Saturday, November 24, 2007


It is easily forgotten how deeply entwined language is to culture. In my own Gujarati culture, the word for family is 'Kutumb' - which is a much wider definition than immediate family, including aunts, uncles, grandparents, granduncles, and so on. This is why Indian weddings are so huge in numbers - we have a duty to invite the entire Kutumb whether we like it or not. Modern media and the increasing popularity of English is subtly damaging our love for different languages and respect for them. I find this happening in my own family. Increasingly I see in my vernacular a beautiful language which is so soft and caring, so compassionate and inclusive, so respectful and colourful. I hope there will be a renaissance of ancient languages and at the very least, we respect them and understand the limits of translation. Merely translating a word into another language is not enough - we need to understand its cultural context and meaning also.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Madeleine Bunting (Guardian Newspaper) on Atheism

This is an excellent article showing how so many scientists and critics of religion are fanatical and extremist in their own right. In this process, they misunderstand and distort religion completely.

As a practitioner and promoter of Indian Dharma, I also find this disturbing. If one really tries to understand it, Indian Dharma is the science of sustainable living. However, most scientists approach it with great suspicion and cynicism and start from the view that it is dogmatic and dismissive of critical thinking and appraisal. Far from it. There is evidence of multi-faith debates in India as far back as the fifth century and even earlier. There were no boundaries between the major religions of India and often an active desire to debate and learn from one another. Some of the best manuscripts of different religions were preserved in Jain libraries for example - such was the openness and respect for wisdom.

Yes, we all need to try to understand Indian wisdom in its own terms, and see how rational and scientific it is. Also if we were to try yoga and meditation, we would directly experience the benefits instantly - without needing a scientific test to prove it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Rowntree Study on Integration

This BBC article quotes a new study which shows that Eastern Europeans who come here do not feel welcome and as a result live in ghettos and do not know host community people. This was discussed today on the BBC Asian Network radio on the Nihal show and I participated in the phone-in. A number of callers said how impressed they were with the Polish community and felt that they should be allowed to settle and given time to adapt and learn English and the local habits and customs. The British are 'Polite yet distant' was one of the findings of the study - I took this phrase and said on radio that hospitality is a weakness and we need to be more accomodating and considerate of others who come here - many people are insensititive to the needs of others. It seems ethnic communities find it easier to accept the Eastern Europeans as they have had similar experiences and can relate to them.

Generally speaking, the migrants are hard working and keen to adapt, but they need to be given time and respect.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Art and Diversity Article

The above article is an excellent piece on UK Arts Funding for Ethnic Minorities. The author finds a tension between labelling and funding, and would prefer artists to be recognised for their art, not their colour. This is symptomatic of the tensions we as a society will have as Britain tries to be genuinely diverse and give equal opportunities to all. Affirmative action can be blocked by BME individuals because they do not want to be branded as being given preferential treatment. However, to deal with institutional racism, affirmative action may be necessary.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Something that has been long established in the US is now coming to the UK. Large firms are monitoring the diversity of their suppliers. A few weeks ago, Microsoft in the UK sacked a supplier because of a lack of diversity and now JP Morgan in the UK is reviewing its suppliers

Firms should become pro-active about Diversity and not wait for commercial pressures or lawsuits to make them change. It could prove very costly if they continue to brush it under the carpet.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Vegetarian Delight

The UK Mars and other confectionary controversy related to 'strict vegetarians' - Mars announced initially that many of its foods were not pure vegetarian and used animal rennet. There was a huge public outcry, and after a few weeks, Mars withdrew and said that it will ensure that these products comply with Vegetarian Society labelling standards.

The reasons for ignoring the strict vegetarians must have been commercial - but this belied the simple fact that by catering to strict vegetarians, we are making our products universal. It is a simple but often forgotten fact that while non-vegetarians can eat vegetarian food, it is not vice versa. And modern vegetarian food is delicious and can be equally filling and nourishing - the myth that meat is the only filling food is being proved wrong in so many ways.

I see this same insensitivity applied to other issues such as race. Others have to fit in, but we wont change say some. This approach leads to a divided society.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


One of the reasons why ethnic professionals are scared of promotion is for fear of being labelled as undeserving. One of the reasons why white dominated organisations do not promote ethnics is that they feel that the candidates do not have the merit to deserve it. It seems merit is something objective and everything else is subjective. I disagree strongly. Promotion is as often based on accents, schooling, favouritism qualities - as it is on merit! In fact, some genuinely believe these are meritorious qualities!

Also, merit can only be gained when opportunities are given. If challenging jobs are withheld, how is a person going to get the necessary experience to climb and prove himself or herself?

Also, where we have had discrimination for decades, we may need some affirmative action for the situation to change and for natural processes to take over. There is nothing wrong with this, and the white majority need to be explained why this is necessary to overcome years of prejudice and lack of opportunity.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


As an Indian Diversity expert living in the UK, I am shocked at the Big Brother show broadcasting such blatant racism. The media have a very important role in society and because it is important, it also has to be dealt with responsibly. I am amazed by Shilpa’s grace, beauty and fluency in the English language. The way she has tried to blend in and be part of the group has been faultless. This rhymes with my own experience of migration to this country and those of countless Indians who have come over the last few decades. We do our best to fit in and assimilate, without losing our own identity. The Indian community’s influence in this country economically, socially and culturally has been truly exceptional. And it has all been done with grace.

I have lived in Essex for ten years, the county where Jade Goody lives. During my time here, I have discovered that there is a lot of ignorance about foreign cultures or countries, India being one of them. My family and community have been very active in building bridges of tolerance, respect and understanding. During the Hindu Festival of Navratri, we invited local teachers, Councillors and executives from all backgrounds to share and participate in the festival and they all had a wonderful time. At Diwali, we cooked 100 different varieties of delicious vegetarian food and shared it with everyone. This year I am offering a course on Indian culture to help build bridges and many people have signed up already. I am also giving a public lecture on Indian Art at Chelmsford Museum on 7th February. All this is out of my own initiative.

We do not feel that being Indian and British is a contradiction, and our children have no difficulty with having this dual identity – they are proud of both. My new book on Diversity which is coming out in June talks about all the simple and creative ways in which we can make our huge diversity a pillar of strength for Britain. We do not have to put others down to raise ourselves up. And like Shilpa, most Indians are very broad-minded and adaptable.

Media should play a much more positive role in building bridges of respect and tolerance. Diverse Ethics Ltd. is working with our local paper in Colchester, the Evening Gazette is considering a major series entitled ‘A World in Colchester’ as there are people from 92 countries living here. Very few cities and towns in the UK have any idea about the huge diversity they have. Media can play a positive role in portraying it.

Big Brother is neither big nor brotherly – it is simply noisy.