Modi: That historic speech

Describing Indian PM Narendra Modi as ‘controversial’ is a bit of an understatement. Despite his landslide victory last year, he has split the world’s biggest democracy with his radical and dynamic views. So how does such a man manage to pack out the biggest venue in England?

I wModi maniaas one of (almost) 60,000 spectators at Wembley Stadium on Friday who had come to hear Modi address the nation in what was being billed a ‘historic occasion’. And what was so momentous about it? Well, the fact that he attracted the largest Indian diaspora in the world – and that is despite being politically shunned by the USA and UK in the past.

His reception was no less than that of a rock star. Europe India Forum, the organisers, put up an exquisite showcase of British Indian talent from India and Britain. The diversity in music and dance forms was symbolic of multicultural India and how this talent has spread across the globe.

I had heard and read about ‘Modi mania’ but experienced it first-hand on Friday – men in their 30s were dressed in traditional Indian dhotis that were made of the Indian flag (pictured). Others were dressed in his trademark ‘Nehru-style’ jacket, turbans and paper masks of Modi. Quite possibly the most surprising were the Modi scarves branded as though they were football supporters’ scarves…grown men and women were visibly excited and ecstatic to see their iconic politician.

I’m sure many Brits must wonder why British Asians are so connected to politics in India. The majority of spectators who I saw there were either first or second generation economic migrants so I suppose for them; home is still India. India’s policies affect how they can travel back home, it affects their land and properties out there, their families and investment. But what was resounding from their reaction was the importance that culture and tradition meant to these British Indians.

Despite the colour of their passport, they were cheering in pride at any reference to their cultural heritage – be it the classical dance forms like bharatanatiyum or kathak, or the folk dances of garba and bhangra – to the modern day musical talents like Kanika Kapoor and Alisha Chinoi – they are proud of their country’s exports.

And this is something that Modi touched upon. He said British Indians are living examples of how different cultures and traditions can live successfully and in harmony. The fact that spectators cheered equally for both the British and Indian anthems gave me a sense of belonging to both nations. India may be the mother land, but Britain has fathered British Indians. Their identity depends on both nations.

Some aspects of Modi’s speech that stood out for me were the subtleties with which he appeased two of the biggest minorities in India. He touched on the historic sacrifices Sikhs have made and the contributions they continue to make in modern India. Given the turbulent climate in Punjab at present, Modi claimed to have listened to the concerns of British Punjabis and promised to see to them. What was more subtle and also very intelligently worded was his wish that Sufism had grown in India so there would be no reason to pick up a gun (referring to Islamic extremism).

Modi is a showman. He is known for being a fantastic speaker. His delivery is with such conviction, so relatable to the masses and completely unscripted, which makes you believe that he believes in what he is saying. If he doesn’t need a script, surely the points he is discussing are close to his heart – either that or he has a great memory!

His humour appeals to his admirers. The way in which he discussed the rescheduled flights between London and Ahmedabad from 15th December 2015 summed up his witty intelligence. And,Packed out Wembley Stadium although I’m not a fan of his and I believe he has a lot to answer for, I couldn’t help but be sucked into his speech. He is intriguing, entertaining and interactive – three skills that, sadly, the very intelligent but socially inept Manmohan Singh lacked. He couldn’t be a people’s prime minister, whereas Modi very much is.

I suppose Modi’s humble beginnings as a chai-vala on Indian trains makes him more relatable to the average India, and he appeals to the dreams of success. He has literally gone from the streets of poverty to managing the biggest democracy in the world. Not even Indian cinema has dared such a film plot.

He has a dynamic approach to policies (to say the least). He believes following Mahatma Gandhi’s footsteps can end two of the biggest issues of concern today: terrorism and global warming. Call it simplistic but he makes a point that the average Joe can understand. He cleverly touched on slavery and injustice during the British Raj, which Gandhi protested against, and now that very Gandhi stands in Westminster overlooking the Houses of Parliament. Such imagery is powerful because it leaves impressions on the hearts and minds of people.

After hearing the mammoth 80-minute speech in which Modi listed India’s successes, how it has become a global competitor and expects equal footing with the rest of the world – I couldn’t help but wonder how intimidated the West must feel. The very nations that banned him from entering are now signing multi-billion pounds deals. Despite what David Cameron and Barak Obama feel about Narendra Modi, they cannot escape the fact that India is a force to be reckoned with in the 21st Century, and sadly for them, Modi runs India.

