Friday, December 12, 2008


On Tuesday 9th December, I was invited to address members of the Oshwal Accountants Group and their partners at a dinner in Harrow, North London. I have known this group for twenty years and it was started by a group of people for whom co-operation and community was an instinctive act. Their culture and values have really helped them to grow and succeed in every way - financially, professionally and the academic achievements of their children.

The real software of India has been its ethics and values, which the world still does not recognise. By nature, many Indians are flexible and adaptable and assimilate to new environments very well. Also their integrity and discipline is such that they are sought after as employees and advisers. These are the lasting formulae of success in any discipline. When we first came here, we had to almost hide our colour and try desperately to fit in, but now there is a growing realisation by organisations that we have something priceless to give. Diverse Ethics is playing a critical role in educating people about Indian culture and wisdom and in the process allowing Indians to have their own identity and not become coconuts in order to succeed.

I talked about modern developments like the work I have done through the book 'Celebrating Diversity' and 'Social Cohesion', the concept of Social Entrepreneurship, and the triple bottom line of financial, social and ecological performance, and the hijacking of concepts like sustainability and light footprint by people who do not live these values. It is important that Indians take an interest in understanding the scientific basis of their wisdom and articulating it so that they do not have to defend it but instead show positive ways for a better future world.

Books I talked about were 'Planet India', by Mira Kamdar, 'The World is Flat' by Thomas Friedman and 'The Triple Bottom Line' by John Elkington. All of these should be available on Amazon and my own books can be purchased from

I also explained to them the power of blogging, and here is an example - why not post a comment and pass this blog on to your contacts to help create a better world?

Thursday, December 11, 2008


As cultural diversity is becoming acknowledged in Britain, organisations are increasingly taking an interest in communicating and marketing to diverse communities. However, there is a problem: How can they be reached? And paradoxically, in many cases they are branded as 'Hard to Reach' communities!
One of the reasons for the problems is that the traditional model of mass marketing is breaking apart as customers and audiences become more informed. Coke was a drink made in America but marketed to the world as the greatest drink on the planet. And it succeeded for a long time. However, that same company has diversified a lot today, and is even making soft drinks for diverse communities. In the UK, an ethnic owned fruit juice company called Rubicon, brough a whole new range of tropical fruit juices to the market, and now everyone is emulating them and they have in the process changed the taste buds of Britain. So what are the principles of 'diverse marketing'?
1. Try to learn about the different types of consumers and the way they shop or buy services.
2. Can you sell your existing products to them in a way that is sensitive to their needs? Can you find out what their needs are and adapt your products or services to suit them?
3. Diversity and creativity not only rhyme, but they are in truth deeply connected. Going back to the Rubicon example above, the founders brought creativity into the juice industry and shook up the whole industry in the process. Can you get staff or consultants from these communities to help your research and communications process? Can you build the intelligence of these communities and markets inside your own organisation? The new learnings will definitely help your existing processes as well.
4. In many cases, ethnic minorities operate through strong mutual bonds and communities. In the West, people often find it difficult to understand the depth of their loyalty and mutuality. There is a lot of social capital built in, and for those organisations working in the social or public education and welfare arenas, diverse communities can be a gold mine of information, wisdom and loyalty. To dismiss or ignore them is to loose a wealth of opportunity for personal and organisation growth.
5. The size and numbers of these groups vary, so do their locations. However, the new media and channels of communication such as the internet can be a tremendous boost here to reaching these progressive and tech savvy communities.

So take advantage of the opportunities diverse communities have to offer you as an individual and organisation. Connect with them and experience the joy.

Thursday, December 04, 2008


The first seminar on the new book on 'Social Cohesion - A Jain Perspective' published by Diverse Ethics was held at the St Ethelburgas Centre for Peace and Reconciliation in Central London on 3rd Dec 2008. Mr. Simon Keyes, Director of the Centre, opened the discussion by explaining how topical he felt the subject was - "it is the number one challenge in the minds of central and local government at the moment, and one where fresh ideas and solutions are really lacking. A Jain perspective on this subject is important and adds a valuable contribution to the debate." The audience came from a cross section of organisations - from PETA to Procter & Gamble, from the Jain nuns at Jain Vishwa Bharti to Global Tolerance.

Funded by the Meghraj Foundation and the Centre for Excellence in Leadership, the research was done by Dr. Aidan Rankin and Dr. Atul Shah. The book draws on Jain wisdom to show practical policies which government can implement to help build cohesion, through areas as wide ranging as environmental policy, education, health-care, business and work ethics, crime, politics and economic policy. The foreword is written by Lynne Sedgmore CBE.

The authors explained their motivations for writing the book. Dr. Aidan Rankin explained:"I was brought up in Britain in the western cultural tradition but from a young age, developed an empathy and concern for all living beings. I then came across the Jains and got inspired to research and write about this ancient wisdom and have written three books so far - 'The Jain Path', 'Social Cohesion' and a new one coming out on the subject of 'Anekant'. For Jains cohesion included unity with all living beings, not just humans." Dr Aidan Rankin described his experience of encountering Jainism from a western perspective and how he believed it could change the way we look at politics, economis and our relationship with the environment. We can benefit especially, he believes, from the Jain principle of anekant, or many-sidedness, which enables us to respect diverse viewpoints as aspects of a larger truth.""

