I have almost finished my fifth decade of life in the UK.
As a child, my innocence wholeheartedly accepted the Christian hymn-singing and worship each school morning. I embraced the Christian ethos and English life manners. Many of the Christian and Anglo-Saxon quirks I found uncomfortable or considered downright idiotic, but the culture I come from ingrains equal respect to others, their lifestyle and their beliefs.
With crass ignorance, we were forcefully told that we had Christian names, when they meant our first name. We were equally forcefully told that Singh and Kaur were unacceptable as last names, and all kind of threats would rain down on you along with the insistence that you give them the ‘family’ name used before baptism, as that name would be used as your last name.
It took a lot of explaining and needless effort to maintain the irreversibility of a name change, let alone reverting to ones old family name. The point that bapitsed Sikhs would choose death rather than revert to a family name finally seemed to convince the ‘know it all master race’ that perhaps they were not well informed about other cultures. However their last word on the matter would always be. ‘Well, you are in England now. Here we do things differently and if you want to get on you had better fit in’. ‘Fit in’ was a euphemism for ‘mimic our lifestyle’. You could forget about equality right away.
Moving on. I found it shocking that children who had not yet discovered masturbation could answer back a teacher. Furthermore, the outright rudeness, abuse and disrespect by these children who could not yet wipe their own snot, but who could and would publicly scream, shout, and use offensive adult words at their own parents and other elders, disgusted me.
One of the rituals I found offensive was the dishonouring and waste of food at school dinnertime, as if human hunger had been wiped out globally. There was another dinnertime ritual I found baffling – it occurred during my first English summer. Winter and spring had passed. Summer’s arrival saw oranges and apples (bananas were rare in those days). The students relished eating fresh fruit. The shock was that they sprinkled lashings of white sugar on their dissected oranges and apples before eating! What?
On the other two continents I had lived prior to arriving in Europe and the UK, you either ate the fruit straight-up or sprinkled it with salt and/or black pepper, chilli masala. But white sugar?! Yuk. When the other kids saw me use salt and black pepper they collectively laughed, until copying my action they found the fruit tasted not only better but had a kick which enjoined the taste buds to savour the chemical reaction of tangy citrus juice salt/pepper.
But a few days later and despite their obvious enjoyment days earlier, the schoolkids reverted to using white sugar. When I asked the boy nearest me at the school dinner table, he retorted that ‘we English do not eat foreign muck.’ It was an incident that, though I rarely realised it at the time, came to encapsulate and define the English attitude in virtually every area of my adult life.
The English will willfully dig their heels in as if their ego and esteem were at stake if they employed an idea from Johnny Foreigner. Though even being a foreigner was not simple, was in fact hierarchical. The Scots, Welsh, and Irish were foreigners, but to different degrees. Houses with rooms to let invariably had a sign hanging outside that read ‘No dogs. No Blacks. No Jews. No Wogs. No Irish.’ The Europeans were foreigners in different degrees too (Northern better than Southern and both better than Eastern – unless you were defecting from the Soviet bloc), though in the larger hierarchy they were below the Home Counties’ foreigners and above the non-European ones.
And in all of this the English defended their lifestyle and dietary habits as if their participation and enjoyment of something more enjoyable, maybe even better, than whatever they were used to would somehow dilute the ‘master race’. The cherished ‘master race’ idiotology was nailed to the mast of their mentality. This master race mentality translated in how you, as a foreigner, were not meant to sit on a bus if the available spaces were all next to English passengers; the bus conductor would shout at you to stand instead. Though truth be told, we weren’t all that keen on sitting next to a native anyway – they stank.
We learned that the English didn’t bathe for a week at a time, didn’t change their underclothes or socks either; and then there was the stinking fumes of their breath, on which commingled alcohol, cigarettes and meat. Most repulsive was learning that they smudged their faeces around their bottom using toilet paper when they went to the toilet – instead of washing their bottom – and just as often used the hand they ate with to accomplish this task. And all of this unbreathable stench was then compound by using cheap, nasty-smelling perfume, though the men invariably didn’t go in for this – master race men smelled like men. You have no idea how nice that was!
And with the arrival of the first ray of sunshine, regardless of the chill-wind factor, the British would remove their shirts and find every excuse to become brown. Then gleefully they would compare their browned skin to ours to see if they had reached parity, their mouths stretched in smiles as wide as the Mississippi river, while never failing to mention that our rich skin – the one they were trying to emulate, the one that acted as natural barrier to the sun’s harmful rays – was dog dirt, and that this meant we were the mess under their shoe. Hence, ‘wog’ as a play on the word ‘bog’. The British government in their radical reappraisal of race relation laws eventually outlawed the term ‘wog’.
While it lasted – well beyond its official lifetime – this derogatory name really infuriated me. As a child, I wished to be a grownup so I could smack the other grownups in the face for calling me such names. An elderly friend of my father explained a very sensible mindset to cope with the derision. He was an authority on the body chakras and mindscapes corresponding to these. He gave a simple explanation: We, he said, from the mature civilisation operate from the heart chakra. Thus, we are hospitable, warm, friendly and thoughtful. Our mature kindness means we turn a blind eye to aggression and aggressive behaviour.
By contrast, hateful people, he went on to explain, suffer with low self esteem, which manifests as a need to be offensive, rude and aggressive, and this mentality operates from the chakra controlling bowel and urine movements. Thus, the English are homing in on their own bowels when they look at us with disdain. If, he added, ones entire thought process is based in the bowel then one is in fact encouraging diseases from that part of the body into the entire body.
