Part 5 – Sikh Book Club – Sikhs in Britain: Punjabi, Bhangra, Youth, and Conclusions

Sorry for not posting last weekso here we go with the summary of the final part of the book. Next week will be the grand-finale as we try to pull all these pieces together and view the book in a comparative Sikh diasporic framework.

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Coblogged by: Jodha and Mewa Singh

Chapter 9 deals with Punjabi, Bhangra, and Youth Identities and the final chapter is the conclusion.

Chapter 9 opens with a discussion on the propagation of the Punjabi language in Britain. Since at least the 1960s members of the community have been worried about the decline in Punjabi language competency and in 1965 established the first Gurdwara-run Punjabi school in Smethwick.

During the 1960s-80s a series of laws were passed that sought to encourage support for minority languages. This resulted in the institutionalization of Punjabi at the GCSE and A levels. Despite these moves by the state and by the community (Punjabi broadcasting, newspapers, television stations), the general outlook of Punjabis future seems rather gloomy.

The authors then take up the issues of British Punjabi Literature and British Sikhs in English Literature. One book that we thought was interesting was the authors notice of Bali Rais (Un)arranged Marriage. The authors write:

The novel speaks directly to the young against the backdrop of forced marriages. Its lead character, Manjit, after deftly extricating himself form his difficult predicament, re-evaluates the Jat Punjabi culture of his parents. He concludes:

Ive been reading up on it [Sikhism] lately and Ive found that Sikhism preaches tolerance and equality towards everythingMen, women, Black, White. All the same. The problem is that people like my old dad tie all these old traditions to the religion arranged marriages, all the racist s— [against blacks], the caste system stuff, things which have nothing to do with religions and more to do with culture and politics and social norms.

[The voice seems to echo that of another British author that we highlighted on this blog.]

The authors then move to an extended discussion on the origins and roots of British bhangra in the highly charged conditions of the multi-race inner cities of the 1970s and 1980s (200). Since the early days, the music has continued to achieve commercial fame with Bally Sagoos Dil Cheez being the first Asian-language track to reach the Top 15 pop charts. However the authors believe the biggest fillup to bhangra has actually come from the bhangrafication of Bollywood after the 1990s economic liberalization.

However there are problems with bhangra and the authors quote on such critic, Virinder Kalra, who wrote:

In conventional Bhangra texts, women tend to appearas fit and fashionable temptresses to be watched, teased, commented upon and owned; e.g. goriye (fair one), soniye (pretty one), ni zara nach kuriye (do a little dance, girlie), shakeenan (fashionable women), disco wichari, fashion di maari (fashion-obsessed disco queen). This is quite different from the whore/wife dichotomies some might find in Black rap, for instance, but inevitably is similar in that the representation of women in stereotypical and of limited focus (203).

The authors end the chapter on an important note:

Yet if there is a feeling among the older Sikh generations that there is pronounced reluctance among the young to assert Sikh identity positively through such practices as wearing the turban, competence in Punjabi, attendance at gurdwaras and in-marriage, there is equally a feeling among the young that the Sikh identity as such does not warrant an outright rejection. This ambivalence in a way reflects the process whereby British Sikh youth are creating their own religio-cultural space and adaptation, an outlook that is open to greater possibilities than were available to their parents (206)

The CONCLUSION chapter brings together many of the key points in the text and in some ways looks at a Sikh model in seeing how multiculturalism and various discourses are playing out for British Muslims. Although important, we will focus on two seemingly contradictory conclusions of the authors that are related to the Sikhs.

The first is related to a reflection on radical politics whether the Communist-led IWAs or the later pro-Khalistan and neo-Khalistan groups. The authors note that the history of the community suggests that radical politics is the natural response of most victimized and racialized immigrant groups in the WestThe more radical and ant-British that Sikh organizations have been over the last sixty years, the more they have articulated the genuine grievances of the community (210).

However, in noting the choices ahead the authors see 3 possibilities (217):

  1. To reassert the dominant discourse of Sikh identity
  2. To adopt a neo-modern form of Anglo-Sikhism, with its Western definitions of Sikh institutions and culture
  3. To revert to a contextual Sikhism where an understanding of Sikh scriptures as a guide is mediated by values more approximate to the teachings of the gurus.