Dr. Atul Shah explained his personal story of upbringing in Kenya where cohesion was an everyday experience, but then coming to UK, where he found himself isolated and confused. "My culture and wisdom was never mentioned or discussed at the University where I studied, yet it had such a profound vision for the future and is so relevant to the modern day." This book represented a rise in personal self-confidence about his Jain culture and the vision it can provide for a new and better Britain. It took 30 years of living and working in Britain for me to build that confidence."

In his concluding remarks, Mr. Simon Keyes who chaired the seminar noted: " I think time has come for leaders in government and different faiths to sit and just listen to the Jains as their thinking and vision is so profound and so timely for todays multiple crises. "

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


The above link is an excellent podcast of a major debate on this topic hosted in London by CIMA, the accountancy body and chaired by Jon Snow, the Channel 4 News Anchor. It was a timely discussion on a critical topic, and I was fascinated to hear Jon Snow say at the very start: I am truly impressed by the diversity of the panel and the audience. It is sad to say, but in most discussions on ethics and public policy, minorities are excluded and by default, the culture and ethics are deemed to be of 'minor' importance. This is so not true.

The UK accounting profession is hugely diverse, and UK accounting bodies are at the hub of the global accounting profession with members stretching far and wide. However, if you look underneath these bodies, you will find the power and management to be very mono-cultural. Also, the ethics of modern accountants are being heavily criticised by many, including the eminent academic Prof. Prem Sikka of Essex University. Rarely have accountants responded in any clear way to his trenchant critiques. His Guardian Blog is a recommended read.

It is therefore very good that CIMA has taken the lead to host this discussion. Accountants need to be more reflective and also engage directly in cultural and ethical debates. There is a fascinating Indian ritual called the Chopda Pujan which has been conducted for centuries, and is so timely for today. It happens on New Year's Eve (Diwali) and businessmen get together to worship the goddess of wealth Laxmi and pray for success and prosperity in the future. However, this prayer is not for personal greed and accumulation, but so that the businessmen can play his or her dutiful role in the upliftment of the whole community and society. Here is a practice which a diverse accounting body should hold at its headquarters every year, not only to embrace diversity, but also to positively portray a good ethical example to the whole world. And please, Indian religions are Dharmas - sciences of sustainable living - they should be seen in this light. Diverse Ethics would be very happy to guide this initiative to any accounting body and it would have huge media interest also.

Monday, November 24, 2008


The world famous London School of Economics boasts alumni of Indian origin in the thousands. Many of these are spread out all over the world, with some very eminent ones like Prof. Amartya Sen who won a Nobel prize and Dr. I. G. Patel, who was a former Director of the London School of Economics in the late 80's. Fortunately also, many alumni live in London and we all met on Monday 17th November to meet up with contemporaries and remember the 'good ol' times'. Among the attendees were Raj Patel MBE, who graduated in 1983, Ashish Patel of Intel, Kamalesh Kantaria, Mr. Anant M. P. Shah, Richa, Shrenik Davda, and the list goes on... See if you can recognise your friend or classmate in this photo above. We met at the Senior Common Room and had samosas and cocktails! Could you have imagined the LSE serving samosas in the 1980's? India is now a very important force in the global economy, and Indians the engine of this powerhouse. It is therefore apt for us to synergise and connect to one of the most prestigious sources of intellectual capital - the LSE. It is my personal hope that in time, this group also engages with the ethics of the knowledge base at LSE, where India's timeless wisdom also has a lot to add. Mr. Gautam Barua came to the meeting and is part of a unique alumni network working in this area - for details visit

At a time when networking is a big trend, alumni networks are the natural networks where friendship is built without any expectations. Our alumni are in many fields ranging from law and accountancy to development, banking, politics, and even media and broadcasting. Here you will meet a wide range of people under one roof and reminisce about the formative years. Also the numbers of Indian students at the LSE are increasing every year, and they produce an excellent variety show every year under the banner of Timeless. The next show is on 1st February 2009 at Sadlers Wells Theatre no less, and we encourage you to come and really enjoy this unique multi-cultural extravaganza. It will also be another opportunity for alumni to reunite. Details are at:

Mr. Anant Shah and I have suggested to the LSE a memorial donated by Indian alumni friends of the LSE to remember the huge legacy left by the late Dr. I. G. Patel, its former Director. This proposal is currently being considered, and if you wish to support it in any way, please do get in touch with me. We encourage you to forward this email to your friends and to come back and visit the new LSE which has changed so much and the atmosphere is very positive and upbeat.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Music as Bridge Builder

Last night, I saw this amazing documentary about the Sistema, a classical music orchestra cultivated from the grassroots of Caracas in Venezuela. Children brought up in poverty were given a chance by a visionary from a young age to learn, play and perform classical music. It lifted their lives and aspirations, and the music that came out was truly harmonious, passionate and sublime. Their conductor Dudamel is now regarded as one of the best in the world, and he was trained through Sistema and is only 25 years old. I had just written a book on Social Cohesion and when I saw this programme, my hope was reinforced. Music is a fantastic way to build cohesion, and in an orchestra harmony is required, created and opens the possibility of sustainance. The best part was the informality and fun of it all - classical music was not formal or stiff, but creative and fun, and this passion came out in the performances. Perhaps our problem today is that we have all become too formal and stiff, and need to loosen up and see the creativity of playfulness and experience true joy. I encourage you to watch this programme and see the power of music in building cohesion.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


The election of Obama in the US as President is excellent news for Black Britain. We now have the possibility of minorities becoming public leaders in this country at every level - government, civil service, institutions, - as Britain has to change now. There should be embarassment about the fact that so many doors of public life are still closed to black people at senior levels. Also, at a time when the global situation is so grave the world desperately needs new ideas and new solutions to pressing problems. Could black people have cultures and solutions which could heal the world and bring about positive change - I believe so, but because of racism, these ideas have been denied from getting a civic platform. Our new book on 'Social Cohesion - A Jain Perpective' is an example of one such 'black' idea which should be allowed its due platform and given a serious hearing. It is radical, authentic, thoroughly researched and a positive blueprint for a new Britain.

