Libmonster ID: UK-1209
Author(s) of the publication: I. Y. KOTIN

I. Y. KOTIN

Doctor of Historical Sciences (Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera) of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Saint Petersburg)

THE INDIAN DIASPORA OF GREAT BRITAIN THROUGH THE EYES OF AN ANGLO-PUNJABI POET

indians Keywords:immigrants, Great Britain, ethnic and racial minorities

Millions of South Asians live in the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States and other countries (in the United Kingdom alone, the South Asian diaspora has about 2 million people). Indians, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis abroad are trying to make sense of the experience of immigrants and ethnic and racial minorities.1 The voice of the Indian diaspora is heard in English and Indian languages through the mouths of characters from numerous novels and movies.2 In English, like Salman Rushdie, mixed with individual words in Hindi, Punjabi, and Bengali, the lyrics of the Indian diaspora are created - mostly song-in the bhangra style, known as Indian hip-hop, as well as poetry that combines the themes of India and the experience of the Indian diaspora.

A volume of Daljit Nagr's poems " See. We are arriving in Dover! "("Look. We have coming to Dover", London, Faber & Faber, 2007) I found in a small second-hand bookshop in Chester , a nice town in Northern England, famous for its Victorian homes with elderly conservative residents who vote Tory. There are almost no Indians or Afro-Britons-representatives of large ethno-racial minorities in England.

There probably wouldn't be a place in a second-hand bookstore for a collection of poems by an Indo - English poet if it weren't published by the prestigious London house Faber & Faber, which specializes in high-quality books-classics of English literature, biographies, and literary studies. And now - in a burgundy cover-a small collection, with a title that hints that we are looking at the Odyssey of a man who "arrived" in England from afar. The author is an Anglo-Punjabi poet, winner of several prestigious literary awards, a second-generation immigrant, and an English-born Briton. The language he writes in, he calls Penglish-Punjabi English, although it is still English with Punjabi words interspersed 3.

Nagr's tastes and interests are not confined to the Indian diaspora. But we are primarily interested in this issue. And Dald-jit Nagra begins its development with a story about one of the first Indians who found themselves in England and established a chain of migration from their native village to Angresistan (i.e., to the "land of angres"), as England is called in South Asia. So here's the story of the trailblazer:

PRELUDE

 
 
 It's the first of our places 
 An inexpensive steamer 
 Arrived in Angresistan. 
 A year of working two shifts,

and now the new Anfield 
 Flaunts in his house - 
 Black and silver. 
 It was like a showcase for us, 
 
 We were throwing stories 
 At the house 
 And they went to listen 
 About fast money story. 
 
 And I crossed those waters, 
 Like many Englishmen, 
 Those who have made their name famous 
 Hiking across the seas. 
 
 I got home 
 Our trailblazer - 
 Here it is, covered in graffiti, 
 An old damp barn. 
 
 He tossed the board onto the tub 
 And he called it a bedroom, 
 Having said that many visitors have 
 There is no such housing either. 
 
 I drained the toilet water. 
 He headed for the kitchen, 
 Where did you feed me old 
 Chapatti* from the box. 
 
 I left my wife behind 
 And work at the post office 
 In your favorite village, 
 All this is because, 
 
 What is this ex-drinker like, 
 The son of a street cleaner,
according to his letters, 
 I got rich fast here. 
 
 When I torture him: 
 Where is this freebie? 
 This is a simple job - 
 Should I click on the buttons? 
 It's through yellow teeth 
 
 




* Chapatti (Hindi, Punjabi) - unleavened flatbread made from wheat or millet flour.

page 61

 
 
 Unpleasant laughs, 
 He is gray-haired and his eyes are sunken - 
 Damn walking corpse... 
 
 



It's an ugly picture, isn't it? But the world in which Daljit Nagra lives is far from ideal. He was born into a Punjabi family who had saved hard for a small house in Southall, the most Indian town in London. Isn't his sketch given in the poem "OUR TOWN WITH ALL INDIA IN IT"?

 
 
 Our town in England can accommodate all of India 
 With its gurdwaras, mandirs and mosques, 
 Our avenue turns yellow not from uniforms 
 orangemen, 
 
 But from saffron to Hindu flags. 
 Our April Vaisakhi 

4

Drowns out Easter,
And madness at the full moon - 
 Id attribute 

5

With his dancing until morning 
 And Tandoori cuisine. 
 We have Guy Fawkes bonfires 

6

Merge with the lights of Diwali 

7

 - 
 Homecoming Day 
 Our Odyssey-Rama 
 To his Penelope-like devotee Sita. 
 We have Bollywood hits playing here 
 And the rhythms of bhangra, 
 Transmitted by our Sunrise Radio... 
 
 



This poem gives a very detailed picture of what every visitor will see in Southall. The Southall area is almost one hundred percent Indian, mostly Punjabi. It is not surprising that there are many mosques, Hindu temples-mandirs, and especially - Sikh houses of worship-gurdwaras. Sacred to Hindus and Sikhs, saffron robes, religious flags and draperies can be seen everywhere, compared here with the yellow colors of the uniforms of the "Orangemen" - supporters of the firm power of the Protestant queen. Southall is quite peaceful. Here, even the blood on the butcher shops ' cutting boards has long since been erased. Hindus are vegetarians. The less strict Sikh Vegetarians also share a fondness for the vegetables and fruits plentifully displayed on the Southall stalls. Hindu and Sikh holidays drown out English ones. It seems that what we have seen is a continuous celebration, but this is not so.

Already in the next poem "SAJID NAQVI" D. Nagra recalls the conflict due to the difference of values in the country of origin and the host country. This is a real requiem for a dead friend:

 
 
 We found our friend in Neasden, 
 In his little room, dead, having a heart attack 
 He couldn't stand it, and neither did his family. 
 She called us to the mosque, where we were far away 
 We watched our Saj 
 They pack it in a coffin, erase the soot 
 Fatigue from the face, cover it with glaze, 
 Turning it into an apple or frosting. 
 Poor fellow, he could stubbornly 
 Counting problems from Smith at night, 
 Now angry 
 Someone mumbles innumerable verses from the Koran. 
 His divorced mother stayed in the middle of nowhere, 
 The father from Darby * did everything from the bottom of his heart, 
 To send my son to the last
sad post - 
 To Surrey, in its hinterland, to a Shia churchyard. 
 There were prayers, and later clods of earth 
 They fell into the depths from which we could not 
 Pick up our Saj... 
 
 



Poems of the cycle dedicated to weekdays and holidays of Indian immigrants are original stories from the life of the narrator, ballads in the spirit of songs by Galich or Vysotsky. This is what D. Nagra himself says in an interview with the Guardian newspaper: "I work in a school, I teach English, I live in English, I breathe it all the time, (at the same time) part of me also wants to be an Indian"8.

Nagra puts stories in the mouths of characters of different genders, ages, and professions. Here, for example, is a story told by a Punjabi girl who visited her ancestral homeland. The poem has an epigraph from Christopher Murlough's Tamerlane 9: "I plan to dig a canal ... which would allow you to quickly reach India." It is noteworthy that such a channel for the heroine of Nagra was the Soviet-era Aeroflot ,which delivered Indians cheap and quickly from London to Delhi and back with a stop in Moscow. So here's the story of an Indian bride:

FOR THE WEALTH OF INDIA

 
 
 Aeroflot to the ancestral homeland 
 At the moment you delivered us, 
 Like a tunnel, 
 By shortening the distance, 
 And now we're home. 
 Jallandhar is stormed 
 With its bazaars,
Prices knocked down even more 
 An aunt from Walsal, 
 With boutiques. 
 We're ruining them 
 With Mammy. She raised an eyebrow 
 And someone with a fanta 
 At the nod of the gold-toothed boss 
 Circling around us: 
 "God bless you, Ma'am sahib." 
 But with kicks 
 Stilettos of shoes 
 I shoo him away like a rat...

