Words by Sangeeta Bhabra, ITV Meridian Presenter
Over the last few months I’ve been on a bit of a journey thinking about what my Indian heritage means to me. To be honest it is not something I think about too much these days - I just live my life and am happy like most people to reach another day.When I was younger though that definitely wasn’t the case. In the 80s and 90s society wasn’t as diverse as it is now and I was definitely flitting between two cultures. Indian me and English me. It was something I navigated quite well but I know that wasn’t a universal experience for all asian people of my generation. I have always had a glass-full outlook and think growing up I could already see the positives of both my identities. I loved having the option of speaking Hindi, Punjabi and English (In Delhi it’d be a delicious mix of all three). I loved Bollywood films, discovering India on family holidays and then telling my friends in Reading about the amazing things we’d done. There was also the clothes, the food and I was always safe in the knowledge that if all else failed in life my family could arrange my marriage!I come from a pretty brilliant family. When I was born it was a big deal - the first Bhabra child to be born in England. My immigrant parents supported me in all my decisions and I remember clearly the family adjusting to the new man in my life - George Michael. My pop obsession from the age of 10 was pretty new to them - won’t ever forget their faces when I plastered Wham! posters on their newly painted walls. Of course my mum and dad wanted me to know about my Indian family, to be proud of my roots and heritage and know about the complex connections between my two countries but more than that they wanted what any parent would want: a happy daughter. A happy daughter who knew the importance of education and the Indian work ethic. (And there’s definitely such a thing!)
Six months ago when ITV News decided to mark South Asian Heritage month with a series of features exploring and commemorating the UK’s links to the sub continent - the search was on to tell the story of how British Asian families have changed through the generations. The South of England has been home to my family for more than 60 years so I suggested my story.On ITV News Meridian at 6pm tonight, (August 16th) and tomorrow (August 17th), meet my family as together we talk about India, calling a new place home and what our Indian heritage means to us after more than half a century living in Britain.
I would like to express my special thanks to my family, my former school Loddon Primary in Earley and my sweet cousin Simi who allowed me to film her wedding celebrations. Thank you also to Rimpy Rooprai from KAT Films.My biggest thanks go to my friend and fellow ITV Meridian presenter Stacey Poole who interviewed and produced both reports. Talking about my India connection is definitely the most personal thing I’ve done on air and although perhaps not the story I was originally planning to telI - I hope it shows how difference can be a strength.