Monday, November 03, 2008


Once upon a time, Britain ruled the world. It exported its language and way of thinking and running a country to the rest of the world, trying to 'civilise' it. Along the way, Britons learnt a few things also - that other countries and peoples can be beautiful too, and that they do have something to teach the world. However, the relationship was one of power, and so Britons were too proud to admit it.

Fast forward to the present. Britain is no longer a world power. However, the world lives in Britain. However, has the attitude to 'foreigners' changed? Is it still 'we will use you, but not share power with you'? Recently, someone who was born and raised as a white Briton said to me that the British are very arrogant. Is there truth in this?

In an increasingly inter-dependent world, Britain needs to change its attitude. Especially its pride and arrogance. It also needs to admit its flaws and failures. And allow other cultures to help it solve its problems. The British mind needs to change its colour screens. It also needs to learn to see other cultures in their own terms. Here is an example - my daughter was asked by her friends whether she is going to have an arranged marriage when she grows up. The people who asked her come from a culture where one in three marriages break up, yet they had the arrogance to insult my daughter in this way. This shows the depth of ignorance in our society. This needs to change, especially among those in positions of power and influence.

Do you agree? Let me have your comments.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


On Saturday 11th October, a team of fifteen Jain leaders from North America came to the Oshwal Centre in Potters Bar, London to launch the International Jain Summer School in Europe. Directors of the School, Dr. Sulekh Jain and Dr. Shugan Jain spoke of the significant impact this project has had in different parts of the world over the last five years since inception, reading out testimonials from visiting scholars and professors. After a six week session in the living museum that is India, where they are taught various aspects of Jain philosophy and culture, and travel to prominent Jain places, meeting various members of the community, many are transformed by the experience. This little known culture with its vast ocean of wisdom then becomes open to study, reflection and dissemination. The project is a brainchild of a group of North American Jain leaders inspired by Professor Cromwell Crawford, who is the Academic Dean and mentor. Mr. Ashok Shah, President of the Oshwal Association of UK, congratulated the visitors and encouraged visiting leaders from all the Jain organisations to support this initiative which takes Jain awareness to new dimensions. Present at the event were representatives from Institute of Jainology, Veerayatan UK, Jain Samaj Europe, National Council of Vanik Organisations, National Council of Faith and Belief in Further Education, Mahavir Foundation and Young Jains.The Association members and volunteers hosted the whole event extremely well, and the visitors were touched by everyone's warmth and hospitality. The Ayambil festival was going on and there were hundreds of visitors to the temple that day. Details of the temple are at Dr. Atul Shah and Dr. Vinod Kapashi coordinated the event, and nuns from Jain Vishwa Bharti were present at the occasion.

In 2009, the eminent Jain scholar and prolific writer, Prof. Padmanabh Jaini, will be a visiting professor at the school. Prof. Werner Menski, from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London sent a special message of congratulations for the achievements explaining that the fact that all travel costs are covered and there is a stipend for scholars makes a great difference as funding is in short supply in this field, and scholars need to be supported and encouraged. The community support for education is to be admired and encouraged. Dr. Prakash Shah, Reader in Law at Queen Mary College, University of London was also very impressed by the initiative and encouraged scholars everywhere to participate and help promote this unique venture. He will personally promote the school. More details about the school and applications forms are at the excellent website and the deadline for applications for 2009 is the end of February. Jayni Gudka will be liaising with any applicants and she can be reached via email at

Also launched at the event was a new book by Yogendra Jain of Boston entitled 'Jain Way of Life' which provides a very readable account of all aspects of the tradition and its modern day relevance and a book entitled 'Jain Food - Compassionate and Healthy Eating' by Manoj Jain, Laxmi Jain and Tarla Dalal.

Friday, October 03, 2008


One of the traits of indigenous British culture is privacy, and I often find people are afraid to enquire about the faiths of other people or even visit their temples or gurudwaras. They may be very interested, but are afraid to ask even though these places are open to the public seven days a week. There is also a belief that a visitor may infringe on the rules of behaviour and somehow offend the faith.

This is far from the truth. Forgiveness is central to many faiths, and where a visitor is coming for the first time, their innocence and enquiry is welcomed. Also hospitality and guests are honoured in many faiths, and people would be more than happy to guide visitors if there are any questions.

If people do not take these 'risks', they are losing out big time in learning about other cultures and enjoying the Diversity of Britain. Examples of beautiful places to visit in London are and and and all are free and open to visitors, with the Sikh Gurudwara even giving a free meal to guests at any time.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


In the last two days, there have been two major racism allegations from senior officers - Tariq Ghaffur and Yasmin Rehman who was head of diversity. It seems unbelievable that a Head of Diversity suffered from discrimination! Generally, when people make these allegations, a lot of suffering has already happened as they usually are career suicide.