Finally, we end this post with what we (and the authors) feel was a telling exchange of the Sikh community in Britain. The words are that of the first Sikh Duleep Singh.

The authors write and then quote (214-5):

Citing a statement that has become the defining principle of the Sikh place in Britain, many contemporary Sikhs point ot the rejection by Duleep Singh of an offer by Queen Victoria of peerages for his sons, Victor Albert and Frederick. He gave the following reason for his refusal:

I thank Her Majesty most heartily and humbly and convey to her my esteem, affection and admiration. Beyond that I cannot go. I claim myself to be royal: I am not English, and neither I nor my children will ever become so. Such titles though kindly offered we do not need and cannot assume. We love the English and especially their monarch, but we must remain Sikhs.

For Previous Coverage:
Part 4
Part 3
Part 2
Part 1
Intro


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22 Responses to “Part 5 – Sikh Book Club – Sikhs in Britain: Punjabi, Bhangra, Youth, and Conclusions”

  1. Harinder says:

    The secret of Punjabis to flourish is

    KIRAT

    SEVA

    NAAM

    Also I had suggest to my NRI Punjabis sitting in differnt countries to please translate all books ,Movies,Songs etc etc into Punjabi.

    It may start as copying but then fusion has a lot of Power to reingorate variety of living systems.

    We at some point will graduate from fusion/Copying mode to a

    " CREATIVE MODE"

    THE ULTIMATE HALL MARK OF A PUNJABI

    " OUTRIGHTLY ORIGINAL "

  2. Harinder says:

    The secret of Punjabis to flourish is
    KIRAT
    SEVA
    NAAM
    Also I had suggest to my NRI Punjabis sitting in differnt countries to please translate all books ,Movies,Songs etc etc into Punjabi.
    It may start as copying but then fusion has a lot of Power to reingorate variety of living systems.
    We at some point will graduate from fusion/Copying mode to a
    ” CREATIVE MODE”
    THE ULTIMATE HALL MARK OF A PUNJABI
    ” OUTRIGHTLY ORIGINAL “

  3. bdb says:

    Mr Harinder, thats a tall order-'NRI Punjabis" to please translate all books?!!! When we have enough original material that is in want of readers….Thumping ourselves on the back is the hallmark of Punjabis-we need to move beyond that. Sikh identity is bound to change in the west necessitated by our proximity from the 'mother ship'. It will be interesting to see where it goes.

  4. bdb says:

    Mr Harinder, thats a tall order-‘NRI Punjabis” to please translate all books?!!! When we have enough original material that is in want of readers….Thumping ourselves on the back is the hallmark of Punjabis-we need to move beyond that. Sikh identity is bound to change in the west necessitated by our proximity from the ‘mother ship’. It will be interesting to see where it goes.

  5. Harinder says:

    You got me wrong .

    These Books in differnt natipons and socities have proven their market value and have been liked by people across many cultures.

    Our Original material may be their but as you said it does not have much readership.

    We therefore got to learn this art of what makes a Book "READABLE" a movie "WATCHABLE".

    We have been able to do the feat in MUSIC to some extent as most ou our scriptures are based on divine Music.

    I see no reason why Punjabis cant repeat the model in other ventures of mankind.

  6. Raja says:

    Enjoyed this post. Now I gotta read all parts, just trying to get around to it…

    Some things I always found interesting about the Khalistan movement that was mentioned in this post. I found that especially within our generations, the supporters of the movement, themselves do not follow sikhi, thus how can they support a theoritical land that supposedly will live under sikh rules? I mean, they drink, eat meat, and smoke, dont keep kesh, live an inherent lifestyle against sikhi, is it just an ahankar thing with these people?

    I always found it offensive in a certain manner that they could patronize people like that. Correct me if I am wrong, was Khalistan not a place where the lifestyle of sikhi would be reinforced? Where kirtan would run 24 hours? How can these kids, who for them it is nothing beyond a ego issue actually fully support it?

    Just curious, what do you guys think?

  7. Harinder says:

    You got me wrong .
    These Books in differnt natipons and socities have proven their market value and have been liked by people across many cultures.
    Our Original material may be their but as you said it does not have much readership.
    We therefore got to learn this art of what makes a Book “READABLE” a movie “WATCHABLE”.
    We have been able to do the feat in MUSIC to some extent as most ou our scriptures are based on divine Music.
    I see no reason why Punjabis cant repeat the model in other ventures of mankind.

