravi Naik — on 13th May, 2006 at 5:47 pm  

      “I think many Asian immigrants did a very good job of trying to mix with their adopted country’s natives - it seems to be their sprog who are distancing themselves.”

      Maybe they tried harder to integrate in the 1970’s because English society was much more racist and there was no promotion of a multicultural society.

      I am torn between both models of society: between a mosaic of cultures and a melting pot. Both of them have advantages and disadvantages.

      However, I certainly think that in the long run a melting pot serves the nation best. It gives people a common a sense of belonging and allows all people to evolve with the society.

      Multiculturism works great for first gen immigrants since it minimises the culture shock. But what about second and third? Their culture is not the same as their countries of origin (which have evolved) but from their parents and grand-parents. This can create feelings of alienation and questions about your own identity.

    16. Bikhair — on 13th May, 2006 at 7:49 pm  

      Sunny,

      I dont know if Rohin is talking to me.

      What is :shitty bimmers, black clothes… feeling up Beena behind the Treaty Centre.

    17. Desi Dictionary Man — on 13th May, 2006 at 7:53 pm  

      shitty bimmers=

      tacky pimped up BMW’s

      black clothes=

      stereotypical style of bimbo Asian girls in London

      feeling up Beena behind the Treaty Centre =

      Spending your teenage years trying to get it on with Indian girl by the name of Beena behind the local community centre.

    18. Cisoux — on 13th May, 2006 at 8:10 pm  

      I read Londonstani.

      At best I would say it is a competent first novel, good in some things, bad in others. Nothing special or spectacular, an average book. However, the hype it has got is what is ridiculous, and it is ridiculous.

      You finish reading it and wonder why did publishers get so dazzled by this novel to get into a bidding war and then hype it as some revolutionary and amazing book telling the raw truth of Asian London?

      That is just stupid.

      I agree with the reviewer in the Guardian who said that it has been wrongly pitched and marketed. Londonstani is actually a novel for teenagers and should have been marketed to 16 year olds. It works best on that level. As it is, marketing it as it is being sold, and read as it is, just leads to ennui at the high degree of bullshit and hype engaged in by the modern publishing industry. I think this is part of the reason for such jaded reviews like the one in the Sunday Times which called the book ‘facile’ and an example of ‘the emperors new clothes’

      http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2102-2150764.html

    19. Bikhair — on 13th May, 2006 at 8:14 pm  

      Desi Dictionary,

      Thanks…

      Here in America we call them wiggers.

      There are bimbo Asian girls?

    20. Sunny — on 13th May, 2006 at 8:43 pm  

      When I spoke to Gautam yesterday - he made that point about marketing. He actually said it was a general entertainment novel and that he most wanted those boys from Hounslow to read it. But rather than marketing it just to Asians, as a publisher might have chosen to do, he said they wanted to go all out to reach that market. I’ll probably get to transcribing the interview tomorrow.

    21. AC — on 13th May, 2006 at 8:46 pm  

      “A place where everyone is an American, even though they are a something else first. Congratulations United Kingdom, you’ve done a fine job.”

      What cock and bull.

    22. John Browne — on 13th May, 2006 at 8:55 pm  

      Sunny,
      I noted you wrote:
      “I interviewed him yesterday, and it was an ace interview. Can’t wait to write it up and then link to it.”

      If you are a journalist I could always arrange an interview for you to interview my Mother - Jennie Hawthorne (she was on the “Richard & Judy” show along with the “Desperate Housewives” stars - she was advertising one of her books).
      On July 29th she will be giving a lecture at Borders Bookshop (Books etc in Becton) on the 1930s multi-cultural East End of London.

      http://www.bordersstores.co.uk/events

    23. Zak — on 13th May, 2006 at 10:25 pm  

      Very true..the US “Asian” culture markets itself as more integrated and socially mobile..but the UK variation is a reflection of greater migration higher %age in terms of overall population abn being around longer as well as a generation which was sure it was going back…

    24. Lucy — on 13th May, 2006 at 10:32 pm  

      It’s true, third generation Asians do seem to stick together more. At my school there’s a huge ‘Asian clique’ who (mainly) interact with other Asians. Ironically the girl who is most ‘integrated’ just arrived from India. :)

    25. Joolz — on 13th May, 2006 at 10:43 pm  

      It’s amazing sometimes how generalisations are made. Three Asian kids who are friends are a ‘clique’ - three white kids who are friends are, well, just a group of friends.

