When I first arrived in India back in my Gap Year, several linguistic quirks thoroughly amused me. Indians have a trully wonderful command of the English language, using terminology, phrasology and grammatic patterns that have ceased to be regularly used in Britain. This largely comes down to an English education system passed down from the Victorians, which means the English taught in India is delightfully Victorian. My favourite Indian-ism is “cum.” In India, there is literally “cum” everywhere. It has largely dropped out of common use in England, as its employment generally triggers sniggers as a product of its sexual connotations, but in India it is a handy tool for Indians’ entrepreneurial habits as it allows them to take whatever they do or make and put it in two fields to double their potential customer base! A few examples I’ve seen in my travels: driver-cum-bodyguard; chef-cum-cleaner; barber-cum-counsellor; bed-cum-table; hotel-cum-disco(!); hotel-cum-brothel(!) and butcher-cum-doctor(!).
But another favourite Indian-ism is their almost military attachment to acronyms: VIPs, VVIPs, and so on abound. But my favourite was an acronym reserved for me and my ilk: ABCDs, or Anglo-Born-Confused-Desis. Desi literally means “local” but is used today as a catch-all term for anything Indian or of Indian descent. But the ABCD is an interesting one, for it is exactly the subject of the film: Indians born and raised in England and unsure of their culture, identity and belonging. Indians tended to have a poor opinion of ABCDs. In their eyes: “very few actually care about their indian culture!!! When it comes to british indians here in UK, [sic] all I see is a chicken tikka (jalfrezi) culture and listining [sic] to bhangra music!!” or even “many of us living in India have always questioned why they put themselves on a higher pedestal“. The term presumes British Indians are confused about identity. But are they actually confused, or are they just integrated. Many British Indians I know are content with their identity. But do they, as the second quote suggests, look down on their homeland-tied brethren?
This is a really interesting topic for me: what do Indians think of their diasporic countrymen and descendants? Do British Indians care about India and their heritage or is it irrelevant to them? I suspect that they do and that one reason they don’t explore it is because their parents might see it as an irrelevance: they came here to give their children opportunity and, as India was a much less Westernised country when they emigrated, they didn’t want any cultural habits holding them back. Many Indian parents never thought that heritage would be valuable enough to actively educate their children about. But with India becoming not only cool, but a rising political and economic power, British Indians have a unique opportunity to make the most of their heritage, and maybe even benefit from India’s growing wealth as a product of their unique link.
These are questions I’m really looking forward to exploring. But I’d also like to think that the film will show British Indians how rich and rewarding their heritage is and maybe inspire some of them to explore it further.