To me there is a real lack of senior ethnic minority officers throughout the UK public service. And the reason for this is simple - UK leaders want power to be mono-cultural. They do not want to share this, where people are from different cultures and identities. This has to change as Britain is a multi-cultural nation and people have to realise that power is a thin wedge - leaders should not go after power but do be good public servants. This attitude of the Met suggests that leaders are not about public service but instead about power. Many ethnic minorities have strong cultures of public service and leadership where they are willing to share and devolve power. But they need to be given the chance.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


One of the simplest and most practical ways of cultivating respect is through hospitality and gracefulness. If we put ourselves into the shoes of others, we will be able to see the picture from their perspective - we need not agree with it, but it helps to understand it. Here are some tips:
- Welcome visitors and offer them a glass of water without even asking.
- Smile, if possible try to say something positive about them
- Look into their eyes and try to make a connection
- Make time for people and investing in your key relationships
- Read about other cultures, through novels or books, hear their music, or watch their films.
- Travel with an open mind and challenge your thinking and perceptions of others

This is building respect in a simple practical way.

Friday, June 27, 2008


Yesterday I attended the launch of a new guide on multi-faith design spaces compiled by St. Ethelburgas It was a wonderful event, where there were leaders from various industry groups who champion diversity.

The new legislation against religious discrimination requires organisations to provide spaces for employees to worship. It is impossible to have a separate space for each faith, so a multi-faith space makes a lot of sense. How this is designed to accomodate all is a critical issue. The guide covers subjects suchas location of the room, orientation & shape, neutrality, lighting, ventilation and heating, religious artefacts and furniture and accessories. It is wide range in scope and practical and content.

Such a space is also a huge potential bridge for diversity within the organisation and can help resolve employee stress by giving them a quiet space to recharge and reflect. This will create healthy employees and lead to improved performance and productivity.

This guide is an excellent step forward - an idea which could reach out to the whole nation, not just in workplaces, but also in neighbourhoods were people live.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


The government is embarking on a new initiative for 14-19 year olds to embark on vocational training for a new diploma in media and the creative industries. This is particularly aimed at disadvantaged ethnic minorities and in order to improve the lack of diversity in the media. The above Guardian articles spells out the initiative and its benefits.

Clearly there is a huge underlying problem in the media industry, and a shortage of solutions. It is an industry with poor training and also many would say very 'insidious' and artificial. Yet paradoxically, diversity has a huge contribution to make to creativity. Not only is there a problem at entry into these organisations, but also one of progression and seniority. It is still a very white industry, and power is certainly white controlled. Change it must, but how?

I beleive the entire culture of the industry needs to change. It needs to be more ethical and operate authentically. It needs to recognise the power of difference and accomodate diversity in all its ranks - but first, it needs to appreciate different cultures and the unique strengths they can bring.

Our culture tours can be very vital for media executives committed to change - they need to understand different cultures. We invite them to participate and take time out to experience the difference. Those with power need to understand diversity and not brush it aside or tick some boxes. Then only will there be lasting change.

Monday, April 07, 2008


Tony Blair has set up a special foundation for inter-faith cooperation which was launched in London recently.

This is an excellent speech showing the power of faith in maintaining morality and ethics in society and the urgency of multi-faith cooperation in dealing with local and global issues. The ideas are not necessarily new, but they have a new impact as they come from an eloquent ambassador who has an international profile. It deals with a lot of the common misunderstandings and misrepresentation of faith and shows how there are extremists in all traditions, even secular ones and we should all restrain such extremism.

The role of media in faith is not extensively discussed, but this is critical especially in modern Britain. By and large, the media is very suspicious of faith and does not give it credit for the moral and social impact of faith communities. This is highly regrettable and needs to be addressed. Also being a Christian, Mr. Blair has feigned away from the monotheism of Christianity which is a such a serious problem. Multi-faith cooperation needs to address this issue - not all faiths believe that theirs is the only true faith. The Buddhists, Jains and Hindus stand out prominently in this area and are not given the credit they deserve. Also he does not really engage the subject of genuine inter-faith dialogue where we actually debate and discuss different faith perspectives and go beyond the politeness of respect. This is a real problem of modern society and we have now the opportunity to truly evolve in faith.

Do you agree? Please comment.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


The mood of Britain, especially in the corridors of power, is to somehow brush diversity under the carpet. Create a head of Diversity post if necessary, ensure there is little power or resources behind it, tick some boxes, and hope the subject will go away. The hard reality is that most organisations do not want to see or acknowledge difference, but instead to create and promote sameness. In this way, not the organisation, but the powerful people are sustained. Everyone then is encouraged to align with the culture and values of the powerful or leave. This is why the club is so exclusive. Also there is a fear in the boardroom - a fear that power may fade away, and with it control. It is actually insecurity that drives people to power, and the more power they have the more insecure they become.

This article has been inspired by a recent dialogue I had organised by the excellent Change for Good network established by Corporate Culture. To join this network or find out more, visit:

What are they losting by doing this? Many things.

1. The huge potential for creativity which people from different cultures can bring to the organisation.

2. Potential new products and markets which the organisation has not even thought of. This has a direct financial impact in terms of profits lost.

3. A wide talent pool which also has a lot of energy and dynamism and a hunger to do well and move beyond any ceilings - even to create new pathways.

4. An inclusive organisation where differing identities are allowed to be and passion is encouraged and sustained.

5. The huge brand embarassment and cost of breaking the law and discriminating against job applicants and employees.

6. The potential to operate in a really sustainable way, by changing the structure of the organisations and devolving power and responsibility - so that there is no longer a pyramid structure but an open, inclusive organisation.

7. The arrogance of one culture and its way of working as being superior fades away and we get a truly multi-cultural organisation which takes the best of different ethical approaches and creates something that is leading edge and robust.