    26. Bikhair — on 13th May, 2006 at 11:50 pm  

      Lucy,

      Every ethnicity has a clique, especially in highschool. The blacks had their area, the White kids had thier area, and Persian kids had their area, and the Latinos had everything else. There were also many subgroups. The latino rockers, didnt hang out with the pretty boys, who didnt hang out with the thugs, who didnt hang out with the ravers and so on.

    27. Vikrant — on 14th May, 2006 at 9:08 am  

      Rohin dude… have got anything against Hounslow (even our PP is based in Hounslow)… Southall and Leicester fare much worse!

    28. El Cid — on 14th May, 2006 at 11:13 am  

      It is fair to say that some immigrant groups in the UK have integrated better than others — integrated better in a social sense, not necess economic or educational. Southern Europeans, Turks, West Indians, and West Africans come to mind — if we’re going to generalise — rather than other groups mentioned. OK, I’ll give you the Poles post-WW2 (I also have no doubts that the latest wave from EEU will also mix well), and I also concede that my view of my Jewish cockney bred’rin is skewed by the fact that I live pretty close to a Hassidic community — and they are definitely not integrated, out of choice.
      So why are the ethnic groups I mentioned up top, arguably, better integrated? If I had to single out one thing it would be language — or more specifically, what I call language ghettoisation.
      I am bilingual Spanish because I always spoke Spanish in the house. But outside of the home it was 95 percent English because the Spanish community was relatively smaller and more widespread. So I did get a chance to chat Spanish at community functions but not that often. Language did not become a potential clique-encouraging factor.
      Did I say I was generalising? Yes I did.
      Time, in any case, will overcome such perceived barriers, as your third way shows (It also doesn’t apply, obviously I would say, among British Asians who have gone on to higher education).
      In any case, I have never had a sense in London that we have the kind of cliqueness that America is infamous for (I can’t vouch for ooop north).

    29. Lucy — on 14th May, 2006 at 5:23 pm  

      Joolz - what do you call a group of people who stick to their own ethnicity ALL the time?

    30. Katy Newton — on 14th May, 2006 at 5:37 pm  

      El Cid - Hassidic community is atypical, honestly. They represent a tiny proportion of Jews and they don’t make any attempt to integrate at all.

    31. Joolz — on 14th May, 2006 at 5:44 pm  

      Lucy

      How do you know they are ’sticking to their own ethnicity’ ALL the time and not just hanging out with their mates who happen to be their own ethnicity?

      Why is it that white people who hang out together are never described as forming a clique? Do you have any explanation for that?

    32. Katy Newton — on 14th May, 2006 at 6:06 pm  

      In fact, hassidic Jews generally don’t even talk to non-hassidic Jews.

    33. Sunny — on 14th May, 2006 at 6:42 pm  

      Baptised (Amritdhari) Sikhs are not meant to take food from or share drinks with anyone non-Amritdhari either. My brother only reluctantly does with me (the chief!).

    34. Roger — on 14th May, 2006 at 7:45 pm  

      ” They represent a tiny proportion of Jews and they don’t make any attempt to integrate at all.”
      They are the ones that keep the jewish community going though- it’s reckoned that the liberal/nonpractising jews tend to vanish into the host community and that it’s the drop-aways from the hassids and other observant jews that will provide the secular jews of the future.
      “In fact, hassidic Jews generally don’t even talk to non-hassidic Jews.”

      Hyman Crusoe was found on a desert island. He’d been shipwrecked for years and- although he was completely alone he’d kept himself busy. As he showed his rescuers round they saw there were two synagogues, but he said nothing about one of them. Finally the captain asked him: “what about that?”
      “That?” says Hyman Crusoe, “You wouldn’t see me dead in that place.
      One reason why the english and jewish immigrants didn’t get on too badly compared with others is perhaps that it never occurred to either to invite the others into their homes or to want to be invited into the others’ homes.
      “Why is it that white people who hang out together are never described as forming a clique?”
      A clique is a small proportion. Nearly ninety percent of the population isn’t a clique by definition. In fact, white people with things in common with each other and not other white people who hang out together are often described as cliques.

