Building Britain’s Culture on Indian Ideals
“A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.” ~ Gandhi
Britain voted for change at the last election, change in government, change in economy and change in society. Two years into this journey we can see British Conservatism as synonymous with family values, community spirit and national pride, the necessary fertilisers of growth for both our “Big Society” and also international investment.
Prime Minister David Cameron has recently called for a special relationship to blossom between Britain and India, recognising potential for a wealth of cultural and economic growth between our nations. Cameron launched the new grassroots movement, and brainchild of Lord Popat “Conservative Friends of India” which is set to engage with British Asian communities on shared conservative values of family, community and enterprise.
A conservative activist myself, and IT professional, I was thrilled to have landed a business trip to India’s silicon valley, Bangalore. Jetting away from the drizzly British summer for a few months of sun, spice and software development projects. Since moving into my company apartment, stocking up on Immodium and chasing the beetles away, I’ve grown to know and love India. I’ve seen her true colours through daily life and collected her ideas as keepsakes, should they come in handy back home.
I found myself quickly acquainted with India’s local governance, on my visit to the local police station following a rather frantic episode in which I had my handbag snatched by some bikers while travelling in an auto rickshaw (imagine a sort of moped crossed with a golf buggy). As I was filing my police report with the Investigating Officer, the Head Constable returns to the desk announcing that whilst he should really be meeting his wife for dinner, he will stay a bit later to make sure we get all the paperwork done and dusted that evening to save me returning the next day. He apologises for the rough start to my visit, shakes his head in dismay of the thieving rogues and assures me that India is a great country with high standards and strong discipline.
I’m very impressed, in fact I hesitated to report to the matter to the police at first, as I fully expected them to look at me blankly and call for a cab home. Here was this senior police official, rearranging his family time to deal with my missing handbag, all because he had such pride in his country that he wanted to leave a good impression on a forlorn Brit. And it jolly well did the trick. Having said that, later in the week, the Bangalore Mirror did piss on my cornflakes a little; printing a rather unflattering article in which I was described as a rather dim witted and careless 35 year-old woman. I was mortified, I don’t look a day over 26.
Something which came as no surprise to me on moving to India was the extent to which family values promulgate society. If Britain could use a blueprint for Big Society, then look no further. Whilst faith and religion provide the moral compass for personal conduct, it is really the family unit which really drive these values home. India can proudly claim relative immunity to the diseases affecting Broken Britain – family breakdown, alcoholism, truancy – there is no need for the state to nanny these issues. Who needs an ASBO, when an apron string will do the job nicely. An elegant example was described to me in which the Islamic quarter in Bangalore is exempt from drink driving checks on the grounds that it would be cause offence to the community elders. An accomplishment sure to evoke a pang of envy amongst British constabularies.
The controversial custom of arranged marriage is almost universally practised even amongst the most liberal of my Indian friends. I can guarantee a titter of amusement when I attempt to matchmake over a couple of beers, the idea of chatting up an unfamiliar lady to invite for a date is delightfully entertaining. Whilst I’m sure there won’t be many buyers for this tradition back home in Britain, it is interesting to consider the groundwork that India puts into the family unit from day 1.
Starting a family in India is an art form. The way in which a couple are cherry picked, and how the family will help to mould and intertwine them sows the seeds of a loving and stable relationship in which to raise children. It is common for extended families to live together and support each other, taking the rough with the smooth, creating an environment in which loyalty is paramount.
This sense of loyalty also serves as a lynchpin in the running of family businesses; India’s economy thrives on small to medium businesses and there is a culture of entrepreneurialism here. Likewise, the SME sector in Britain is a dynamic environment and critical catalyst for economic growth. Indians are very astute with marketing and advertising, always flashy in flaunting their talents. The chef in my apartment block boasts that for a small fee he will prepare some “delicious dishes”, an optimistic description if ever there was one.
I’ve noticed a tendency here to “just get on with things”, not to hesitate over details, to realise that sometimes you can run with an incomplete solution. This can be seen from India’s haphazard infrastructure, you may remember some time ago when Prince Philip was flamed for commenting that a poorly installed fuse box “looks like it was put in by an Indian”, having now seen India for myself, I think I can tell where he was coming from. Sometimes, though, life is too short to dot “i”s and cross “t”s; time spent perfecting one thing could be spent building something else, there’s always an opportunity cost.
Britain has bundles to gain from a special relationship with India; an intuitive understanding of society. To quote Mark Twain “India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend and the great grand mother of tradition.” India has a wealth of treasure to share with Britain, we need to embrace it with open arms at a time when we watch the EU circle the drain and we begin to move our eggs to other baskets.
There is strong chemistry between Conservative Britain and India, a mutual attraction for a long term relationship and for better for worse, this arranged marriage is a match made in heaven.