Moreover, with the millions of Indians in Britain and the USA, they can only but maintain a ‘special relationship’ because economies are at stake. And ultimately, money talks.

Black Diwali – what is the point?

Millions of Sikhs the world over are boycotting Diwali this year. They won’t light any candles or fireworks. Why?

The reason is one that has led to protests and even deaths – Black Diwali is being observed because of the desecration of the Sikh’s living Guru; Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.

Punjab has been rife with tension since the sacrilege of the Sri Guru Granth last month. Torn pages from Guru Ji were found in the village of Bargari on 14 October 2015. Peaceful protests ensued but following police brutality, two people died and many others – most of whom were elderly – were injured. Additionally, it was claimed there was a media ban in Punjab so the story was not getting out.

What is most upsetting is that evidence has emerged this is a political decoy to divert the attention of poor fertiliser that has been provided to Punjabi farmers that has ruined their crops. If this is confirmed; it may be Sikh politicians that are orchestrating this despicable act.

What can be more shameful and disheartening?

But Sikhs in Punjab are also appalled at the police’s heavy handed approach to peaceful protests, which I can’t help but wonder are a means to push protestors to aggression. Moreover, central government is being accused of not doing enough to diffuse the situation and bring perpetrators to justice.

I admit when I first heard about Black Diwali I rolled my eyes and thought what is the point? What will this achieve? But the more I learnt, the more I appreciated the cause.

Black Diwali isn’t just a protest at the desecration of the living Guru. It is also acknowledging a state of mourning, which itself demonstrates how this atrocity has affected the Sikh community.

I find it so offensive when Guru Ji is referred to as the ‘holy book’ because for us it is so much more than that. We worship it and treat is as the living Guru. Thus attacking the Sri Guru Granth is equal to attacking one of the ten Gurus were they alive today.

But unless you’re Sikh you’re unlikely to realise this significance.

And I wondered: apart from Sikhs not celebrating with fireworks or candles, who else will this affect? Will this peaceful protest achieve change? I highly doubt it.

But will it achieve awareness? The proof is the fact that I am writing this and you are reading it. The power of peaceful protest is evident in the speed of which ‘Black Diwali’ has gone viral on social media.

So, although I don’t believe boycotting Diwali will lead to justice, it’s clear an immeasurable achievement is being gained and that is that Sikhs who wouldn’t necessarily participate in the faiths issues, and non-Sikhs alike, are becoming aware of what is happening in Punjab. They are reading to find out more. They are forming opinions on a situation that was otherwise banned from the media. And this, overtime – I am hopeful – will bring about change.

Peaceful protesting may seem pointless to some. Because the result isn’t immediate it isn’t always apparent. Yet the suffragettes, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela are testament that perseverance does bear fruit.

Sikhs celebrate Diwali to honour their sixth Guru; Guru Hargobind Ji who was released from prison and freed 52 other princes from the shackles of Mogul emperor, Jahangir. The day marks good overcoming evil; justice prevailing.

And so, we hope Black Diwali will bring about justice and stand against the evil that is causing unnecessary hurt, violence and unrest.

Happy Diwali and Bandi Chhor Diwas

What is happiness?

If there is one thing you can guarantee about anyone; then that is their desire to be happy. Whether you’re a child, parent, grandparent, regardless of your social status or achievements in life; it all boils down to what makes you feel good. But what does make you feel good? What is happiness?

It may appear selfish if that’s all we want but ultimately who would want to be unhappy or dissatisfied? Sometimes we look at others more fortunate and envy all that they have because that is what is missing in our own lives. But you have no idea what that person is craving in their life.

It’s not an easy concept to get your head around and many philosophers have spent a lifetime studying it, but happiness comes in many shapes and forms for people; it’s all bespoke to you as an individual. So let’s break it down.


Call it religion, God, the Almighty, a Superior Power – some people find happiness in their faith. They believe all will be well because they have faith in a Superior Being. It takes a strong-willed person to maintain true faith. Life has its ups and downs. When it appears all is lost or there is no way out, it can be difficult to have faith.

I’ve been there when I’ve questioned God and why certain things happen. But then when circumstances change for the best – and it almost feels like a miracle that I have made it through such a difficult time – my faith is restored. For me, a large aspect – if not the biggest aspect – of life is ‘faith’.

