A New Year is the perfect time for a new resolve to bolster the UK-India Living Bridge

A New Year is the perfect time for a new resolve to bolster the UK-India Living Bridge

And just like that, the date has changed and it is a New Year. We cautiously stepped into it, trying not to be overly enthusiastic or jubilant lest we jinx it. New Year’s eve lit up at midnight for Londoners, particularly as the surprise fireworks emblazoned the sky out of practically nowhere! I watched the fireworks with a child-like excitement exchanging smiles with distant neighbours in other blocks of flats.

It reminded me of my New Year’s eve in 2018, when I was travelling on the train amidst complete strangers. The celebratory mood shared with people who didn’t know one another was special and I understood it today. What was earlier sadness suddenly turned to gratitude when I studied carefully the faces around me and my mind paused in that moment. We were journeying into the New Year. Isn’t that the very purpose of life – to keep going. There is a sense of hope in travelling as one looks forward to a destination or at least a milestone. Life itself presents possibilities and one can only be grateful for this gift.

Mixed feelings

As we approach the middle of January, we examine carefully the signs of what this year seems to bring for us. The sweet optimism of the third vaccine approval and immunisation drive across the country has somewhat kept us positive minded. The increase in the infectious cases caused by the Covid-19 variant are rather disheartening and worrying but we remain hopeful.

Lovers pine for each other, families waiting desperately to be reunited and friends ready to embark on another adventure, together. For me, January is always a reminder of another year without my child or home. Oh, latter you ask? Uprooted at the time of birth from my homeland, Kashmir, my family brought us up elsewhere in the hope that one day I may be able to visit what used to be my home in the native land. It is a reminder of loss, of the forced exodus inflicted on my community (Kashmiri Pandits).

The Jewish community remember the pain they persevered as they observe the Holocaust in late January. In remembering pain and loss, it is important to look ahead and the seeds of hope are sown by the faith that one day there will be justice. In the dark of that wintry night as her family rushed out to save their lives, Komila left behind her favourite doll, her comforter and her childhood to spend growing up years in the misery of the makeshift tents and tenements in Jammu.

Resilience and hope

If there is anything I have learnt from our history, it is resilience, hope and hard work. To pray for a better future is valuable but to work towards it, imperative. My dear friend Imran Choudhry who made it in the Queen’s Honours list for 2021 is a survivor, having survived the Bangladesh genocide of 1971, coming to UK as a refugee and today being recognised with a British Empire Medal for his years of work to bring communities of different faiths together across the UK.

A melting pot of cultures, nationalities, faiths and languages, the United Kingdom decided to create a level playing field for all immigrants.

Living bridge

At the turn of the year, Brexit also got done. This year, more than ever before, we ought to stand united in our efforts and belief in building a much stronger living bridge of people, culture, society and opportunities for the UK and India. As members of the Indian diaspora, we are all dispersed from our ethnic roots and from where our families travelled. What we all have in common is our love for this nation that we live in today.

As we all worry a great deal about the future of our economy, education and society, there are I am sorry to state, propagandists in our Parliament in Westminster who seem to have made it their daily job to slander India. Isn’t it time that such meddling in internal matters of the largest democracy of the world is put an end to? In the name of freedom of expression and constituent interest, certain rogue MPs choose to mislead honourable members of this great institution and this country by pandering to the narratives doled out to them by certain fringe elements in their vote bank. India is a great nation that has been a friend to the United Kingdom in more ways than one, despite the colonial past.

As we rebuild our nation and inch closer to freedom from Covid-19, must we not also root out the virus of divisive forces from this great nation. There are evils thriving on the soils of our country that are eating up our youth in the name of radicalisation and religion, brainwashing them to kill and to hate.

I leave you with an uplifting verse from the Upanishads:

Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah, Sarve Santu Niramayah;
Sarve Bhadrani Pasyantu, Ma Kaschhiddukhabag Bhavet.

[May all be happy, may all be free from infirmities;
May all see good, May none partake suffering.]

Lakshmi Kaul is the London-based UK Head & Representative at the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and an active Indian diaspora campaigner. In this regular Talking Point column for ‘iGlobal’, she will focus on issues that deserve spotlighting within the Global Indian community, referencing her personal experiences.

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