Today’s topic was actually spurred by a brief discussion board located in the middle of the field at our Annual Patel Sports Festival. We were asked to discuss the relevance of culture, roots and identity in today’s British Asians. To begin, I thought it would be best to understand the clear definitions of the concepts discussed today;
Culture; the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society
Identity; the fact of being who or what a person or thing is
Roots; the condition of being settled and of belonging to a particular place or society
When asked to think about these areas, I first noticed how it was difficult to think of all three concepts simultaneously. To live within a multicultural world inevitably leads to dual priorities, in this case to be a British citizen, and to be a Koli Patel within the Indian community. Some people find this easy. I have a friend who actually quoted today that we dwell too strongly on problems, and that we should ‘just get on with it.’ In reality, there are some people who find the transition easy, others however have difficulties. Only in discussing the concerns can we aim to help each other.
On a personal level, I struggle with the concept of appealing to both personalities. Every decision falls into a split analysis, do I put on my Indian hat, or do I put on the British hat? For instance, I would rather forget my Indian hat on a night out, enjoy the surroundings, and have a great time. On the other hand, I will equally put on the Indian hat when surrounded by family at one of our many social gatherings to make sure I behave in an appropriate manner. How can you ensure that we put on the right hat, at the right time, to make the correct decision? Or, if you see it from the other side; why do often find ourselves judging others when we believe they are making the wrong decision? Is there even a wrong decision to be made when we should give equal priority to being both British and Indian? Who chooses which decisions and parts of each culture become a priority? In a utopian world, we would take all the positives of a British culture such as the education and knowledge, without any of the presumed negatives such as the desire to spend the evening drinking alcohol, or dancing in a club.
It’s easy to say that we shouldn’t make judgments, yet this is a distorted view. I personally have a problem when other people question my life decisions. Why am I not at the Mandir on a Saturday evening or why would I drive halfway across the country simply because my mother has asked for me to be home. As Indians, we don’t question family requests, as they are cultural. I find that intrusive questions often lend themselves to over-thinking your decisions. In the end, regardless of the questions, will our choices be any different? I know that my mother hates the fact that I like to go out on a weekend, and occasionally, we have a difficult ‘discussion,’ which usually leads to me staying in. As great as this is for the one occasion, the questions haven’t really changed my opinions of the activity or my mindset to going out. However, I do feel guilty, and I do find that I will re-think my opinions, if only for a split second. I don’t believe there is anything wrong in enjoying a night with friends in a club environment, however, I do feel the guilt of behaving in a manner that I know my parents find uncomfortable.
As British-Asians of a predominant first and second generation migration, we should be proud of our achievements. We have managed to successfully integrate into society and have subsequently reached a level of acceptance. In order to progress, this inclusion must continue. I think the difficulty comes in drawing the line. Parents would love to make the decisions as to what parts we should take from the British culture, but essentially, as the new generation, we will inadvertently be less strict, and more inclusive. The question we must ask is if we are strong enough as a community to have faith that the British social inclusion will not lead to a loss of our personal roots and previous struggles. Furthermore, with some communities declining, how can we re-assert our presence and the need for our Indian community to people who have walked away without appearing as condescending?
I believe that as British Indians, we should investigate, and subsequently manage a process whereby individuals can come to us for advice on their choices rather than feeling guilty at the mention of a ‘wrong decision,’ according to how older generations have behaved or deem us to behave. The fact that these discussions were present at today’s event only highlights our success and ability to move forward and strive towards a better community. I hope that these discussions continue, and that eventually reach a happy medium between the two cultures and lifestyles. In the meantime, I would welcome any thoughts from others in a similar position, as it would be great to receive advise both personally, and for the benefit of my readers with similar concerns.
Thanks for reading.