From Nagpur 1956 to Edinburgh 2014


Posted by in August's Magazine

I was born in Nagpur, India in 1956. My mother’s family was from the hills outside Pune, Maharashtra and my father’s from the first fold of the Himalayas, Dehradun. My Dad was in the Indian Foreign Service and, as a result, we travelled a lot – Nairobi, Rio, Mumbai, Delhi – before settling in the UK in 1966. We lived in North London and after primary school, where I competed for the girls’ affections by inscribing ‘The Monkees’ on my schoolbooks whilst all the other boys wrote ‘The Beatles’, I went to secondary school in The Angel, Islington. Leaving when I was eighteen.

Back then – in the days of Ben Shermans, sharpened steel combs and bicycle chains – a brown boy had to be able to look after himself (I counted myself lucky to escape with a 28 stitch scar from a razor slash). There were pubs you didn’t go to with a white girl and plenty of streets you avoided altogether. Night and day.

Share:

My parents left India because, generally speaking, it is not how good you are at your job, it’s the people you know who decide how well you get on. My mother became the first Asian female consultant in London, enjoying a fulfilling career as a pioneer in the use of ultrasound, which would not have been possible in India. Herein lies the essential truth about ‘economic migration’; immigrants do not leave their extended families, culture and friends in order to claim welfare benefits. Rather they are so frustrated at home they are prepared to move to a different location and a different culture to lead a fulfilling life.

I moved to Edinburgh in 1986. The people were incredibly friendly and sincere, the countryside beautiful and varied. I worked for the wholesaler Real Foods, leaving after 5 years, to start my own business – I was already married to a beautiful Sikh girl from Delhi and had a couple of toddling sons. My business, trading in dried fruit and nuts, can be done from anywhere in the world but we chose to stay in Edinburgh because it is far and away the best place to live that I know of in Europe. We now employ seventeen people in a great fun business that provides work for people all over the world, from the Amazon rainforest (brazil nuts) to the high altitude Gobi desert (goji berries). Of course, if we weren’t flogging this stuff somebody else would be but they wouldn’t be doing it in the same way. That is our opportunity and my pride.

Cosy buddy system
What I’m saying is, as an immigrant – in what I choose to call my home – I recognize the central advantage of Scotland is its quality of life. You may not get much help from the Government (or in my case, any) to start up a business but there is not a lot of hindrance either.

Which brings me neatly to the independence question and the rubbish being bandied about on both sides. Each came up with fantastical projections, based on splitting up an existing cake, but this is about building a new bakery not portioning out the stock. Statements like “we will all be £232.50 a year better/worse off,” are based on static analysis and couched in the patronising terms of a parent who bribes their kids to do homework with sweeties.

The main division is, of course, between those who fear change and those who always go with the unknown because essentially that is what they construe life to be about. The other sore point is the extent to which people feel the Scots are actually ‘capable’ of ruling themselves. Being from India, I recognise colonial mentality when I see it.

People point to the profligate spending on the Scottish Parliament and the Edinburgh trams as examples of Scottish unprofessionalism. Really? What about the millennium dome, and, if it comes to that, the Iraq war? No, the problem here is bad decision making systems which play ‘double up’ with public money and embrace unaccountability, north and south of what may be the border.

Am I pro Salmond and what appears to be a very cosy buddy system in the SNP? Not particularly, though it is a reason to vote Yes. At a stroke they would lose their raison d’être and, hopefully, a new breed of independent independence would develop. Seizing the opportunity to balance the books and invest in the future in a way that is not pure vote grabbing expediency.

So, is it it better to err and improve or entrust ourselves to the will of another? That is the real question for Scotland: do you want to grow up and take responsibility for your own actions, or be burped and suckled on Britannia’s ample bosom?

Protempore is away

One response to “From Nagpur 1956 to Edinburgh 2014”

  1. Inderpreet Singh says:

    Thanks for your ideas. You can also find the details on Edify School, at the school website at http://www.edifyschoolnagpur.com/. The main object of the school is to provide quality education and is among the few World class school in Nagpur. Together the term Edify and its logo are the key elements in forming the child’s future. This recognized school in Kamptee, Nagpur, follows the CBSE pattern and is among the top international school in Nagpur

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *