Longing (freestyle musings tonight).

Copied from my facebook tonight – freestyle musings. Thinking to move some of this to a letter to the the Indian Voice (www.indianvoice.com.au), and maybe a letter to The Age (but very unsure about that).


For a long time, before, but more so after I went to the UK in my elective trip, have I wanted to return to the UK.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists actually seem to provide a strongly structured education-focussed training experience, that in Australia is shambolic at times. In Victoria, the educational experience is strong, but part of this is the fact that the two leading universities step in and provide our mandatory formal education course, by means of an expensive masters. The other part is that some hospitals provide teaching, though this varies from site to site.

The other thing pulling me to the UK is the richness of experimental South Asian artforms there. Having the experience of South Asian migration since the 60s, initially in a hostile environment, to one that has become South Asianised to an extent, well, a lot I think. The forms of expression are challenging on all levels. It seems today the UK openly fosters creative thinking in all its citizens, including those of diverse cultures from outside the region.

I recall reading about Kapoor’s Marsyas (http://www.tate.org.uk/mod
ault.htm) at the Tate, but didn’t get to see it when I visited. There are many levels of fusion of Indian music forms with modern Western forms. If I leave the thriving UK Bhangra (well, relatively) scene and concentrate on Indian classical music, and what is now the Indian Electronic scene, the urge grows. I wanna check out Shaanti’s Funkshaan gigs (http://www.shaanti.co.uk/a
bout.htm), the Dhol Foundation (http://www.dholfoundation.
com/) and learn about the environment that created masters like Talvin Singh and Nitin Sahney – Mercury Award winners in the early 90s.

But most of all, through photography I wish to portray the dynamism of South Asian dance art. Recently visiting the websites of Akademi (www.akademi.co.uk) and South Asian Dance UK (southasiandance.org.uk/) I felt pretty inspired. I’d also want to check out the Asian Mela in London and see how Diwali in London compares to Melbourne’s Fed Sq gig.

I think for most Indian Diaspora outside the UK, that country is seen as the leading edge of progressive Indian culture. Perhaps in the US and Canada it’s a little different as they too have substantial South Asian populations. But I don’t think they have either the progressive edge that the UK does, nor the strong support the UK seems to provide to South Asian art institutions. The point here for me is that this allows South Asian art to expand far beyond what it might in South Asia, to become naturally contemplative and reflective, exploring the South Asian experience of migration and budding in a new home; for participants (those creating, and consuming the art) this allows them too to wander, to explore.

This is a natural, comfortable way of creating understanding between communities as they shift from migrant, to British (or Australian, etc). This is how to foster ‘assimilation’ in my view.

I think the Indian community in Australia has been too ‘safe’, and unwilling to stretch the boundaries of its own thinking, existence and by extension, contribution to wider society. Art is the way to do this. And we need our kids to not just be good doctors, lawyers, engineers or consultants, but to be leaders in mainstream society and to help mainstream society reflect and pause. Perhaps this is changing, as I am beginning to see some creativity in my second generation Indian Australian peers – though, most of us have had to do our cultural duty and establish ourselves in acceptable career paths before taking creative risk.

The South Asian community’s long history of over 6000 years as a culture, and unique experiences of multiplicities (of languages, of ethnicities, of religions, of cultures living side by side peacefully in most part) and repeated vistation and invasion by many diverse cultures (who have redefined what India not only looked like, but what India itself was) should help us help our mainstream society as it struggles with issues of cultural diversity and the relationships between newer migrant communities, ‘older’ Australia, and the Indigenous heart of the nation.

These thoughts come on the eve of Diwali celebrations in Melbourne tomorrow, at Federation Square.

Like Diwali representing a row of lights; the victory of good over evil, let us light the floor of the nation. So that we can see where we tread, so we can understand ourselves.

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