I welcome your thoughts on this.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


The above article in Personnel Today magazine shows how critical it is for firms to invest in Diversity training to ensure legal compliance at the very least. There are serious risks in terms of reputation loss, financial loss from a claim and the whole angst of actually going through a tribunal. And more and more tribunals are happening, according to ACAS.

There are different ways of providing training - an interactive internet based course, creative training through use of film, images and music, and workshops. Managers and executives are critical to this as they are in senior positions and often at the front-line of issues and recruitment/promotion decisions. The best formula we have always advocated is not one of fear, but one of opportunity - diversity is an opportunity to be creative, to grow and to learn from difference. We at Diverse Ethics can help you make just that kind of change which will lead to business success and employee happiness.

Monday, February 18, 2008


Experts on Diversity will meet at the Nehru Centre in London on 20th February to discuss the challenges of diversity in the British workplace. It is a widely accepted fact that despite the great population diversity, seniority in British companies and public bodies is far from diverse and poses a huge challenge.

Diverse Ethics Ltd is organising the event and its founder and Chief Executive Dr. Atul Shah has written a widely acclaimed book on this very subject entitled ‘Celebrating Diversity – How to live, enjoy and benefit from Great Coloured Britain’. Panelists for the discussion include Lynne Sedgmore CBE of the Centre for Excellence in Leadership, Margaret Sentamu, Head of Diversity at Odgers, Ray and Bernstein, Mr. Satish Kanabar, Area Corporate Director, Barclays – West London, and Jeremy Brown from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

The debate promises to cover the huge positive possibilities offered by Diversity and the creative and talent pool that it offers modern Britain. Sources of resistance such as ignorance, territorialism, fear and closed-mindedness will be addressed. Dr. Atul Shah explained: ‘ The Law in this country has created huge opportunities for minorities to receive equal treatment in British workplaces. The challenge is to open up the middle and ensure that the ladder to the top is not controlled or dominated by one race or sex, and people with different identities are allowed to climb without changing their colour or beliefs.’ Diverse Ethics specialises in providing exactly this type of training and advice to UK employers.

Saturday, February 16, 2008



Are you surprised? This is an industry which is very image conscious - but it is also dominated by media. To me this shows that the media industry - especially the control of it - is white. And then others try to 'fit in' and give them what they will print. The undertones must be that somehow black or coloured people dont sell clothes or designer wear - they 'dis'colour it. This shows the huge amount of hidden prejudice in modern society.

On the surface this seems such a paradox - an image conscious industry would want a variety of palate and colour to sell and promote itself. Perhaps it is driven by insecurity and people are desperately trying to aim for the mass market and fit in. What is really fascinating is that slowly but surely, Indian fashion is going global and creeping in on the Western design giants producing highly creative material which is already selling very well. And we all know what happens when India aspires to go global - it achieves it. I have at home a magazine called 'Asian Woman' - it is absolutely beautiful in the clothes and variety of contemporary fashion and is available from WHSmith and major booksellers. Ethnics will have to create their own media to reach the market, but this is much harder to penetrate and requires investment and determination.

Also, I firmly believe Indian culture has always been universal in its wisdom and appeal and very inclusive. So it has the right 'software' to produce global designs. Western fashion and media powerhouses - watch out, otherwise the rug will be pulled under your eyes.

Friday, February 08, 2008


Under UK anti-discrimination legislation, Universities are now actively setting up departments to ensure there is compliance with the law in all respects. Legislation covers employment practices, student enrolment and services offered by Universities. This is a huge task and one which will evolve over the years.

Whilst the law is driving action, it is important not to lose sight of the fundamental principles of equality and to promote these. As centres of education, Universities are a prime site for building community cohesion in Britain. They bring a range of minorities together who are young and keen to learn. They attract students from all over the world and create networks which may last long after the students leave the campus. Also academics are a key to a healthy learning community and their subjects and research should also embrace equality in its truest sense.

My current reading of it is that the attention at present is focused on legal compliance. This involves employee training - so that all are aware of the law and how to behave. Another new aspect is equality impact assessment - an audit required for public institutions.

These are the equality principles I recommend:

1. All students are respected and treated equally, irrespective of race, disability, age, sexuality or belief.

2. Subjects taught should endeavour to embrace equality and research should also encourage alternative cultural and philosophical perspectives. For example, modern materialistic and utilitarian economics is one way of looking at the economy, not the only way. There are many alternative economic systems and students should be exposed to this at an early stage.

3. Academic recruitment and promotion should be open and not biased to any one culture or method of research. There are serious issues about this in British Universities. The top management often tend to male and monocultural. We urgently need Vice Chancellors who are non-white.

4. Overseas students should be warmly welcomed when they first arrive on campus. The University and perhaps also Town should have a welcome party with food - something which is so common in foreign cultures where visitors are received with great warmth and hospitality. It must not be forgotten that they are a vital source of revenue for Universities and the local economy.

5. Differing identities should not be suppressed - but instead allowed to prevail provided they adhere to UK law. They should also be encouraged to engage and dialogue with one another. In particular, students born and raised in the UK should be positively encouraged to engage more widely.

6. Academics should be encouraged to break from their often mono-cultural ghettos. This will lead to all sources of wisdom being studied and debated, and also referees and editors of journals should give voice to minority voices.

These are my suggestions - here is a great opportunity to take the world into a positive peaceful mode as many students may become leaders in various fields in future years. And they will always thank Britain for this grounding in many different ways.

