Indian Culture in England

I am happy and excited to host today my fellow friend, Author Malika GandhMalika Gandhi’s Bio and Linksi, who will share with us her culture and her love to her both Countries: the UK, and India. Thanks Malika for writing this, wishing you all a happy day, enjoy! 

When I think of Indian culture in England, I think of women wrapped in thick coats and scarves, buying fruit and vegetables from Indian shops.  I see men, working in factories and shops for little money to keep their family comfortable in England’s wintry months and scorching summers.

I am talking about the 1970’s when Indians immigrated to England from India and Africa. So used to the hot climate, they were shocked with the harsh weather conditions. But they embraced a life here and took the good with the bad. My mother used to say “The winters are nothing now compared to when we arrived. We had snow so thick, it came up to our knees!’

My Ba – paternal grandmother, would only wear saris and as soon as she came to this cold country, she put on a cardigan. She was never without one the whole time she was here; I don’t ever remember her taking it off!

Indian Culture brought Indian spices and foods as well as local businesses to England, the famous one being the local corner shop – a convenience store for everyone. Soon, many Indian businesses came about – jewellery shops, shops that sold bulk items such as chapatti flour, rice grains, spices, coconuts, coriander leaves, exotic fruits from India, masala powder and pastes and more.

Restaurants were opened with skilled Indian cooks – this was very popular, especially to the British white population who found the Indian culinary a delight!

As years passed, temples, gurdwaras and mosques were built, then Indian areas came about and were most popular, to name a few – Green Street in East London, Ealing Road in West London, Green Lane Road and Belgrave Road in Leicester and Stratford Road in Birmingham. These areas became the place where Indian’s liked to shop for Indian items. Anything could be found, from Indian floor sweepers to steel pots and pans.

In the early days to today, Indian women would shop and shop for Indian clothes – saris, salwaar kameez, chanya-cholis and accessories such as bangles, necklace and earring sets, colourful shiny bags and shoes which matched.

Indians visiting relatives in India – I must talk about this because every Indian is guilty of this! When a family went back to India for the first time since moving to England, they were (and still are) required to bring presents from the foreign country – the UK. Items such as Badam, Kaju, Kesar and other Indian food items were expected to be packed with the other hundred or so items in the already over-flowing ten suitcases.

“You can get all this in India – it’s where it came from!” I would say.

“But it is cheaper in the UK, beta,” they would tell me. My mum would reprimand me to be quiet and respectful to the elders. I would shake my head in disbelief.

On the odd occasion that we did not manage to be their courier, or we pretended to have forgotten, the disappointment is clear on their faces.

Summer arrives and out goes the thick coats, gloves and scarves. The Indian wedding season has arrived! An Indian wedding is not a wedding if it is not week long, loud and with 600-800 guests. This was true fifteen-twenty years ago but has since changed to three hundred. Still, a hefty number compared to the modest, one hundred to two hundred for English weddings. During this week long wedding, pre-wedding parties and festivals, visits to the temple and inviting the Gods into the house, wedding guests drink, eat and are merry. It’s a time for celebration!

So you see, Indian culture is vast and very much varied. I have only touched on a few things but the list is endless. Even though, as an Indian myself, I find all these customs tiresome at times, I would never let go of such a brilliant, colourful heritage. This is what makes us Indian – our Indian culture.


About Revital Shiri-Horowitz

Author DAUGHTERS OF IRAQ, and HOPE TO SEE YOU SOON (English and Hebrew versions) novels @ immigrant experience to Israel. Experienced speaker to Jewish communities, bk audiences. Luvs her 4 sons/hubby/Havana Silk dogs
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