    35. Lucy — on 14th May, 2006 at 10:11 pm  

      I’m just saying what i see. Whites and black people tend to hang out together more whereas the Asians keep themselves to themselves - not everyone, but most of them. White people can be cliquey too, it’s true, but yeah….

    36. Justforfun — on 14th May, 2006 at 10:41 pm  

      An interesting thread mmm

      Not much to say but I’ll propose an interesting mind game at the end.

      I have a friend whos father was Polish. He had fought all over the world in WW2 but never returned to Poland, because like many Poles, he had received warning letters for home saying that all that awaited him was a Soviet gulag. My friend was brought up as catholic Pole with all the trimmings and I remember the food that was served at their house -mmm. Anyway the fathers wish was to be buried in Poland; and about 5 years ago he got his wish. My friend went to the Polish Embassy and asked if it was possible to take the body back, and after handing over his father’s only proof of Polish origin which was his war time service record, the embassy said they would take care of it. Sure enough the family went over to Poland expecting a small funeral at their father’s village. Although there were no Polish relatives left there, the whole place turned out and the Polish Army put on a full honour guard funeral with the rifle salute over the grave. My friend said he never felt more Polish in all his life but he looked around at the Polish pride in all the villagers faces and realised he was not actually a Pole. There was no point pretending he was. He returned to the UK, still speaking Polish, with no regrets and a real sense of peace.

      Anyway I only say this because with any immigrant community, there is a time to move on and recognize that for many there is no going back.

      In my friends case his father had kept up the Polish tradition in his family because he fealt that Poland was under siege and Polishness might not survive the Russians. However my friend realised that Poland had survived, that it was the real Poland now and he had no right to pretend to have any ownership of it.

      So certain immigrants keep their culture going because they fear for its survival at home, but immigrants from the sub-continent have in the main not fled political repression, they are not ‘guardians’ or even very good explainers of all the cultures on the sub-continent - (just look what the BBC thinks and how narrow their outlook. We look as if we have some sort of seige mentality to ossify a culture that back home has already moved on.

      Rohin - I pretty much agree with everything you have said.

      as for Malkani when he asks

      “The beauty of the desi scene is that you don’t have to have brown skin to be part of it.”

      I’d reply “but why would you want to be a part of it?”

      ….Most brown kids in Britain are more concerned with phones, shitty bimmers, black clothes, gangsta rap and feeling up Beena behind the Treaty Centre. These are the kids who feature in Londonstani, these are the kids who piss me off when I go to Hounslow, these are the kids I actually feel a bit peeved to be linked to. However, is this scene inclusive? On the contrary, these young people have created a niche for themselves which relies heavily on their cliquey nature. Whilst copying much of young black culture, they integrate poorly with any other race. I blame that tosser Apache Indian :-) or have I shown up my total lack of musical knowledge :-)oops.

      Chavs — the lot of them, so its obviously not a community thing but what the youth in general like :-)

      Anyway enough ranting :-) - here is the mind game

      You arrive at Heathrow and join the non- EU passport line along with the long queue of pissed off Australians, Kiwis and other Commonwealth contries ( (except of course Malta and Cyprus for the pendants here :-) ) etc :-) - The immigration official asks. Unfortunately you have arrived after a bad news week for New labour and Blunket is now back at the Home Office ;-) !! So there is a new directive out and your asked ? -

      What five unique things have you to bring into the country that there is a shortage of in Britain? What would you say? Think of culture , thing of anything .

      Justforfun

    37. Sunny — on 14th May, 2006 at 11:34 pm  

      Just say you brought with you loads of money, or computing skills, and bob is your uncle!

      One point though - I doubt any Asians think their culture is dying out back home, simply because there is no sense of seige like maybe Polish people do. But it is a form of identity that they embrace when still unsure how they fit into the new land.

      John - apologies for not replying before. I’m writing the article up for my mag ‘Asians in Media’, where a pre-requisite for such profiles is that, you guessed it, that you’re Asian. It is about Asian people who work in British media. sorry.

    38. Justforfun — on 15th May, 2006 at 12:01 am  

      Sunny - Just say you brought with you loads of money, or computing skills, and bob is your uncle!

