India invented the number Zero. It is now regarded as one of the world’s greatest scientific inventions with a major influence on our digital revolution in science. Refugees anywhere in the world start a new life with zero.
The year 2022 is exactly 50 years since the expulsion of Ugandan Asians, for whom Britain became a place of refuge. From zero, many have now made a huge contribution to the British economy and society, and this was recently even recognised by King Charles at a reception at Buckingham Palace. India is world famous for its export of people, and also famous for what these people do to the societies and countries they migrate into, anywhere in the planet. Their Dharma of Interdependence is very timely for a world desperately seeking sustainability.
Zero may be an economic status of refugees, but it is rarely a cultural or spiritual score. Immigrants often take huge risks and suffer great pain in their journeys of migration. They come with hope and aspiration, and are willing to work very hard to obey the laws in their new home country and at the same time lift the economy and society.
Many Britons who have not experienced this fail to understand the sacrifice, and react in a knee-jerk way as if they are being ‘attacked’ or ‘invaded’. Often, they are the lazy ones who refuse to take risks and instead seek comfort and certainty. Latest research shows that the British Empire led to 100 million premature deaths of Indians from disease, poverty and starvation, and deliberately exploitative economic policies. That number is bigger than any genocide or holocaust.
In mathematics, when zero becomes a denominator, the final number is infinite. Zero has the power to unleash infinite energy and creativity. It is such a raw experience that it often makes the survivors really focused and spiritual, seeing the importance of community and collective progress. When my father the late Keshavji Rupshi Shah migrated to Mombasa in Kenya, he was 14 and had polio, and slept on the floor of his uncle’s shop, working day and night.
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However, over the next 50 years, he transformed Kenya by bringing huge ambition and dynamism to the Jain community there. Once when he was returning to India, his boat sank, and they were rescued by local fishermen and treated with the highest respect. Fear was overcome by love.
The legacy of my father’s sacrifice (alongside many others) was recently remembered at a memorial event hosted by the Jain community in Mombasa, organised by Mr Dilip Shah, with the scholarly help of Dr. Ramzanbhai from India. When history is revived by a new generation, and past pioneers remembered and celebrated, we can help build a sustainable society.
For me it was really inspiring to see a community take ownership of its own history, just like the Ugandan Asians are doing today. Our young generation need to be explained the sacrifices of their forefathers, and encouraged to revive this history and memory, so that they too develop a stronger sense of self. The Zero has the potential to lift a whole country and society.
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A state like Britain, which often invaded lands uninvited, and extracted huge treasures, should be the last one to refuse immigrants. Its hypocrisy needs to be wiped from its national culture and fictitious memories.