The Beauty of being British Asian

All, life, personal

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As a child, I remember being one of two brown girls in my class. I was born and raised in the leafy suburbs of London by my parents – Indian immigrants from India and Kenya. Like most, they tried to retain the culture of their roots when raising their children. They did such a good job at it in fact, that sometimes I feel more Indian than British. Being brought up immersed in one country’s culture but living in another – life as a British Asian is a beautiful blend of the best (and sometimes worst) of both worlds:

It’s the butter chicken and the fish and chips. It’s not being able to handle spicy food (Nando’s lemon & herb everytime). It’s having so many cousins that I couldn’t count them on two hands – let alone one. It’s telling my spelling teacher in year 4 that I don’t know all the English words yet. It’s speaking Hindi and Punjabi at the same time and not knowing when I switch to the other. It’s family gatherings that are filled with (very) loud laughter, big hugs and endless hallway goodbyes. It’s cardamom-infused Indian tea, crispy samosas and sweet mango chutney. It’s my brown skin and British accent. It’s making finding an eyebrow lady a priority when I move away. It’s being called a ‘coconut’ by other immigrant kids. It’s addressing the cultural conflicts. It’s the three day, colourful, big, Indian weddings and the ivory and blush shades of smaller English weddings. It’s bringing the East into the West. It’s keeping traditions alive and challenging those that are archaic and patriarchal. It’s shouting down the phone to relatives in India and being overly polite to strangers. It’s opening a tub of ice cream in the fridge and being faced with frozen daal. It’s blindly respecting your elders as a child and growing up to realise that respect is a two-way street. It’s being racially profiled at airports, but having a British passport. It’s feeling like a foreigner in India and looking like one in the UK. It’s learning about colonial history at home and not at school. It’s cheering on whatever team is playing against England in the World Cup. It’s navigating between the cultural values of my family’s homeland and our adopted home. It’s the snap of a poppadom and the crunch of a bag of ready salted crisps. It’s being a corner shop kid. It’s listening to both the whimsical waves of Bollywood music and the rough rhymes of UK grime. It’s using my Hindi writing skills as a party trick. It’s having the freedom to choose what I do and who I marry, when my ancestors (and parents) didn’t. It’s planning a fusion wedding and adding a new culture to the colourful palette of my life. It’s celebrating Christmas and Diwali. It’s being rich in history, languages, literature and ways of life. It’s strength and resilience. Its open-mindedness and tolerance. It’s being a global citizen. 

– Nikita

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15 thoughts on “The Beauty of being British Asian

  1. Thanks for your comment! Glad you liked it and can relate – football and classical S.Asian music go hand in hand haha. I learnt Bharatanyam and the carnatic flute and wasn’t even S. Asian!

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  2. Nikita is maturing day by day and reaching new heights in writing skills besides her technical she has .I enjoyed reading the brief note which otherwise contains huge stuff of life , alas it stopped suddenly rather abruptly — wish it could still go on…
    S.P.Singh India

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    1. Thank you for your comment Mammaji. I’m glad that you enjoyed reading it, so much so that you wish it could still go on! I should add that it is still going on – as in I am living my life and will write further parts to the article in due course since being a British Asian is a continuous journey that I have only just begun and which will change in the years to come. So, plenty more to look forward to 🙂

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  3. Just loved every bit of your writing. Please don’t back , just keep rising towards your GOAL.Well, done Nikita.

    Bob Marks

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  4. All that you have written Nitika is true to the core. I’m sure everyone British Asian will be able to relate so well to it. It reflects how naturally you you have embibed the British culture while still being grounded to your roots. All your cousins in india are so so proud of you and Vinita. You have also become a role model for our kids back in India even though they have never met you. Credit ofcourse goes to your proud parents. Keep it up sweetie. Much love

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    1. Thank you for your comment Dolly Didi, it’s so sweet of you and I’m glad that it came across this way when you were reading it. It means so much to me that your kids think of me and Didi that way – I can’t wait to meet them and learn more about my roots in India too. You are a big example for us growing up too. My parents certainly did a wonderful job of bringing the East into the West. Lots of love xxx

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  5. Absolutely well written. A bit concerned about how to raise my own kids in this country as an immigrant, but reassured after reading your blog that its not impossible to have the best of both worlds in them. Most important virtue is being grounded to the core values of being Indian in origin with a humble projection of yourself that you have given in your blog. At the same time, it looks like you’ve imbibed all the practicalities of being a british. A unique combination which indeed looks beautiful and rich in cultural sense.

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    1. Thank you for your comment Pradeep. That is really kind of you to say. I totally understand your concerns and share them in these times too – it is a delicate balance of cultures but keeping both your home country values alive and being open to adopt new ones are key. I’m glad my words have helped to ease your concerns and as a kid of immigrants, I can say that your kids’ lives will be rich in culture and customs being either in this country, or another.

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  6. It an impressive article Nikita, reality
    of british asian kids ! keep up the good work wish
    you best of luck for the future

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