Nitin Mehta is a passionate speaker on India’s spiritual heritage as well as vegetarianism and veganism. The Kenya-born British Indian is a dedicated professional with a respected track record in organising cultural events and high-profile campaigns.
Having studied Sociology from Goldsmiths, University of London, Mehta received his MBE in 1999 for services to the community as well as several other awards and accolades – the Ahimsa Award from the Institute of Jainology, the ‘Glory of India’ award by India International Friendship Society for promoting Indian Culture in the UK and the Mayor’s award for significant contributions to London, to name a few.
In his latest book, ‘Ancient India's Imprints and Influences on the World’, Mehta delves into the many previously unknown facets of India’s history. It is now available on Amazon or by contacting the author directly.
To find out more about the new book, his views on some current affairs and his journey, iGlobal caught up with the multi-talented author for this exclusive interview.
Please share your journey as an author.
I always liked writing. I have been writing articles for newspapers, and also to newspapers, mainly regarding coverage on India and Hinduism. That’s how the interest developed further. But I must admit that this book was mainly possible because of Covid when I suddenly had plenty of time.
Despite being born in Kenya, I have always been interested in India and Indian culture, spirituality and history. Through my years in the UK, I've been promoting Indian culture in many ways. For example, we run a society to promote vegetarian lifestyle, we support animal sanctuaries, and organise cultural classes. What I realised was that a lot of the younger generation are unaware about Indian history. However, that is not their fault; it's about how we are taught history to this day.
In my last book, ‘India: A civilisation the world fails to recognise’, I listed the achievements of famous Indians and how often the perceived ‘discoveries’ in the West were actually done in India.
My latest book goes back two to three thousand years. We find that India influenced a huge part of the world from Europe to America, to South America to Africa. Put in a highly readable format, the book dedicates a chapter each to countries that have connections to India.
While researching, what did you find most fascinating or surprising?
I was amazed by some of the things that came up. For example, they found a Hanuman statue deep in the forests of Honduras, which I included in the book. Another one is from Germany: they found pieces of a structure which, once they put together, it was a man-lion form, much like ‘Narsimha’ in Hinduism.
There is also an ancient German legend about a person who hangs by a tree upside down, has a single eye, is meditating and has the powers to cure and resurrect people. We have a very similar thing mentioned in Shree Bhagavatam.
The connections are incredibly fascinating. There could be a link somewhere in Germany thousands of years ago, which is linked to our history.
Does the book cover topics like the ‘Aryan Invasion’ theory or roots of Indo-western languages?
Absolutely. After colonising India, they observed that India was quite an advanced country with in-depth knowledge in several fields. But the problem is that if you want to occupy someone's land, you have to be able to sleep with a clear conscience, otherwise you don't feel comfortable. That’s probably why they worked very hard to prove that India was really not anything and that whatever Indians are talking about were Aryans who came from Europe.
Furthermore, they divided us with Aryans and Dravidians as if Indians were two disparate races. Unfortunately, we continue to learn the same history. This is why it's imperative that we correct such fake narratives. My book is just a very small effort towards it. And I made it very reader friendly, as nowadays people dislike reading big, thick books, so it is quite small but to the point.
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How can history be made more widely accessible in India and abroad?
I think the current government of India is already working on introducing a different version of history in schools, which is a great start. But we also need to have many more books and visual apparatus to engage younger children and the youth. I think more and more people are now slowly challenging the established version.
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What are your thoughts around Hinduphobia and recent anti-Hindu hate incidents?
Hinduphobia is an expression I don't like, as it has been adopted because it implies that we are the victims, like “Islamophobia”. I'm saying that we are not victims, we are actually the holders of the truth; we will counter their stories with our own stories. That's just my personal opinion.
Sometimes when reading ‘The Guardian’ or BBC, I realise how much they get away and that is terrible. It's because they know that Hindus don't respond. They would never say such things about other faiths because they know that the reaction will be massive. It is important that our community is vocal about these issues too.
We need to have passion for our culture and heritage. Unfortunately, we don't have as many people who have a fire in the belly when push comes shove. But we are trying. For example, I organised the first demonstration outside the Guardian office and they were extremely shocked to see Hindus protesting. That does not mean that they've stopped writing negative things entirely, but it's definitely making them think that they can't get away with everything.
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What is your motivation behind your campaign for vegetarianism?
Vegetarianism is one of the greatest gifts of Hinduism to the world. Currently, vegetarianism is being promoted more than ever, whether from a health perspective with doctors advising to cut down on meat or an environmental angle as meat is supposed to be the biggest cause of global warming.
If nothing else, compassion is one of the reasons why you should vegetarianism considering what happens to the animals.
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What was it like going to Indore for the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2023?
Pravasi Bharatiya Divas was amazing. You can see a picture emerging whereby the Indian diaspora all over the world is becoming popular in their respective countries. Soon, there will be more and more world leaders who have an Indian heritage. Like we have Rishi Sunak here in the UK.
In countries like Kenya and Uganda, Hindus are already in top positions. It is surely not impossible to image that we might one day have an Indian president in the US. An international Hindu heritage taking shape all over the world.
*Info: For a copy of the book, click here