Some people may consider it a romantic notion. Others may shrug it off as nonsense. But remove the practical side of religion and ultimately we all have faith deep down that all will be well, or at least things will improve, otherwise we wouldn’t continue…right?


We can’t help who our family is. Love them or loathe them, family has a huge influence on you as an individual. Regardless of the politics that every family has, you can’t deny that overwhelming feeling when you’re having a laugh with your relatives.

With age I’m realising how much family means to me, We may not always meet eye to eye, we may have different perspectives but we share memories that are priceless. That unifies us and maybe its my faith that helps me through the challenges that family bring with it.


Now if there is one thing we can choose in life then that is our friends – the family we choose for ourselves, We can rely on them to be there in celebration or in distress. They are advisers, entertainers, companions. You can always turn to them for a laugh, to make us happy.


This list is in no particular order but for many the big ‘L’ word brings the biggest happiness. Of course there are many forms of love – love for you child, love for your parents, love for a sibling – but I’m referring to love for a companion, a soul mate.

That giddy feeling when you hear from them, the butterflies when you talk to them, the thought of making memories with them and maybe even starting a family with them…the emotion is like no other. But the heartbreak is the polar opposite.

It sounds cliche when people say their life won’t be the same without their love – but it makes such an impact that life literally changes when that love is lost.


Ah! Money! We think its the answer to everything – a lavish lifestyle, house, cars, holidays – but if it was then wouldn’t every rich person be happy? And money, like all material things, is like an addiction – no matter how much you have, its never enough.

If we look at wealth instead then it incorporates so many other things – a wealth of respect, a wealth of love, a wealth of success – now we’re talking happiness!


I’ve been raised with the ambition to study and start a career. From day one it was drilled in me that I would make something of myself. Moreover, as a Sikh my religion preaches making an honest living. So its no surprise I value a career.

It gives you a purpose, it helps you set goals, financially contributes to the foundations of your personal life not to mention your social life – seeing as we spend more time with work colleagues than family or loved ones.

The happiness you feel when you progress in your job or achieve something new is such a great feeling. I count myself lucky to wake-up and be excited to go to work because for me its not a ‘job’, I’m living my ambition.


Recently I’ve come to realise how much satisfaction you get from helping others. Giving the gift of charity or support to someone in need can bring so much joy to others, and in turn make you feel so good. It makes me wonder if there is any such thing as a ‘selfless act’ because generosity makes you feel good (if you do it with a clean heart).


One thing I have learnt with age is to remain satisfied – not necessarily happy but at least not unhappy – and this means not having expectations. Its when we expect something that we often end up disappointed. So by living on the premise of no expectations, no matter what the outcome we are either unaffected, or if the outcome is positive, then we’re happy. It’s not an easy concept to practice. Its a working progress!


Another thing I’ve recently come to understand, especially at times when I feel down, is to be grateful for what I do have. By focusing on what is missing or lost, we lose sight of what is right in front of us. We waste time and energy on what cannot be changed, and mope in negativity as a result. So what does it achieve? Whereas gratitude not only makes you happy for what you have but I’m a true believer in positive thoughts reap positive outcomes.


There are lots of other things that make me happy – food, dance, shopping, travelling, music. When searching for happiness; a good starting point is to know unhappiness. If you didn’t understand how it feels to be unhappy, you would never appreciate or even recognise happiness. If you don’t know pain, how could you know pleasure?

Everyone is on their individual journey to find happiness, and that journey we call ‘life’. Each of us have taken different routes and our destinations are different. What makes me happy may not be enough for another.

‘Knowing your calling’ is a notion I’ve read about or seen in films. Maybe that is what I’m missing – the piece in my jigsaw to the pursuit of  happiness. I may discover it tomorrow, next year or it could take a lifetime. Who knows?

All I’m sure of is that there are many things that make me happy and spending a moment focusing on things that don’t is a waste – life is far too short.

Holiday season

Last week I went abroad and despite being a regular traveller for over a decade, I saw the airport in a completely new light for the first time.

I couldn’t help but notice how relationship dynamics were impacted by the rollercoaster of emotions – anxiety, excitement, frustration, fatigue and fear. From parking, to finding the check-in counter, to the nail-biting baggage weighing and tediously long security process – travelling abroad isn’t quite a breeze. And the facial expressions and body language of passengers tell many stories.

