Whenever I’m with a group of Asians I’m usually among the taller bracket (5’9). In Britain I’m tall for an Asian, tallish for a Persian and decent in comparison for white height.
However at last night’s Bollywood dance (I was a bit rusty but I managed to keep up – we did the routine for Kar Gayi chull) virtually everyone was an undergrad (I imagined it would be the Desi postgrads).
What immediately struck me was that I was shorter than a fair few of them. I’m imagining that this generation of British Asians (born in the 90’s) are far more Westernised in their diet and upbringing, than their parents and grandparents.
I imagine many of these British Asians are now second or third generation. Incidentally what I find so remarkable is the cultural tenacity of British Asians even among the more prosperous communities. There is an “oil & water” effect among community relations in Britain but I guess that is a feature of our multi-cultural multi-national state model. The only coloured “English” community are the Afro-Caribbean’s but Britishness is the preferred identity for all PoCs in this country (it’s different in Scotland though thanks to their civic nationalism).
Another rather funny quirk in Cambridge is the split between the undergrad and postgrad Indian community. The undergrad Indians are ultra high achieving British Asians (from the usual communities Punjabs & Gujjus) who eventually drift into the City of London thanks to parental pressure.
The postgrads tend to be Indians from India who are liberal (liberally socially but not politically), esoteric and in some ways so much more Westernised.
The Pakistani community does not evidence the same divide since there is a cohort in the undergraduate section that stems directly from Pakistan. They are mainly from Karachi Grammar School, which is no longer as elite as I thought it was since a third of it is now religious.
Among the Pakistani “social” elite being religious was almost a bar to entry as was being a teetotaller. It’s interest though I detest alcohol (except in cuisine or medicinally) for the longest time in the 90’s and 00’s I was not comfortable with Pakistanis who did not drink. They always reminded me of the super-strict Urdu-speaking Punjabis of Islamabad that I grew up with it rather than the English-speaking decadent Muhajirs of Karachi that I preferred.
Islamabad is intensely bourgeois, conservative and nationalistic. Karachi though is decadent, liberal and rather counter-cultural; I imagine Lahore is in between the two.
The entire Pakistani community (post and undergrad) is an order of magnitude more religious (and by extension more conservative) than the Indians.
Surprisingly there’s very little mixture (social or romantic) between the South Asians as far as I can see. I don’t know of another Indo-Pak couple in either the Town or Gown community.