We are enriched

I am always disappointed to encounter young people rejecting the best parts of Bengali or Punjabi culture in favour of the worst parts of English culture. I understand and accept that there are aspects of all cultures that are stifling, best set aside. But why throw away the whole for the sake of just a part?

Punjabi culture is incredibly rich — indeed so rich that it has enriched British cultural life. Anyone who has had the pleasure to spend any time with the older generation of Bengali and Punjabi folk will have been touched by their sweet hospitality, generosity and humility.

In the early days of my journey along this path, particularly while residing in Central London, I interfaced extensively with the Bengali community. When I lived in King’s Cross, I wandered along Cromer Street daily and thus got to know the faces of the old folk well. I cannot think of a single person I did not like. Arrogance is not a word you would ever associate with the old generation.

I now live in a locality where the majority originate from historic Punjab — at least that’s my understanding. I know of English people on a council estate across town who have grown so used to the generosity of their Punjabi neighbours that they have nearly come to expect the regular meals they provide as a social service.

The older generation tend to be completely lovely. I regularly encounter old men locally who never fail to stop to have a conversation with me — with their broken English and my very light smattering of Punjabi, we manage just enough kind words to covey mutual affections.

From the elegance of their dress to the diversity of their cuisine, there is so much for the younger generations to hold onto with pride. I am all for cultural exchange, embracing the very best that all communities have to offer, while rejecting whatever is unpalatable or undesirable. So, fine, embrace the English love of queuing. Embrace our culture of striking up conversation by talking about the weather. Adopt whatever is good and virtuous.

But don’t reject all that you have, for the sake of placating bigots and assimilationists. Multiculturalism is not a dirty word, despite the propagandising of contemporary isolationists. To be multicultural in our sense of self is to be an enlightened human being. Hold onto the very best of your inheritance. Not only will it enrich your lives, but it will enrich our lives too. Hunger doesn’t care about taste. Love doesn’t care about caste.

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