In-sourcing of India

Updated on Mar 23, 2005 08:19 PM IST

Indians are now so well entrenched in all walks of life and so prominent in all social, political and economic spheres that one has to understand the "real Indian", writes Vijay Dutt.

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PTI | ByVijay Dutt, London
London has become so India-centric that I some time forget that home is thousands of miles away. In the last few days, an Indian-origin owner of a travel agency was adjudged the richest woman in London, another rich list is on the roll with a dinner at Hilton in which it is claimed that Asians are worth billions of pounds, and then there was a grand party by Lord Swraj Paul, for which a galaxy of the most powerful, eminent and affluent had come from all over the country. The ambience was like back home, everyone seeming to know each other, the colour of the skin hardly mattered.

The impending visit of Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat, has generated heat that reminded one of the political wrangling on home turf. It attracted attention of BBC and quite a few prominent groups. One could call it in-sourcing of Indian politics.

Then what is India and who is the real Indian, subject of Pavan K. Varma's best-selling book, was analysed by a panel headed by Lord Bikhu Parekh, in front of almost 100-strong audience in one of the Committee Rooms of the House of Commons. Could one imagine it 50 years ago? The audience participation made me realise how much the "outside" world is now interested in the " inside" of India. But what was most striking was the "attachment" to the roots expressed unequivocally even by those who have had not much to do with India and who have been there just a couple of times.
Alibhai-Brown, the noted writer, said that although her family had left India a long, long time ago, she was absolutely delighted to be there last year. She could not get a similar feeling of visiting her roots when she went to Pakistan. Lord Meghnad Desai said, " We should not be hypocrite by proclaiming high ideals from rooftop but should be practical in acknowledging the success."

While coming out after the two-hour discussion and question answers, I tried to analyse why was it that in London, we needed to discuss threadbare our country. Possibly, India is now very much part of this country, and the latter needs to know all about it to be able to get the maximum from the closeness that has developed. Also Indians are now so well entrenched in all walks of life and so prominent in all social, political and economic spheres that one has to understand the "real Indian". Heady stuff, this.

I felt even happier, while listening to various people asking questions, that the Indianness would always be part of the character and psyche of the Diaspora. The young, who fill the nightclubs, swirl on dance floors with white partners or wear mini-skirts and listen to Robbie Williams and Kylie Minogue, also celebrate Diwali or visit temples with equal enthusiasm. India, it means, has bounced out of its geographical contours and spread all over. More importantly, the roots seem to be beckoning more and more, with India blending the modern with its heritage. Why else CDs of Indian classical music sell as much as the Cds of  jazzy Bollywood song. Or why the kurta and pyjama sets sell well and many young can be seen flaunting them while mixing with the Saville Row attired friends.       

Flipside of the story

Many of us do not believe in do in Rome as Romans do adage. Poll frauds have been largely imported from the sub-continent, so also the more deplorable sense of outrage when some one marries against the wishes of one's family. Strange this is. In recent weeks most caught in postal ballot fraud are from Pakistan albeit with the connivance of the white colleagues. Action has been taken in the past against false entries in voters list. 

Most fake designer labels come from the sub-continent, while one can buy openly pirated DVDs of Bollywood movies, all of which reportedly also come from there. When would this kind of trading stop?

But worse is the report about the rise in the so-called honour killings. Police believe 18 women, mostly from Asian families, have been murdered by their own for bringing "shame" on them. In the past two years, according to the Scotland Yard, almost 500 women have been forced into arranged marriages, which are seen as the prime cause of honour-based crimes. In London itself there have been 492 forced marriages. Suicide rates among Asian women are three times the national average.

What is strange is that even educated and westernised parents force their sons and daughters to marry within their castes. This situation is worse than in India. As one sociologist said " we do not want to go back to the roots of the 30s."

On the issue of roots

If money is the root of all evil why are people so anxious to cultivate it?

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