the locals stare at us, 
 But Mammy dazzles them with a golden glow 
 His Rolex, strewn with snow. 
 With diamonds. I wonder if she's related 
 Still living here, in this filth,
in this stench?! We are in a hurry to pack 
 Our purchases: trunks, bags, suitcases, 
 We give them to the rickshaw driver with the words: "Jaldi", 
 "Jaldi"! Get to Britain quickly! 
 Get out of here! Drop a penny on the way 
 Something legless lying by the side of the road... 
 
 




* Darby is a city in northern England, a center of Indian and Pakistani concentration.

** Surrey is a county in southern England, a prosperous region populated mainly by representatives of the "white middle class".

page 62

One could trace the geography of Indian settlement in England from Daljit Nagr's poems. Walsall is a working-class suburb of Birmingham. Southall - "little India" in the county of Middlesex, in fact-a district of Greater London. Harrow is a prestigious London area where the most affluent Indians try to settle. Nisden-from the previous poem-is also an area of Indian concentration, the location of the famous Sri Lakshmi Narayan Hindu temple.

In these areas, women wear wide shalwar pants and kameez shirts, while Muslim women often wear burqas. Sikh men often wear turbans and do not cut their beards. But this is all typical for the older generation. Young people are torn between family and school, then-university and office, where other life attitudes, clothes, smells, behavior style.

Sometimes young Indians are embarrassed by their parents. The poet expresses the feelings of one of these Punjabi boys, who later experienced a forced duality of behavior, in the poem "In THE CITY OF WHITES". Note that this is a clear contrast to the "white city" - "our town with all of India in it." In the first case, we are talking about a predominantly "white" area of London or another British city. In it, a woman in a shalwar kameez, the mother of the lyrical hero, on whose behalf the story is told, is an unusual phenomenon.

Here is this story, filled with deep feelings of the hero for the discord caused by the "alienness", "otherworldliness" of his world and the world of his mother:

 
 
 With his kameez and wide-legged trousers 
 How different she was from the other mothers! 
 Seeing such a mother, and I was told: "Not ours!"
Looking back at her, hearing a strange smell 
 Curry seeing her greasy hair parted in the middle, 
 Pink sandals. All this is a sentence. 
 I drew the curtains, drenched the hall 
 English lavender spray,
I didn't open the door. 
 If my parents were called, I threw the notes in the bucket. 
 Even when I was tortured , I didn't give out my address. 
 I would feel at home here, 
 But he was shy of his acquaintances, 
 Those who saw her in the market, touched her there 
 With the clumsy body of English ladies. 
 Even in the library where I did my homework, 
 You can't hide from it like it's a nuisance. 
 She came for me, looked in the window, 
 Until he found me, but there was glass between us. 
 And if it was just the two of us, she would laugh 
 Over my clumsy Punjabi: "Not yet 
 just a little bit,
And you will become "white" - a true "mountain"*, 
 Only a bride from India can save you from disgrace. 
 What do I do when I visit her today, 
 Do I feel any other embarrassment?! 
 She wants to hug me - my heart will break! 
 I'd like to throw myself at Mila's feet! 
 
 



Here, both the narrator and his mother are victims. They are victims of the temporary and perhaps dubious success of immigration, victims of the split between the world of ideas of the mother, which she absorbed in India, and the world of images, the system of values of the son, who was born or raised in England.

