South Asian Heritage Month is now in its third year of celebration. As part of our diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiative – IN Network, Hanover’s ethnicity workstream is sharing interesting stories from our South Asian colleagues on their experiences growing up between two cultures as well as what the event means to each of them. By raising our voices and learning from people’s personal accounts, we hope to make a contribution to raising awareness and tackling diversity challenges facing our industry and UK businesses as a whole.
I’m pleased to see both society and businesses now appreciating the positive contribution diversity has made in the UK and across the world.
South Asian Heritage Month seeks to commemorate and celebrate South Asian culture, history and communities. Growing up, I felt odd practicing my culture, and felt as if I didn’t fit in. Though I confess my Indian Barbie (complete with blue sari) was my favourite toy!
I’m pleased to see both society and businesses now appreciating the positive contribution diversity has made in the UK and across the world. From cuisine, science and innovation, to sport, broadcasting/film, and more, South Asians have been pushing boundaries in the UK for decades, and I’m glad we now get to celebrate that.
As a Sikh growing up in a Punjabi household in South East London, I was always encouraged to embrace my culture – especially since there were so few of us around. Social settings were difficult at first, and like many Sikh boys it was hard to fit in with the majority when the fundamental point of my look was to be unique. Despite this, it enabled me to embrace the differences in others as I embraced myself – a testament as to why diversity should be celebrated. My advice for anyone, regardless of South Asian Heritage Month, is to ask as many questions as you can to learn about someone like me – we don’t bite!
Growing up and experiencing racism as an Asian woman made me shy away from my culture a lot. I always embraced more of a British culture and hid whatever Pakistani side of me I had in order to “fit in”. It took me a long time to learn to look at my culture and see it for its beauty and uniqueness. It took me a long time to say that I’m proud of my food, my clothes, my lifestyle and my heritage, and I only hope that this month will help others who were in my situation be proud of their roots.
Growing up, I was very aware of a discord between recognition and celebration of South Asian cultures. ‘Friday night curries’ were a frequent occurence, and the dancefloor would erupt every time Panjabi MC came on… yet I rarely saw South Asians outside of my own circle, whether in adverts, toys, school textbooks, TV or film (other than the occasional Sikh taxi driver!) Over the years, I’ve come to realise that South Asians are integral to the past, present and future of this country. This is why milestones like SAHM are so important – awareness and representation will help to ensure that more young South Asians grow up feeling comfortable with standing out… for all the right reasons.
For years one question loomed over the South Asian diaspora in the UK “which side do they cheer for?” The question, posed by the former MP Norman Tebbit, may seem simple on the face of it but had a tangible impact on the lives of those who harked from the subcontinent. For many South Asians, the cricket test was the litmus test, raising questions about belonging, integration vs. assimilation, what it really means to be British, and whether the country they call home is the ‘melting pot’ that it’s so often purported to be.
Many of the stories above shared by colleagues reflect this tension but also highlight why celebrations of culture, such as South Asian Heritage Month, are so important. The South Asian diaspora has contributed immeasurably across all facets of British life, from cuisine to cinema, from politics to Panjabi MC (as Kiran can attest to). Our hope is that in the future people can do it in their own way and on their own terms without questions being raised to make them feel conflicted about their culture.
Ultimately, we all want to give the cricket test the finger.