This elderly man’s final advice to me was that my best offence was to encourage the master race hate me, because the fact of my skin colour being what it is represents an advanced state of reprisal in itself; and that their race hatred would, over time, build up into a potent disease. So let them hate you. To this day, when I notice race hate attitude and behaviour, however subtle, I do whatever I can to increase this hatred for me as my way of settling a score. It’s quite an English behaviour to manifest, which I learned from the English.
My intermittent ESP informed me that when the master race began enquiring about our caste, certain trouble loomed ahead. With the advent of a European foothold on India’s shores caste in India had become transmogrified as something rigid, degrading and divisive. Wanting and having an attention span for only soundbites, the master race used these soundbites about caste to believe that they had swum the depths of deep knowledge.
The eventual fall of the Roman Empire was predicated on their rulers demanding strict caste division of labour, and the suppression of natural flair and ability to move along the occupational bandwidth. In India, caste was likewise an occupational definition, but ability and talent were respected over things like inheritance, so boundaries were porous. The East India Company, a ragtag of ignorants masquerading haughtily as superiors, demanded rigid occupational boundaries in order to render governance more easy and manageable. Hence, the caste system of today in India.
So, when in my second school term some more Panjabi students joined and our teachers asked about our castes, I intuitively realised trouble was brewing. The teachers grouped us off and tasked a lad from the ‘lower caste’ to be our spokesperson in the event that we faced harassment or violence from other students. Later, when I had a part-time job a colleague from the ‘highest’ caste was named to lead us. It was only then that the penny finally dropped. The chosen one in each case was being singled out from the collective, and acquired a status of superiority vis-à-vis the collective he ostensibly led, which gave him more protection from the management and epitomised the divide-and-rule concept so foundational to European colonial rule. I realised much later how shrewd this was; but at the time – certainly at school, I viewed it as a revelation.
So, what has any of this got to do with being an Indian living in the UK?
Permit me another digression at this moment, which will help explain.
Hinduism is neither a religion nor a race. And Hindi, like English, is a mongrel language. Hindi was created by taking words and syntax from several north Indian languages including Panjabi (which is a sister language to Sanskrit) and was fashioned to bridge communication between the people and legal/business administration, and to create an in-house language for those engaged in law and business. Those officially and incorrectly classified as Hindus by the British are those who have come to rule India.
Their core mentality as a group is identical to that of all Indians – they are a docile and peaceful people; and their default setting is absolute adherence to ‘karma’ (a wholly misunderstood term that I have touched upon in another blog post); they will attempt something once to the best of their ability, and if they fail, they will willingly accept this as ‘god’s will’ and thus as karmic. This once outward-bound adventurous group became an inward-looking group, like the Scandinavians – denouncing conquest, violence, and physical domination, and relying instead on subjective advanced argument and discourse to maintain their authority. They were known by the world of that time as the ‘Noble People’ – in Sanskrit ‘Arya’.
With the invasion of the Moslems, Aryadesh’s people were found to be wanting in war skills, and she was thus easily overcome and ruled. Sindus, later abbreviated to Indus, was the first part of Aryadesh to be conquered. And ‘Hindu’ is a derogatory appellation taken from Sindus/Indus to signify the all-too-easily-conquerable people of Aryadesh, the weak defenceless men unable to prevent the rape and slavery of their women. The Arya people of the time were, like the Buddhists of Tibet, given to a dispassionate mindset and bent on living as pacifists that gave no quarter to mental anger let alone physical violence.
One thousand years of demoralising slavery later, the Hindu has gained power in India. And the flexing of that power now includes the Sikhs as a target for proving Hindu masculinity – the same Sikhs who secured freedom from conversion of ‘Hindus’ to Islam. Act upon act of negatively-induced and –directed violence has been perpetrated by Hindu against Sikh. Sikhs have been languishing in jail for more than twenty-five years for crimes they did not commit – their innocence proven – because of their attachment to being Sikh. I have very little doubt that were they to embrace Hinduism, these jailed Sikhs would be set free before the conversion ceremony was even completed.
In the meantime, Sikhs living in the west are fighting to maintain their own racial, linguistic and cultural heritage. Many formed fanatical groups seeking independence from India. The 1984 debacle was occasioned by one such incident. These radical fanatical fantasists fail to realise the world has moved on – demands mean nothing, unless you are willing to invest two to three centuries’ worth of training in modern warfare and conquer your opponent in the way of such violence – and that simply being a baptised Sikh is not a sufficient enough rationale to demand and have your will be done. They forget that such voice and traction as Sikhs historically enjoyed was located in, and dependent on, their superior warrior skills. And that their ancestral homeland will only be delivered if the world invests in Panjab the same way as it has in Israel – as a proxy war site, armed to the teeth, that acts as a frontier against Islamic nations. The fact is that the Sikhs willingly gave up their kingdom, and now they cannot expect realpolitik to hand it back to them on some long-ago promise.
Meanwhile, the Sikhs of the UK and their disenfranchised, independence-seeking movement, are having the flames of their discontent fanned by the British government, who are openly courting them and giving them carte blanche support to set up broadcast networks. Thus, the old Khalistanis use their newfound global voice to attack and embarrass India into cooperation with Sikh demands. The Kesri Lehar movement is one such demand: it seeks removal of the death penalty from the Indian statute books; but Kesri Lehar plays a double role, in that it represents a skillfully managed British Government project to reinforce Sikhs as a thorn in the eye and mind of the Indian Government.
I stand on the sidelines watching the debacle and am incensed by the government and country I have chosen to call my home using such divisive, underhand means to destabilise India. I am equally disgusted by the Hindu government’s need to pursue self-empowerment and self-esteem by imprisoning innocent non-Hindus, especially Sikhs. This cannot be called an Indian government anymore. It must be called a Hindu government.
The actions of two selfish governments, the British and the Indian, have left me utterly ashamed. Their actions have turned me into an orphan.
I am an orphan of shame.