Children are forced to adapt to living in two worlds, as does, for example, the Sikh girl Rupinder, on whose behalf the following poem by D. Nagra is written:

THE RUPINDER STORY

 
 
 My father and I watched it on video 
 Our classic "Amar, Akbar, Anthony"
About three brothers stolen by gangsters. 
 (There are subtitle tapes, miss.)
And here's Anthony, adopted by Catholics, 
 Begs Madonna to find her parents, 
 And when he began the prayer: "O Virgin Mary, 
 Oh Virgin Mary? Oh...",
I couldn't stand it and also threw myself on the floor:
"Oh Virgin Mary, Oh virgin Mary? Oh...", 
 Making the sign of the cross, as he did, and making obeisances. 
 My father looked at me and tapped his turban, 
 So much so that I thought the turban would come undone, 
 Like when my father rubs his temples, 
 And his face turned purple. He threatened me,
" You think the White God's wife is your mother,

you idiot!" Sometimes he even screams 
 And he's threatening to send me to a Sikh school, 
 A real school, miss. 
 So I did what she does in the temple 
 my cousin Ashok, 
 When everyone, after finishing the prayer, repeats in school:
"O Virgin Mary, O Virgin Mary? O...", 
 It represents instead of one of your own 
 the crucified God, 
 The Golden Temple and our ten bearded gods, and, 
 Like all of us on Sunday, mooing: "Wahe Guru, Wahe Guru!"
.. 
 
 



This situation is tragicomic. Another story told by a young Sikh is comedic. There is almost no action in it. This is a satirical sketch of the lifestyle of a young Sikh who has fallen to the most typical Indian share-the share of the owner or manager of a small shop. The poem is called "THE SIKH SONG". The original is written in a mix of literary English, Irish slang, and Indian English. Most likely, the shop of the mentioned Sikh is located in South Hall, where there are just a lot of Indians and Irish.

 
 
 I sell in one of my father's shops 
 From nine in the morning to nine in the evening, 
 My dad won't let me close the store for lunch, 
 But when there are no users, 
 I close the shop and hurry upstairs, 
 Where is my young bride waiting for me, 
 With whom I share chapatti with chutney**, 
 The one we make love to, 
 Like rowing in Putney. 
 When I go back to the store, buttoning up as I go, 
 The salespeople laugh and point fingers at me: 
 Hey, Singh! Where have you been? 
 Your lemons are sour, 
 
 




* Mountain (Hindi, Punjabi) - "white", European.

** Chutney (Hindi, Punjabi) - sauce, marinade, pickles made from green mango.

page 63

 
 
 The bananas are ripe, 
 And the floor needs a wet brush! 
 In this worst Indian store 
 On the whole Indian street!.. 
 
 



It is noteworthy that the topic of "free love" is one of the most acute precisely in the South Asian communities of Great Britain, where the norm is still marriage by agreement of parents. For South Asian youth, representatives of other ethnic and racial groups are the subject of imitation and envy. For example, in the poem "JASWINDER THINKS IT WOULD BE NICE TO BE BLACK", Nagra's character, the Punjabi girl Jaswinder, feels that her black English teacher, Miss Victoria , is a model of emancipation and success. I remind you that "black" is the official category of ethnoracial nomenclature in England, which is also used in population censuses.

 
 
 My mother fed me to the bride market, 
 I got big, like that chick 
 With necklaces on our calendar. 
 Now my mother makes me 
 Pretend to be shy, and threaten 
 Finger me, 
 When I walk like Miss Dynamite, 
 When I serve tea and my mother's special " Bombay 
 mix" 
 Potential suitors making eyes at me, 
 Devouring me with their eyes. 
 
 Our English teacher is Miss Victoria, 
 With the voice of Maya Angelou and Toni Morisson, 
 Whose songs is she singing with her head up, 
 She asked us to describe our imaginary
homes - 
 There, in India, our mud huts 
 at home, 
 Where only a few women live like 
 whatever they want... 
 
 Sometimes I think how good it is to be "black". 
 Blacks are brave women, they can speak for themselves 
 stand up like white women. 
 Miss Victoria is chatting in English with everyone 
 by your friends, 
 Miss Victoria after work. 
 to myself. 
 Miss Victoria, she doesn't have to protect her honor 
 
Miss Victoria-flag of freedom!.. 
 
