Being British born with Pakistani heritage, I believe I have the best of both worlds, even if sometimes this involves the occasional identity crisis due to the Pakistani diaspora. As a young girl growing up until now, I have occasionally (with intention) tried harder to fit in with western ideals of what I should be or how I should carry myself as a British Pakistani, but as I became older, I read, researched and spoke to my elders to really understand our customs and traditions, and this made me fall in love with my motherland and heritage.
I can proudly say that as a British born Pakistani, I am happy to discuss, educate, implement and continue my traditions and culture to pass this on to future generations.
I am Asian Bangladeshi, as both of my parents are originally from Bangladesh, and I was born and raised in the UK. My dad came to the UK when he was a teenager and then went back to Bangladesh in the nineties, where he married my mum, who travelled back to the UK with him in 1993.
My family is from the Sylhet Division of Bangladesh, so I speak the Sylheti language with my parents and family. Whilst I can speak and understand the language, I’m not as familiar with the written language and can only just (very badly) write my name! I’ve visited Bangladesh three times in my lifetime - the last time I visited it was 16 years ago. I wasn’t a huge fan of the heat in Bangladesh when I visited, but the fresh food, vibrant clothing and different landscapes were a refreshing change. I felt more connected being surrounded by my extended family, who I had not seen - thanks to video calling and the internet, I have been able to stay in touch.
I am proud of my culture and heritage because it brings me closer to my parents and grandparents. I’m so grateful for the sacrifices they’ve taken to provide my siblings and me with a secure life here in the UK.
Those of South Asian heritage have taken different routes in coming to the UK; some directly from the pre-and post-independence era, some through East Africa and some more recently to study, earn a living or promote their innovation and business.
I am a more recent entrant to the UK as my wife, my son and I came to the UK in 2008 after another firm headhunted me to run their India practice from here. Thirteen years later, I can say that the UK is well and truly my adopted home, while I see India as my motherland, where my parents and relatives live. Given my work is India-related, I used to travel to India regularly pre-COVID and hope we all can start travelling with fewer restrictions again soon as we continue battling through the pandemic.
The UK has been very welcoming for us as a family and has helped us integrate into society in the best possible way. We haven’t missed any of our regular activities here as Britain caters well for Indian culture; we have continued to visit temples, celebrate Diwali, watch Bollywood movies at the cinema and enjoy delectable Indian cuisine at restaurants, both in the heart of Mayfair as well as the streets of Southall and Wembley. No wonder the Indian diaspora is called the living bridge between the two countries!
I'm Scottish Pakistani and was born and raised in Scotland. My grandfather was born in Chakwal and came to the UK following Partition in 1947, arriving on New Year's Eve in 1950. Upon arrival, he made his way to Glasgow and has lived there ever since (now in his 94th year!). This is where he met my gran, who is from the Scottish Highlands, so I am the third generation of Scottish Pakistani in my family, and I’m proud to share in my grandfather’s culture and story.
My grandparents came to the UK during the Partition, where India was divided into two countries, India and Pakistan, in 1947 during independence from the British. It has a conflicted history and complex entanglement of decolonisation, self-determination and communalism, with a legacy to match. Despite the trauma they encountered when travelling to the UK, my grandparents successfully built and established a business and family life here from essentially nothing. I am so proud of their achievement in the face of such hardship.
I was born and raised in Sri Lanka before moving to Reading at 11 with my family. My parents had good reasons for moving, but I didn’t understand at the time and was devastated to leave the rest of my family behind. In Sri Lankan culture, extended family are not just people you visit once a year. They are part of your daily life, and to leave that behind was tough to come to terms with. A few years on and I have settled in, but nothing tops my visits to Sri Lanka as it still feels like home to me.
For most people, Sri Lanka is an idyllic tropical paradise with amazing sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, tea estates, tasty spicy food and elephant safaris. For me, it’s this and so much more; it was where I grew up and developed an appreciation for different religions, cultures and languages. Under the surface, Sri Lanka has a complex society informed by thousands of years of rich Sinhalese Buddhist and Tamil Hindu culture, Arab Islamic culture and Christian influence after 400 years of European colonialism. I believe Sri Lanka’s greatest colonial import is cricket – I love the sport, but the Sri Lankan team seems to have lost its way. The hopeless romantic in me yearns for a revival soon!
South Asian Heritage Month is a time to reflect on the extraordinary contribution of South Asia, not just to Britain but to the world. South Asia represents approximately two billion people or 25% of the planet’s population. There are over 650 individual languages spoken, making it one of the most linguistically diverse regions of the planet.
Understanding the region’s cultures and its sheer diversity can help us make a difference in the part it plays in global geopolitics. This is the same part of the world where microfinance was pioneered as a lending tool, and the concept of zero as a written digit in the decimal place notation was developed! I hope that our internal events for South Asian Heritage Month will give everyone more insight and provide some food for thought.