I await your comments on this.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


On Monday 4th February, Abu Bundu-Kamara of Pearson hosted a network of Diversity champions at the Pearson HQ in London. Rachel Krys of Employers Forum on Age was a speaker and we then had a discussion on the subject of workplace diversity. Many points emerged from this:
- A lot of organisations are trying to brush diversity under the carpet and hope it will somehow go away.
- The area is complex and multi-faceted and legislation is causing a lot of tension, and often the response is legalistic rather than seizing Diversity as a positive opportunity. Very few organisations are even in that horizon at all.
- Ethnic and Minority networks in large organisations are having variable impact.
- Diversity cases can be complex, costly and very embarassing for big organisations. The British Airways case of the employee wearing a cross was cited as an example of this by Rachel Krys.
- HR seems to dominate the Diversity space and this is often the problem as they are administrative and technical in their outlook. Heads of Diversity themselves tend to be female and monocultural.
- It is difficult not to offend anyone - everyone has some prejudice or another. We need to except this and also move beyond the politeness of superficial respect.
- Organisations are not holistic - they still think in terms of separate boxes.
- Faith in the workplace is another very emotive issue and organisations are afraid about how to address it and what to do about it.

In all, it was a very open discussion and covered a range of issues - a wonderful initiative. The next discussion will happen shortly and anyone interested should contact Abu.

Thursday, January 31, 2008


I spent this morning recording a variety of Thoughts for the Day for BBC Suffolk. It was an interesting experience to develop short messages on different aspects of diversity for a variety of topics - education, health, universities, media and children. The thoughts are attached below for anyone who is interested in reading them.


When they are born, they give us hope. Hope that they will bring joy to the family, unity to the society, and creativity and goodness for the world. I too am a parent, and witnessed the birth of both my children, one of whom studies at this school.

The best gift for me has been their innocence and curiosity. That has helped me to stay young, to stay open-minded and to respect others and learn from them. Also, children have a strong sense of intuition and know when something is not right. They are much smarter than what we credit them for. And their love is spontaneous and selfless. This is the best gift any parent can have.

Sadly today, we have become gripped with fear and mistrust, and are careful about whom we befriend and talk to. We have become suspicious and defensive and have lost our sense of curiosity, which is the door to real learning. And rather than hugging people, we are hugging money and trying to draw safety and happiness from it.

Let us learn from our children. Let us play with their innocence. Let us too learn to use our intuition and not rely totally on our brains. Let us allow them to unite us, and move beyond differences of race, belief, age or disability. Above all, let us work with them to build a better future, filled with hope. Without them, we are truly lost.


Open your third eye. Let the light of wisdom into your soul. Learn from nature – the sun, the stars, the flowers, the trees. Do they not teach you about beauty? Are they not sending rays of hope and brightness? When the birds offer us a song in the morning, they are inviting us to sing, and spread our music wherever we go.

Schools bind the local community together. While the children all walk in one direction to the school, the parents go in different directions to work. It is they who help us build a community. Schools teach values, art and science, sparking the imaginations of our children. Teachers light the candles within the spirits of our children, working hard to open the channels of learning such that wisdom spreads far and wide. The parents become the boats which will set sail to their children so they may travel beyond any borders or boundaries.

And people are our teachers too – the black, the brown, the old, the disabled, the children and the women. Not just those who work in schools, but also our colleagues at work, our artists and writers, our cleaners and postmen. Seek out their wisdom and imbibe it in your waking moments. Learning will keep us forever young, and it is when we close its door, that we begin to age.
Let the third eye open, draw the light of wisdom from one and all and experience the beauty of diversity.


In the modern world, many people think that wealth is health. But in truth, no amount of money can cure one from ill health if there are no people qualified to treat or no cures for the illness. Hospitals do an amazing job in supporting the weak and helping them rebuild their lives. I am Indian by culture, and throughout the UK, hospitals hire a large number of Indian staff as Doctors, Nurses, and other support staff who provide a dedicated service. Caring for and helping the sick is regarded as an honour in Indian culture.

Fortunately also, India has some amazing wisdoms of good health. We have heard of the sciences of Yoga and Meditation as the secrets to inner health. Yoga not only exercises the body, but through breathing and posture, cleanses the mind and uplifts the spirit. It is India which has taught us that the mind, the body and the spirit are inter-related in health. An unhealthy mind will lead to an unhealthy body and vice versa. A weak spirit will lead to a feeble life. Diet and right Nutrition are a key to good health – and the science of Ayurveda is a unique gift of prevention and cure. Some of the best Ayurveda clinics are in Kerala where many nurses working here come from. When animals fall sick, they have no doctors or hospitals to go to, so they fast and this cures their illness. Indian religions, like my own Jain tradition, encourage fasting, and our eight day fast at Paryushan, without any food, has for me been a deeply healing experience for both the body and the spirit.

So look after your mind, body and your spirit – and you will be truly wealthy in life.


Everyday, just as we eat our food, go to work, we actively consume media and information. Whether this is in the form of radio, newspapers and magazines, internet or television, we watch, listen and learn from others. It is a highly important source of information, knowledge and wisdom. This in turn influences our perceptions of people, especially those who are different from us in terms of culture, colour, age, disability or belief. This often happens sub-consciously, without us even realising it.

The opposite of media or medium is direct experience or dialogue. Here there is no middleman, filter or interpreter. Often these are the most memorable experiences – whether it is a walk in a beautiful place, a lovely holiday, or hospitality given to us by a total stranger. Unfortunately today, we do not value direct experience and are happy to watch, read and listen, rather than to engage with one another.

