Did anyone read Meera Syal’s great piece in the Guardian yesterday? If you missed it, you can catch up here
In an immigration special she explores the immigrant experience of straddling cultural divisions and how, for the most part that has produced a generation of well adjusted, creative members of British society. And although she doesn’t mention it, can we just take a moment to appreciate her own contributions to the arts- theatre, literature, television and even some dalliances into music! Is there anything this woman hasn’t done? I’ve always thought of her as an inspirational figure, our very own British Asian version of Toni Morrison if you will! Anyway sycophantic digressions aside, I think her appeal lies in her ability to connect with the audience. I definitely identify with the communal Asian approach to studying English and vividly remember an ‘uncle’ who was a doctor telling me “you already speak English, what left to learn? Do medicine.” Before shoving his slovenly young son off the sofa “he’s going to be a doctor, aren’t you?” he prompted. The boy, who was about eight nodded half- heartedly and scratched his arse. When I replied that I wasn’t interested in studying medicine the father stared at me blankly for a few moments before turning to my dad, “well I hear your older daughter is a lawyer, you must be so proud.”
We laughed about it all the way home. Truth be told, I was fortunate to grow up with parents who were always proud. When they arrived in England in the sixties (incidentally, my father was a skilled scientist whose expertise and contribution were needed in Britain) my parents did their utmost to ‘integrate’, and as my dad’s colleague once kindly pointed out, ‘you’re alright, it’s just the rest of them’. Perhaps as a reaction to the racism they suffered (both verbal and physical), they taught us little about our own culture or religion, although later redressed the balance. Like Syal points out in her article they culled all the bad bits for us, misogyny, vaguely racist ideals, and the like. We celebrated Christmas, ate fish and chips on a friday and my favourite song at school was ‘Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner’. And I truly felt like one, because the best thing about being a Londoner, as an American friend once pointed out, is that no one really cares who you are, or what you look like. I was born here, have lived here all my life, but lately something’s changed. There’s a shift and I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it feels like unrequited love. Perhaps it’s because of the Tories pricing many minorities out of London, or the fact that my neighbours proudly display UKIP posters in their windows. Maybe it’s the demonisation of immigrants or the sad fact that even in 2015 Meera Syal (as much as I enjoy her insights) has to write articles to gently remind the wider populace that for the most part ‘we’re alright’.
(These are not my images, if they belong to you, let us know so that we can credit you.)
What do you guys think? Did you enjoy the article? What are your experiences of migration?