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Too proud to be a Gentoo

india Updated: Jul 15, 2006 00:08 IST

So it seems that Britain’s 600,000-strong Hindu community doesn’t like being called ‘Asian’. Instead, they would prefer the tag ‘British Indian’, ‘Hindu’ or simply ‘desi’. And that’s not all. They’re also moping about how, unlike what everyone else including us sitting here in Bharat thought, they are an aggrieved lot, feeling marginalised, misunderstood and neglected. Funny innit? Just when we thought that British Indians/ Hindus/ desis/whatever they’d like to call themselves were tasting the joys of not being called ‘Pakis’, they have to muck it up and complain. But first, let’s take their so-called problem of being ignored a twee seriously for a minute. Unlike Pakistani and Bangladeshi Britons, Indians — Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus included — have been considered being better at assimilating with the rest of British society. In other words, the problems associated with ghettoisation have mostly eluded them. Suddenly, it seems that this very talent of melding with a national culture while holding on to one’s community and religious identity is being seen as a problem.

This lament from the ’Indoos (where are Rudyard Kipling and Nirad Chaudhuri when you need them?) has been aired in a study ‘Connecting British Hindus’. In the report, academic and Labour peer Bhikhu Parekh cites a few examples of discrimination. While the British government hospitals have special arrangements for ‘halal’ and ‘kosher’ food, there is “not enough understanding of the dietery requirements of Hindu patients”. Considering this particular complaint comes from the president of the Brahmin Society of North London, what does one expect? One can be sure that the president of the Rastafarian Society of South London has similar complaints — especially about the prohibition of cannabis.

We, sitting across the pond and a land mass, don’t think that British Hindus (or whatever they want to call themselves) should feel ignored and need to talk to Oprah. Instead, they should be proud that they don’t have a reputation of whining. As for the tag of ‘Asian’, apart from subscribers to adult mags and videos, one doesn’t think any Briton will mistake chicken dopiyaza for chicken manchurian. Unless we’re talking about those Iskcon guys at Soho, that is. Then, um, a Hindu does not always an Asian make.

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