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.