      Nice try Sunny - but I did say unique ;-)
      I hear the Russians provide the computing skills for free on the web ;-)
      - but your right about the money as that now famous Britaish business man MR Mittal can testify ;-)

      - 3 others? :-)

      One point though - I doubt any Asians think their culture is dying out back home, simply because there is no sense of seige like maybe Polish people do. You’re right that the motive is not because its believed that the culture is dying outor in danger back home, but after 3 generations what is the motive? …

      But it is a form of identity that they embrace when still unsure how they fit into the new land … Is there the intention to fit in? Isn’t this what you want to explore and what is the direction to take? If there is no intention to fit in then it never ends up well. Economic migration to Britain with no intention to fit in will piss off the locals just as the British moving to France for the weather alone has pissed of the French peasants, or shall I be provocative - the British moving in to India for the money but with no intention of fitting in. It has happened in the past ;-) - so it might happen again when property is easier to buy. There will be riots in the streets as Hill Station after Hill Station is bought up by returning British Asians who now have a different culture to that on the sub-continent.

      Justforfun

      I asked the question and at present I can only think of perhaps one thing lacking in Britain, - an ability to still take care of the elderly with some resemblance of respect, but that might just really be wishful thinking on my part.

    39. Vikrant — on 15th May, 2006 at 9:14 am  

      Mittal aint British. Hes an NRI like me…

    40. Justforfun — on 15th May, 2006 at 10:28 am  

      Vikrant - I Know Mittal is an NRI - I was just being provocative and we all know Tony Blair claimed Mittal steel was a British company when its nothing of the sort ;-) - Sorry I should have made my sarcasm clearer ;-)

      Justforfun

    41. sonia — on 15th May, 2006 at 11:42 am  

      great post Rohin!

    42. Rohin — on 15th May, 2006 at 11:51 am  

      You aren’t a British citizen Vikrant?

    43. sonia — on 15th May, 2006 at 11:57 am  

      i had a thought about what this Rehna person was saying: “Cool is a state of being and an image. Celebrities often set the standard.”

      its a state of mind, and nothing to do with celebrities. celebrities make a ton of money out of the fact that others think they’re cool - now that’s clever :-)

      not having to care what others’ think is a major part of being able to see yourself as ‘cool’. of course, if you’re a celeb, then you’ve probably ‘made it!’ hence don’t have to worry about what the masses think..which of course re-inforces the ‘cool’ image. awww…

    44. sonia — on 15th May, 2006 at 12:03 pm  

      hey jusforfun up there - that story is an interesting one. behind most diasporic communities you can find the idea of the ‘imagined community’..

    45. Jai — on 15th May, 2006 at 2:38 pm  

      Sunny,

      =>”Baptised (Amritdhari) Sikhs are not meant to take food from or share drinks with anyone non-Amritdhari either.”

      That appears to be an innovation amongst some Sikhs which actually has no basis in the original teachings and precedents — indeed, it directly contradicts the whole point of the “langar” system. A Sikh, especially a baptised Sikh, is supposed to regard himself as an inalienable, integral, and equal part of the human race as a whole, not some kind of “exclusive”, exalted subsect.

      Unless someone can point to a verifiable example of Guru Gobind Singh behaving like this (or encouraging others to do so) — and given what we know of his life, it is highly unlikely (to say the least) that he would have refused to eat food cooked by non-Amritdharis, unless it was “halaal” meat — then the baptised Sikhs propagating such a distortion of Sikhism may want to reconsider their actions. It’s as irrelevant to Sikh principles as, for example, people back in Amritsar dragging their feet about female raagis in the Golden Temple.

      With all due respect, your brother may be on the receiving end of some religious misinformation in this regard.

    46. Sunny — on 15th May, 2006 at 3:00 pm  

      Jai - I believe it is something to do with the idea that Khalsas should not take food from someone who may want to poison them etc during battle. One thing is certain, he is not the only one who believes this. A lot of Khalsas follow this code of conduct, so I’m surprised you haven’t heard of this before.

    47. Jay Singh — on 15th May, 2006 at 3:06 pm  

      Sunny & Jai

      It is the fundamentalist interpretation by Akhand Kirtani Jatha and others who follow this practice. I have plenty of amritdhari relatives and none of them ever do this. But then they are not followers of the AKJ and their fundamentalism.

