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Saturday, December 2, 2023

My Asian Family – The Musical: Hindus Successfully Amalgamating in Britain

I saw My Asian Family – The Musical on BBC Four and I could strongly resonate with the contents of the programme.

For me, this is not just a televised piece on an Indian family, but a positive representation of Indians and most importantly how Hindus have successfully integrated into British life.

This is not really a review, but my interpretation of how I can closely relate to this musical documentary.

Facing racism in the United Kingdom

The show focuses on the Thakrar family, who were kicked out of Uganda by Idi Amin in 1972.

They were given 90 days to leave Uganda, resulting in some moving to Leicester, England – which is now a predominantly Asian city.

At that point, they were entitled to just £2.50, but since then, they have managed to build a successful life here in the United Kingdom.

But of course, making a living in the UK as Indians was not easy due to being subjected to racism.

In fact, there were public declarations about ‘coloured’ people not being welcomed to live in Leicester and we get to see old news snippets of white people objecting to Indians staying in the City.

A family member even recollects moments of being chased by skinheads.

Having heard a lot of stories and seen contents regarding the backlash Indians have faced whilst trying to make a living in England.

Every time I hear examples of a white person saying “go back to your country” or “why you are in our country?” it makes my blood boil.

Especially because Indians were a subject of slavery in their own nation for over 80 years by the British Raj.

I’m grateful that I have never been a subject to racism. However, this is a point which I strongly understand because history is a witness that Indians have continuously suffered at the hands of foreigners.

Humanity is the true religion

But seeing the Thakrar family living happily together in Great Britain today is a testament to how Hindus and Indians can make a success of their surroundings – regardless of any difficulties.

As such, being a ‘Hindu’ is not just about being religious per se, i.e. Praying in a strict manner or visiting the temple frequently.

It is about being a good human overall and joining in celebrations from various religions.

An example which proves this is when we learn about one of Thakrar sisters – Panna, who married a Muslim Gujarati.

As one expected, it was very difficult for the family to get their head around this.

However, ultimately, the family decided that they had to welcome Hafeez into the family for the sake of Panna’s happiness.

Again, this is an example of how humanity is the true religion.

It is an example of how Hindus are accepting of any situations and deal with it positively, no matter how tough or impossible it seems.

Plus, interracial marriages can often entail dark consequences, regarding which I’ve read many stories.

But Panna and Hafeez’s example proves that there are no religious barriers when it comes to love.

Furthermore, both individuals have not changed themselves for their respective religion(s).

They have accepted each other for their individualities, which is quite refreshing to see. This is something that religion itself teaches to love one and all equally.

As a Hindu myself, this is something I can resonate with. Nowadays, more than interracial matrimonies, it is same-sex marriages that are considered to be taboo.

But I feel that religion is not just limited to people we fall in love with. It exceeds that. Because ultimately, it is about who we are within, spiritually.

Singing is a part of our tradition

Initially, when I heard that the programme is a musical documentary I was quite surprised.

This is something which we have never really seen on Television. But more than that, singing is an integral part of our culture.

Even during Navratri, we celebrate the festival through Garba and Dandiya Raas, traditional dance forms which originated from Gujarat.

I often get asked why do many Hindi films have songs and dances and my answer is that music is deeply rooted in our culture and tradition.

Whether it is birth or death, we have songs throughout our life.

Consequently, the singing and dancing have an integral influence on my life, especially when it comes to Bollywood.

Therefore, through this way at least, Bollywood reflects our culture through the elaborate singing and dancing.

The singing in My Asian Family is reflective of the family members and their perspective on life.

We must continue the cultural legacy

There are also songs which discuss continuing traditions, as can be heard in the lyrics: “Our traditions are alive and our way of life… These values are mine to honour and preserve.”

It is important to remember that whilst many of us are born in Britain, it is important to remember who we are and where we have rooted from.

Often, I have these discussions with my cousins and we all come to the conclusion that whilst our parents’ generation is different, our traditions never change.

For me, tradition is our heritage which has run for over centuries. If we don’t continue it, then who will?

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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