2008 is the European Year of Inter-Cultural Dialogue. I work with individuals and organisations to encourage dialogue and experience culture directly, through visiting special sites. And the feedback is always astonishing – and everyone says how memorable the experience was. Set aside some time to experience difference directly. Connect and talk to people and ask them about their customs and beliefs – then you will learn exactly what you want to know without any mediation. Make life a diverse and memorable experience. Learn to grow from the wisdom of others.


When we look at the world map, we are amazed by the distances, shapes and cultural and linguistic diversity. It seems a unique gift of creation – but alas, one which we will never fully see or experience before we die.

Fortunately, our Universities throughout the UK seem to have a magnetic force for students from all over the world. They attract people from all countries and continents, with rich histories and heritage all into one educational institution. The students come with great enthusiasm to learn – for many, it is the realisation of a lifelong dream. On these campuses, we have the opportunity to directly experience the world, and befriend some of its citizens. Through study and lectures, we learn new ways of thinking and doing, and in the halls of residence, debates and discussions about world affairs often last well into the night. Here is global bridge building at its very best – through direct dialogue and friendship, without any hidden agendas or pressing wars.

Unfortunately, not all students take advantage of this diversity. Many decide to stick to the known and the familiar. We should encourage our young to venture out and explore, to befriend the foreign students who have left their homes and families, and give them hospitality and a warm welcome. They should understand the huge sacrifices they have made to come here, and the enthusiasm they have brought with them. We should give our young the strength to see difference as an opportunity to learn and grow, and not to mistrust and fear. Learning comes not just from books and teachers, but also from encounters and dialogue. The campus is an open book with a world atlas.

We will then discover that there is room for us all.

Hope these thoughts inspire you in your life and work.

Monday, January 28, 2008



This front page Guardian article shows how entrenched public Britain is today. Most positions of power are denied to ethnic minorities. This is about the judiciary and the legal profession has been widely criticised for its blatant discrimination. All this at a time when the law clearly prohibits all kinds of discrimination and makes it a public duty for public bodies like the judiciary to promote diversity.

Merit is explained as the reason for lack of diversity. But merit is rarely defined. It is used as if it were an entirely unbiased objective measure. I encourage people to go underneath the meaning of merit. Often it is behaviour, accent, social and alcohol skills, fitting in, and generally being 'polished' and obedient is what merit really means. Also, if the right opportunities are not given at the right times, how can one have the requisite experience?

The law gives employees the right to go to tribunal. I wish the judges who applied and did not succeed exercised this right and did not settle out of court. However, it will be other judges who would rule, so the system would close in on itself. The truth is that powerful people are afraid of diversity. They cannot control it or predict its direction.

It is time we saw diversity as opportunity and broke the close-knit private clubs which actually belong to the public.

Thursday, January 24, 2008


I am going today to my son's school, Prettygate Junior in Colchester as a parent-helper. The Headmaster has decided that the whole school should be taught how to cook Indian food as a way of building cultural bridges and promoting diversity education. For my son, who is a minority in the School, this is a very proud moment indeed as he loves cooking and everyone is going to learn about his culture and method. The first chapter of my book 'Celebrating Diversity' is called 'Spicy or Plain' - and if children are taught to be spicy at a younger age, surely they will not be afraid of difference and see it as an opportunity to grow. Also cooking is such a grounded activity that it is a great way to promote diversity awareness. Want to come and taste the food - my stomach is already rumbling!

Parent-helping is one of the ways adults can get involved in the community and connect with school staff and children. I always find schools buzzing with interest and enthusiasm and love to spend some time and be stimulated. Hope you can do the same in your localities!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008



Pearson, one of the leading giants in media in Britain have created a unique programme of internships for students interested in getting into the industry from differenty cultural backgrounds. Media is widely regarded as a difficult industry to break into, and where training is generally poor and work is competitive. This opportunity is a good break for passionate University students who want to get a head start and also receive quality practical training. Details of the scheme and benefits are in the link above.

In my book 'Celebrating Diversity' , I have written a whole chapter about the media and the diversity issues that affect the industry. To have sensitive writing and reporting, it helps if media staff are diverse. I applaud this initiative by Pearson.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


In Britain, there has been so much coverage given to battery cages and the inner workings of the meat industry by celebrity chefs that people are concerned. We have also seen a huge number of animal crises over the last decade from CJD and Mad Cow Disease, to Foot and Mouth, Bird Flu and Blue Tongue. Nutritionists talk about healthy diets - and most of these are primarily vegetarian, even though the label may not be used. Jamie Oliver recently demonstrated this in one of his programmes. So we are almost accepting that food needs to be caring and compassionate. We are also beginning to see the huge damage caused by meat on the environment. We are beginning to appreciate cultural and human diversity. So can you see a connection between these issues - I do. Bio-diversity is the root of human diversity, and if 'we are what we eat' then surely a diverse diet has to be vegetarian? Journalists should not be afraid of talking about these matters and integrating them - because sustainability is about looking at the whole, not just the parts. And fortunately, we have now thousands of excellent vegetarian recipes and cooking guides, and we can always ask a vegetarian friend to guide us or show us - food is the basis of dialogue, so why not embrace it and use it for meeting up and sharing?

I welcome your comments.