 



Despite a certain antagonism between the Afro-British and South Asian populations, as we can see, for an Indian woman, the image of a black free girl can even be attractive. But while the younger generation looks ahead, the older ones look back. Their paradise, their best time, is connected with India, where they dream of returning. The "dream of return" is a well-known psychological phenomenon of the older generation in the Diaspora. One of D. Nagr's poems is called "MY FATHER'S DREAM OF RETURNING":

 
 
 Buzzing on your phone, 
 Like a bird, my father sails on his own 
 by car-plane, 
 It circles and descends lower, planning between 
 mountains surrounded by clouds, 
 It descends even lower above the elephant processions 
 and goats, 
 Spots crawling down the slopes, 
 Over mangy trees and lowing cows, 
 Over the peasants, of whom only one 
 They look up at him, 
 Others wave affably 
 Hands among sunflowers. 
 My father steps down and plants his own 
 Air-conditioned car by the ditch, 
 Where it waits for its audience... 
 Then my father introduces his old 
 a village with houses, 
 Padlocked, waiting 
 their owners 
 From earnings across the seas. 
 Local old-timers come to take a look at it 
 and bow down to him, 
 Struck by the golden glow radiating from it. 
 He opens the trunk of his bat 
 "Ambassador " 
 And takes out boxes of chocolates, bags 
 with sorbet, 
 Distributes packages of colored powder and paints 
 for Holi. 
 My father wants to throw fireworks for everyone 
 and treat everyone... 
 
 



The new homeland, in this case England, has not become a new paradise for the Indians. The attitude to it, as well as to the country of origin, is not easy. Many shades of this love-hate, attraction-rejection are reflected in the poetry of Daljit Nagra.

The verses are abridged.

Translated by I. Y. KOTIN


1 Podr. see: Kotin I. Yu. Banyan shoots: Migration of the population from India and the formation of "nodes" of the South Asian diaspora. SPb., Peterburgskoe Vostokovedenie, 2003; Kotin I. Yu. "Turban and Union Jack". South Asians in the UK. Saint Petersburg, Nauka Publ., 2009.

2 See: Kozlov V. I. Etnorasovye izmeneniya v sostave naseleniya Great Britain [Ethno - racial changes in the composition of the population of Great Britain]. Sovetskaya etnografiya, 1980, No. 4, pp. 40-56; Kozlov V. I. Immigrants and Ethno-racial Problems in Great Britain. M " 1987.

Cooke R. 3 Hilda Ogden is my Muse. Daljit Nagra's vivid tales of immigrant life and love are electrifying the world of poetry // The Observer, 4.02.2007.

4 Vaisakhi is a North Indian New Year's Day. In Punjab, it is also celebrated as the birthday of the Sikh community - the Khalsa.

5 Eid is a short name for two major Muslim holidays: Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.

6 Guy Fawkes (1570-1606) - a member of the Catholic conspiracy against the Protestant King James I (1566-1625), the so-called "gunpowder plot" (1605). The plot was discovered, and every year on November 5, the British burn an effigy of Guy Fawkes in memory of him. This spectacle is reminiscent of the Russian festival of burning Maslenitsa, the Indian festival of burning Ravana and other enemies of the hero-Rama (Dashera festival), fireworks during the Indian "festival of lights" Diwali.

7 Diwali - "Festival of Lights" in honor of the goddess Lakshmi, celebrated in early November, which is characterized by evening fireworks and night lighting of lamps in the homes and courtyards of residents. It is believed that at this time Rama returned victorious from a campaign against the demon Ravana.

Barkham P. 8 The Bard of Dollis Hill // The Guardian. 18.01.2007.

9 Christopher Murlough (1564-1593) was an English poet and playwright, a contemporary and rival of Shakespeare.


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