      So Sunny whilst it is true that this exists, you are wrong to say it is expected or practised by all amritdharis, only those followers of the sects that have it as their maryada.

    48. Jai — on 15th May, 2006 at 3:16 pm  

      Sunny,

      I have heard of this before (albeit with different reasons justifying it), but it’s still not actually a part of Sikh teachings, even if it’s somehow developed later on in some quarters in response to various historical events.

      I’m assuming you know enough about Guru Gobind Singh’s life for it to be not necessary for me to go into extensive detail here, but there were plenty of situations where he was cut off from his followers and was assisted/sheltered by people who were not Amritdhari, indeed in some cases not even Sikh. As far as I know, there are no records of him refusing to eat with them.

      Unless your brother has concrete reasons to be suspicious of you (or anyone else) realistically poisoning him, then refusing to eat food you’ve cooked risks sliding into irrationally ritualistic behaviour — another no-no, considering that one of the most basic Sikh teachings is that common sense should always prevail in one’s conduct, especially in religious matters.

      I can understand a Khalsa’s hesitation in eating meat cooked by another person — especially if one does not know whether the animal was killed humanely — but obviously this rationale doesn’t apply to vegetarian food.

      Anyway, your brother is of course free to do what he wants; we’re just having a friendly chat here, so no offence is intended either to yourself or your brother ;)

    49. Jay Singh — on 15th May, 2006 at 3:19 pm  

      Jai

      It is not part of amritdhari teachings. It is AKJ influenced. They are the ones that brought this rule in to people who follow their maryada. It is really stupid - it’s like another caste taboo instituted into the so called casteless Khalsa. I have loads of amritdhari relatives and none of them follow this rule - they will laugh and sneer if you tell them that.

    50. Sunny — on 15th May, 2006 at 3:32 pm  

      No offence taken :)
      It might be the AKJ fanatics but my bro has largely stayed away from them as far as I remember. Will ask more on this.

    51. Jai — on 15th May, 2006 at 3:33 pm  

      Jay Singh,

      The “caste” analogy is exactly what I thought, even though the original rationale may sometimes be different, as Sunny explained (assuming that someone else hasn’t been spinning our friend Sunny — or his brother — a line too).

      It’s not right for groups to start adding “extra” rules and taboos to those originally implemented by Guru Gobind Singh. As I recently said on Sepia Mutiny, one cannot (or perhaps more accurately, “should not”) act in the name of a religion if one’s conduct contradicts the teachings & principles of the religion itself. You can’t just make stuff up, add a plausible-sounding explanation/rationalisation, and then impose a religious “stamp” supposedly authorising the new custom.

      Do it as a personal choice if it makes sense to you, but not in any formal religious capacity and certainly not if it contravenes the basics of the faith, at least if one is claiming to be a devout, committed, and fully-practicing member of the religion.

    52. Jay Singh — on 15th May, 2006 at 3:42 pm  

      Jai

      You have noble sentiments - but try to explain that to a group of believers and you’ll find yourself talking to a brick wall.

    53. Jai — on 15th May, 2006 at 3:47 pm  

      …..As I found out during my recent altercation with our buddy Ismaeel from the MAC ;)

      Well, as I said on that thread, people are free to do what they want, but as with all things in life they’ll have to face the (internal & external) consequences of their own actions and misguided beliefs.

      The irony is that Sikhism is actually very simple in its fundamental tenets and recommendations for human behaviour — it’s sad when people extrapolate the basics away from its humanitarian, idealistic, and egalitarian principles, especially if they claim to be acting in the name of the religion itself.

      *shrug*

    54. Justforfun — on 15th May, 2006 at 7:38 pm  

      Jai - I mean no offense but I think you have given a very good explaination of revealed religions compared to moral philosophies.

      You can’t just make stuff up, add a plausible-sounding explanation/rationalisation, and then impose a religious “stamp” supposedly authorising the new custom. Why not ! This is what prophets have been doing since we evolved speech! So if they can why can’t I? Give me an education first and then “explainations/rationalisations” over mystical dictat anyday. Moral philosophies take a bit of work to live by but religions are easy, no thinking required.