Monday, January 21, 2008


A unique variety West-End performance by London School of Economics students

Hope – a four letter word which is often far from our lips. Global warming, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, crime, drugs and alcohol – are modern events which the media blasts at us. But the show this young generation of 19 year-old international students put together was spell-binding in its music, dance, singing, film and creativity. It gave HOPE for the future from an institution at the leading edge of global research and science.

The show involved 200 students from different parts of the world – China, Carribean, India, Italy, Eastern Europe and was directed by Mikesh Vora and Seeta Haria, two first year undergraduates. It was hosted by ‘Her Majestys Theatre’ at Haymarket in the West End on Sunday 20th January and funds raised in aid of several charities. Entitled ‘Timeless’, the performance creatively displayed the artistic talents that lie within different peoples and cultures. One of the centre-pieces of the show was a ‘Charlie Chaplin’ style silent black and white film, depicting a young student from India coming to study at the LSE and being told point-blank by the parents – ‘no alcohol, no drugs, and no girls!’ But as is so common with most students in their first bout of freedom, he went for it having this view of the West as the ultimate in freedom. He discovers a beautiful Chinese student, who is repelled by his traditional clothes and behaviour. He goes for counselling, stalks the girl, rescues her from a gang of attackers, and at last she falls for him! The acting and direction was beautiful, and as the story threaded in between the dances, it kept everyone hooked to the plot. It was a timeless film, drawing from Hollywood, Bollywood and of course Britishhumour-wood. Everyone was in fits of laughter.

The dances themselves had a variety of costumes and music genres, from Bhangra to Hip-Hop, from Rock to Soul and blended these – Desi Munky was the producer and mixer. The choreography was inventive, taking aspects of the old, merging with the new and dreaming and speculating on the future. It was art for arts sake – a creative expression by a generation of very intelligent ‘rational’ minds who somehow are still addicted to art and want to fuse it with reason.

A lot of the performances drew from the huge diversity of India – the concept of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ – the whole world is my family (including plants and animals). Punjab, Gujarat, South India – all had their varying influences. India has been home to all the major religions of the world and is a melting pot of so many diverse cultures and languages which have in themselves been timeless – it was globalised millennia ago. This is the real ‘software’ of India – not the modern day hype about the technocrats, but the age old wisdom of non-violence, sustainability, bio-diversity, creativity, literature and music. It is a vast reservoir, not separating the religious from the secular, which has yet to be interpreted by western Universities and incorporated into their curricula. It is a very timely wisdom, given the failure of materialistic science and utilitarianism. In the Indian psyche, there is a ‘borderless mind’ which is unafraid to learn from others and adapt, which is tolerant and respectful of difference, and whose goal is not power and dominance but sharing and enlightenment for all.

Perhaps the show could have incorporated nature and animals into the performances, creatively. This would have shown that bio-diversity is the true bedrock of human diversity. Also it should not have feigned from incorporating the deep and profound spiritual heritage of India which is so urgently needed in the world today. This would have given the message that peace on earth cannot be obtained at the expense of peace with nature or spiritual destruction. The Directors are both from the ancient ‘Jain’ tradition which has a very integrated and holistic philosophy of respect for all living beings. It was amazing for me to see this ancient tradition expressed in this modern way – and showed how timeless its values are.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008



This is a brilliant and scary article. It shows how facebook is subtly helping our 'commodification' as individuals and selling our souls in the process. It takes a strong stance against internet dialogue and for face to face contact. This is something that is much more natural and whole - on facebook, it is easy to lie about ourselves and only tell certain stories. Also privacy is severely compromised.

2008 is the European Year of Inter-Cultural Dialogue. I am sure it is meant to be real dialogue rather than virtual dialogue. It is true that we have little time to engage - and are also afraid of engaging as we may not be able to predict where it will lead. There is risk in dialogue. However, there is growth too. There is humanity. There is a potential for true friendship and community. This is something we must encourage and celebrate.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Professions and Diversity

Professions and Diversity Article in Media

After I wrote this article, I sent it to various colleagues and friends and got very positive feedback. Professions have always been a magnet for minorities, but in the UK professional bodies would like to stay monocultural for some peculiar reason. A lawyer friend said the situation is much worse in the legal profession, where colour is seen as a barrier to progress. Much work needs to be done by professional bodies to change and truly embrace diversity.


I recently met a fireman who said the best course he ever attended was on Diversity. When I run my courses on Diversity, which are conducted as live tours of cultural places, I get a consistent top rating. People find it a very memorable and uplifting experience. Of course it matters how the course is conducted, but why is it that they are so popular I wonder? Perhaps because we are exposed to diversity often, but rarely get the chance to learn it properly or for others to explain it to us professionally. Also we are attracted by the art and the sculptures, and want to find out more about the meaning and if someone can translate this to our modern lived experiences, then it is memorable. In a corporate course, we can come away with developing ourselves personally and professionally at the same time. For the organisation, such courses surely would improve staff loyalty and creativity.

Thursday, January 03, 2008


I was interviewed yesterday by BBC Radio on the subject of Kenyan violence and whether this had affected my family and relatives living there. I was happy to cooperate, but also suggested to them that I should be contacted not just for ethnic minority related news but for mainstream stories affecting Britain. My ethnicity is not the sole thing that defines me. Fortunately, the journalist was empathetic, but I know that many media people do not like to be criticised. Similar parallels apply in many sectors - e.g. actors complain that they only get roles which somehow relate to their ethnicity. Can you imagine a black Dr. Who? Why not? Somehow it seems that all the main TV anchors have to be white for most programmes and also editors who work behind the scenes - this is not changing fast enough.