  8. Raja says:

    Enjoyed this post. Now I gotta read all parts, just trying to get around to it…

    Some things I always found interesting about the Khalistan movement that was mentioned in this post. I found that especially within our generations, the supporters of the movement, themselves do not follow sikhi, thus how can they support a theoritical land that supposedly will live under sikh rules? I mean, they drink, eat meat, and smoke, dont keep kesh, live an inherent lifestyle against sikhi, is it just an ahankar thing with these people?

    I always found it offensive in a certain manner that they could patronize people like that. Correct me if I am wrong, was Khalistan not a place where the lifestyle of sikhi would be reinforced? Where kirtan would run 24 hours? How can these kids, who for them it is nothing beyond a ego issue actually fully support it?

    Just curious, what do you guys think?

  9. bdb says:

    I grew up in Punjab during the heyday of the Khalistan movement. I dont EVER recall anybody saying anything about Kirtan running 24 hrs a day-when would there be time to do anything else-Sikhs believe in in living a family life and fulfilling 'worldly' obligations-doing just Kirtan would amount to bhakti-asceticism which we are against.

  10. bdb says:

    I grew up in Punjab during the heyday of the Khalistan movement. I dont EVER recall anybody saying anything about Kirtan running 24 hrs a day-when would there be time to do anything else-Sikhs believe in in living a family life and fulfilling ‘worldly’ obligations-doing just Kirtan would amount to bhakti-asceticism which we are against.

  11. Jodha says:

    Raja,

    Bdb is correct. The fight for Khalistan grew out of a nationalist struggle against oppression from the Indian state. This was the key point of the struggle. Later some groups moved the struggle from nationalism to a theocracy, but there are a wide variety of Khalistanis with very different leanings. This was the case during the high point of the movement and still remains the case now.

  12. Jodha says:

    Raja,

    Bdb is correct. The fight for Khalistan grew out of a nationalist struggle against oppression from the Indian state. This was the key point of the struggle. Later some groups moved the struggle from nationalism to a theocracy, but there are a wide variety of Khalistanis with very different leanings. This was the case during the high point of the movement and still remains the case now.

  13. Prem says:

    The fight for Khalistan grew out of a nationalist struggle against oppression from the Indian state. This was the key point of the struggle. Later some groups moved the struggle from nationalism to a theocracy, but there are a wide variety of Khalistanis with very different leanings. This was the case during the high point of the movement and still remains the case now

    It's impossible to envisage a 'Khalistan' without types of theocracy or self-destructive religious majoritarianism. Well, you can envisage it, but it's not realistic.

  14. Prem says:

    The fight for Khalistan grew out of a nationalist struggle against oppression from the Indian state. This was the key point of the struggle. Later some groups moved the struggle from nationalism to a theocracy, but there are a wide variety of Khalistanis with very different leanings. This was the case during the high point of the movement and still remains the case now

    It’s impossible to envisage a ‘Khalistan’ without types of theocracy or self-destructive religious majoritarianism. Well, you can envisage it, but it’s not realistic.

  15. Rana says:

    Forget the Khalistan aspect…just as Bhangra was taken up and redefined by British Punjabis, our they capable of doing the same with written Punjabi?

  16. Rana says:

    Forget the Khalistan aspect…just as Bhangra was taken up and redefined by British Punjabis, our they capable of doing the same with written Punjabi?

  17. Bahadar says:

    I think they are. Look at Roop Dhillon ( Rupinderpal Singh Dhillon). His contributions are actually in Punjabi, and cover everything from thrillers, adventures and bizarre science fiction and magical realism

  18. sewa says:

    May be look at Rupinderpal Dhillon

  19. Bahadar says:

    I think they are. Look at Roop Dhillon ( Rupinderpal Singh Dhillon). His contributions are actually in Punjabi, and cover everything from thrillers, adventures and bizarre science fiction and magical realism

  20. sewa says:

    May be look at Rupinderpal Dhillon

  21. Roop Dhillon says:

    Hi I am Rupinderpal Dhillon

    This link indicates what I feel about this subject…
    http://www.punjabiportal.com/forum/punjabi-novel-