      Justforfun.

      Anyway - only Sunny has played my mind game so can I take it that actually at heart we’re pretty much all the same and have the same values. It’s what I tend to think and when I wake up in the morning to hear the Today programme announce another government initiative to define British values I just despair. It should be common values that we want to define and preserve, not try and find some magic list of unique ‘British’ values which is always how it is portrayed.

    55. Jai — on 16th May, 2006 at 11:02 am  

      Justforfun,

      No offence taken, but I should briefly clarify a couple of misconceptions you appear to have.

      1. Sikhism is not a “revealed” religion in the Abrahamic sense of the term.

      2. The concept of “prophets” in Sikhism is different to the Abrahamic interpretation. The idea that only a very small, exclusive group of individuals were chosen by God for “divine revelation”, and whose word must be obeyed unquestioningly, is anathema to the fundamentals of the faith.

      3. You are not supposed to “unthinkingly” believe anything blindly in Sikhism at all — in fact the religion actively condemns blind orthodoxy and promotes independent critical analysis in all matters.

      4. =>”Moral philosophies take a bit of work to live by but religions are easy, no thinking required.”

      Sikhism gives people some basic concepts which they are recommended to take on board, but the overall moral philosophy is to be extrapolated from this — one is given the basic tools and then expected to learn the rest of it for oneself. Sikhism does not “spoon-feed” people detailed moral codes of conduct, apart from (again) some fundamental concepts which are to be practiced and extrapolated in both social (and, if appropriate) military situations.

      There are certain things people are encouraged (please note: encouraged, not commanded) to practice in order to facilitate their mental, emotional, and spiritual clarity, so that they can gain an awareness of the “truth” themselves, rather than purely taking someone else’s word for it, but there is a marked difference between gaining an awarness of something by direct personal experience, and blindly believing a third-party’s statements (or indeed “making something up” or merely speculating).

    56. raz — on 16th May, 2006 at 11:15 am  

      Jai, no offence mate, but you spend way too much time on theological stuff about great you think Sihkism is. It’s not really appropriate here, and often leads to needless conflicts. Your battle with Ishmaeel was one of the most stupid things I’ve read on PP. There are plenty of other forums on the net to debate whose religion is best.

    57. Jai — on 16th May, 2006 at 11:43 am  

      Raz,

      I agree about the impropriety of discussing this issue here on PP — something I stated repeatedly during my argument with Ismaeel — but, apart from my friendly chat with Jay Singh and Sunny above (both of whom are originally from a Sikh background themselves), my comment above was just in response to Jusforfun’s message as he appears to be under some misconceptions about the faith. It was clarification, not glorification.

      And I don’t think any religion is “best” — it’s not a competition, mate.

    58. justforfun — on 16th May, 2006 at 11:43 am  

      Jai - I did not think Sikhism was a revealed religion in the Abrahamic sense, I had always thought of it as a moral philosophy along the lines you describe. I have enjoyed reading your writings on Sikhism, so I was supprised to see the thread moving into the dietry laws of sikhism :-)

      I was just making a light hearted comment that you had inadvertantly descibed what, in my mind many religions suffer from - even if they did not start out as ‘revealed’ religions. Centuries , or even decades later, the moral tenets are re-directed by followers who claim to have seen visions,divine guidance etc etc. and try and justify their power by imposing arbitary laws backed by as you sayplausible-sounding explanation/rationalisation

      Justforfun

    59. Jai — on 16th May, 2006 at 11:53 am  

      Justforfun,

      =>”inadvertantly descibed what, in my mind many religions suffer from - even if they did not start out as ‘revealed’ religions. Centuries , or even decades later, the moral tenets are re-directed by followers who claim to have seen visions,divine guidance etc etc.”

      Very very true, although (again) bear in mind that Sikhism isn’t based on mysterious “visions” or some supernatural voice “whispering in people’s ears” and so on, either amongst its founders or its followers. Not in the orthodox sense, anyway.

      However, I do agree wholeheartedly with your basic point about the possibility of some religions (or its associated practices) being based either on false premises or being subsequently distorted by people for their own nefarious (or occasionally well-meaning but misguided) reasons.

      Thank you for your kind words too ;)

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