It’s not the first time I travelled abroad alone, but this time I was so relaxed that I took the time to soak in my surroundings; and boy was it entertaining.

What stood out the most was my absolute worst kind of passenger – the tantrum-throwing child – especially in the early hours of the morning! Surely it must be child cruelty to make infants travel at ridiculous o’clock – and the reaction from others is priceless. I saw a few men mouthing the child needed a slap…I wonder how many others agreed.

There were plenty of hen and stag parties – who were equally as loud and irritating as the infants. And alcohol at 6.30am??? I don’t know whether to commend them or be disgusted.

Some families travelling with their in-laws in tow were the most entertaining of all. The sons and daughters cushioning the tension – now that’s another kind of challenge altogether. An Asian daughter-in-law who was being criticised by her mother-in-law for not travelling light was like watching a film – the daughter-in-law pulled her husband aside and demanded he have words with his mother if they wished to continue the trip – and they hadn’t even reached their destination yet!

The young couples oozing with love and unable to stay away from each other as if they’d be blown away if they let go. The affection in every glance at each other, every touch, and every comment…was far too sickening first thing in the morning!

And how could you miss the business-types who seem to go out of their way to prove they’re making a work-related trip – checking emails whilst on a conference call. Although the same suited man was switching between his emails and Facebook on his Mac – I wonder what he considered to be more important.

But my favourite sort of travellers are the OAPs. They’re so relaxed with no children to take care of, no excess luggage to tug around, and no work to worry about, no parties to plan and still in love with a lifelong companion. I admire their dependence on each other and how they have grown to know each other’s habits and preferences so even the silence is amicable. The occasional glance is often sufficient communication. I look forward to growing old with a partner and sharing that.

But before that there are other stages to conquer – the hen party weekend abroad, the honeymoon, and travelling with the in-laws…(I may reconsider!)

It was captivating to see people from all walks of life, all sorts of occupations, ages, experiences and expectations of their trip meeting at a common platform to venture on to their destination.

The airport is a fascinating common factor between most of us, regardless of our budgets or aspirations.

Lost in translation…lost in generation

The other night I was watching an Indian films award show and my dad happened to walk through. As usual he began criticising the actors for only talking in English when they’re off the silver screen yet they earn a living in Hindi cinema, speaking in their ‘mother tongue’. This got me wondering how many desis living in Britain can speak their ‘mother tongue’…or is English their mother tongue?

My previous employer once quizzed me over what I considered my mother tongue. I said it’s Punjabi but she argued I had been born and raised in this country, therefore it should be English. I justified it by saying for my generation – whose parents are born in South Asia – their ‘mother’ tongue would be determined by their ethnic origin…right?

Having discussed this at work with some great minds in the newsroom I received a contrasting view – the consensus was that your mother tongue is the language that you speak often – or to put it poetically – as said by one of our great news presenters: “It’s the language in which you’re fathered” [from the fatherland where you are raised]. Another journalist says she considers the mother tongue to be that in which you can count…

I was still quite confused as to what my mother tongue is because I have been raised to speak both in almost equal measure. In fact, because I was raised by my grandparents who only spoke in Punjabi, the first language I learnt to understand and speak was Punjabi.

Interestingly, for different communities it means different things – for British Asians (despite being born and raised here) the ‘mother tongue’ and even the ‘motherland’ is usually defined by your ethnic origin.

So what about those who can only speak English and cannot speak the language in which their parents were raised to speak? If they can’t speak it, will their children be denied the chance to learn it? And thus, the language will eventually dwindle outside of its country of origin? And then I suppose reading or writing that language is out of the question.

I was sent to Punjabi school and I must admit it felt like a chore, but I persevered and went on to do A Level Punjabi. It’s something I’ll be encouraging my children to be doing because let’s face it, if I don’t how else will they know the language?

I find it quite amusing when I see Asians enjoying music from South Asia and even singing along but they have no idea what the lyrics mean. As with all languages, the context is lost in translation so you don’t even get the beauty of it if you rely on interpretation.

I appreciate there isn’t really a need to learn another language if you live here – apart from English – unless your job requires it. But it would be a great loss if poetic and rich languages like Punjabi, Gujarati, Urdu and Hindi (to name just a few) were lost in coming generations living outside of India. You would lose a significant part of the culture too (God I’m starting to sound like my dad!)

People study ancient languages like Greek and Latin, but are we already giving our current languages archaic status?

I don’t listen to much Punjabi music but Jaz Dhami’s song “Boli” could not have put it simpler: “Mein Punjabi boli ha, menu bhul na jayeen javana.” [Direct translation: I am Punjabi language, don’ forget me youth]

Have we lost faith?

The holy month of Ramadan is drawing to a close. I’m not a Muslim but speaking to friends observing the fast and shopping in Asian areas, excitement for the culmination of the month, Eid, is palpable. I couldn’t help but compare it to other religious festivals where the focus seems to shift from faith to materialism…have we lost faith?

From the start I’d like to make it absolutely clear this is not an attack on Islam or how Muslims practice their faith. The month of Ramadan has compelled me to draw comparisons to Christmas, Diwali and Vaisakhi (all of which I celebrate) where we tend to spend time, thought and money on what we’ll eat and what we’ll wear.

It seems a shame that consumerism has conquered all areas of our lives. Even funeral services (regardless of your religious belief) have lost the simplicity and we compete to make it as memorable as possible. Is that something the family of the deceased do for their lost loved one? Or is it something the consumer world has brainwashed us into thinking is the ‘best send-off’?

Yes, I’m making sweeping generalisations and no – not everyone is sucked into the gimmick. But how many people do you know who are so obsessed with planning their Christmas lunch that they don’t even recall the reason why the day is celebrated? The same goes for Diwali and not to mention Vaisakhi.

This was just a thought that I felt compelled to word up. Maybe its human nature to be influenced by marketing strategies, maybe we’re just not that religious, or maybe this is just my interpretation of the world around me.

Can you be politically active and religious?

I recently spoke to a journalist who was berating a Sikh UKIP supporter because he believed the party’s policies went against Sikh values. This got me thinking – is it possible to support a political party if you’re religious?

Many, if not most, politicians will lend themselves to a particular faith, but how religious they are is down to personal perspective. When they follow a party, I wonder if their faith plays a part in who they decide to support…

We often hear the government say we’re a Christian country (especially after growing allegations of radicalisation). The British constitution was developed at a time when faith meant a lot and the men who ran the land claimed to be God fearing. So whether we realise it or not, religion has – directly or indirectly – influenced modern day policy.

But can you be both politically active and religious?

I am born into a Sikh family, I went to a Catholic school, and have grown up with Church of England, Hindu and Muslim friends. So I have had some exposure to a multitude of faiths. I don’t consider myself ‘religious’ per se, but I do believe in God and the fundamental principles of Sikhism, which include equality – a phenomenon advocated 500 years before the anti-discriminatory act we now have in the UK – voluntary service (charity) and making an honest living (working). I suppose the latter could make me more inclined to support the Tories who advocate working and discourage benefits culture. But I don’t agree with everything the Conservatives stand for.

Likewise I don’t agree with all Labour or Liberal Democrat policies – UKIP doesn’t even come into the equation for me – but I do support elements of each party, such as boosting entrepreneurship, supporting first time buyers, getting rid of tuition fees.

I work in news and there is a buzz in the office as we run up to the elections. I asked colleagues whether they thought it was possible to practice a faith and be politically active. The majority responded ‘yes’; because you would support a party that, generally – and this is the crucial part – generally reflects your views, not necessarily wholly (pun not intended!)

And speaking generally, regardless of whether you follow a faith or not, maybe you are swayed to one party more than another because you agree with the majority of what they advocate.

And that’s a probable likeness of the electorate – they agree with a mixture of policies from all the political parties but one party may, overall, best reflect how that person believes the country should be run. I guess that’s where you would think a coalition would help bridge the gap but when one party has an overriding majority, a coalition seems to mean very little.

The 2015 elections will be exciting – to say the least – because for the first time, in a long time, a coalition is almost determined. To me, that proves none of the major parties reflect what the electorate wants. Or maybe their policies on certain issues – like security and immigration – are loosely the same but fluffed with rhetoric.

So where does that put people who feel policies are a mockery of their faith? Or maybe they don’t realise it and simply vote for what they think is best for the country.

I suppose the only firm conclusion I can make is that it isn’t fair to judge a person’s religious integrity by their political persuasion, because I doubt anyone could be fully in support of a single party’s policies. Moreover, no party fully reflects a single religion. Thus, people will support the party that is closest to their personal views, be they religious or otherwise.