Seema’s Family Migrated to UK decades ago…
My name is Seema and I am British (born in the UK – a second generation of Indian origin immigrant). I have been asked to write an article on Haryanvis living in the UK.
Rather than refer to the Haryanvi newbies who arrived in the last 15 years I thought I’ll make a start from 1972 when there were around 25 Haryanvi families living in the UK. Some of which arrived in the 1950s.
They came from districts in Haryana such as Bhiwani, Rohtak, Gurugram, Sonepat, Hisar and rural surroundings of Delhi.
Each individual arrived in the UK with not much belongings packed, but they would at least have a contact details of a fellow Haryanvi already residing in the UK, mostly living in London boroughs and in the surrounding counties of London.
It was soon agreed by the then relatively small community to meet regularly. So began their determination to hold onto one’s heritage roots.
In those days the monthly simple family get together were at each other’s home.
Would be easy to say there was no showing off or pretence back then, as they were busy building their lives in what they considered a second home in a new host country whilst thinking of and financially supporting families left in India.
At these get togethers there was simple homemade food, laughter and fun. Discussions our parents had were largely on social, medical and legal issues; but most importantly supporting each other and especially the newcomers. Also during these get-togethers, especially for us kids in the hope of us learning some Indian culture there was a Havan and recital of Gita.
I cannot remember whether our parents spoke in Hindi or Haryanvi language, either way amongst us kids it was always in English.
As years passed the dilemma for this first generation of immigrants was whether to stay in the UK or go back to India.
Our parents took into account the lack of opportunities and quality of life in India/Haryana and where would be the best place for us kids. Outcome was that most decided to remain in the UK with one or two families moving onto Canada or USA. Interestingly no one (in our wide circle) returned to Haryana, permanently.
1980s arrived, so as many of the original families decided to stay in the UK their outlook of their new host country changed. They saw more opportunities becoming available to them here in the UK which led to families spreading to all parts of the country.
Children went to local government schools and independent schools. In fact, we all settled nicely within the communities. Every person who arrived here in the UK worked hard whilst also continuing to provide financial support back in Haryana. I would say that it was a loss to Haryana and gain to the UK.
My childhood memories of Haryana are a mixture of fondness and disgust. When I stepped out of the plane the first reaction was the heat I did not realise how hot India was. Once outside the airport I saw rundown battered taxis and remember the strange smell in the air.
These holidays meant seeing all the relations. Meeting with cousins, Uncles and Aunties was always fun. You always got overfed and spoilt. I faced a language barrier with the elderly relatives but from their eyes you can see their love for you. I am sure I must have been told off by mum for not bothering to learn hindi.
Due to the heat I would always sit by the air cooler. This was my favourite position in whosoever household I went. Regardless of location Haryana or New Delhi I remember how dirty the streets were as well as regular power cuts and restricted time to have access to running water.
Mid 80s and the 1990s UK saw change and influence of Indian culture coming to the public forefront such as in 1984 Sina Indian radio station which later had a radio DJ from Rohtak and ‘Goodness Gracious Me’ a comedy TV show in 1998.
By now people here in the UK were establishing themselves successfully and happily.
My paternal side of the family is from village Sukhrali, M.G. Road, Gurugram, Haryana. I got married in Dhaula Kuan, Defence Colony, New Delhi with Ravinder Ahlawat, great grandson of late Captain Dalpat Singh of Dhigal Village in Jhajjar district. His family was very well established in Rohtak.
My marriage was very traditional in every respect, which was very enjoyable at every stage. I especially remember the evenings of dancing and laughter and of the menfolk dressed as women dancing. Amazing participation by the villagers to high ranking officials, politicians and academics.
Late Dr. Mulk Raj Anand, distinguished famous author, Padma Bhushan awardee, especially came from Mumbai to attend the wedding.
Not wanting to be cheeky but out of all my siblings mine was the best wedding! It was literally 7 days of a ‘Good Fat Indian Wedding’ fun.
My in-laws and family in laws and their friends have been amazing. Their love, patience, understanding towards me is so precious and invaluable. I am still learning something new!
The 2000s decade especially 2010 onwards saw huge numbers of people migrating from Haryana to the UK for better employment opportunities and brighter futures for their children and that trend is still continuing. Who knows with the intended merit based system to be introduced in the UK there could be more opportunities for people from Haryana to come to the UK?
It was in summer 2016 that a Haryana meet up was organised which introduced so many newly arrived new people. I truly feel it was this function that reignited the feelings of the 1970s to meet up and showcase Haryana along with some networking. The ease and speed for group messaging and communication, by WhatsApp fuelled this momentum of staying connected.
Due to work commitment I was not able to attend Haryana Pravasi in January 2017, however the largest number of international attendees came from the UK! This event mainly catapulted the 1st generation Haryanvi abroad who showcased their dances and business ideas.
The usual Haryana Day, India’s Independence Day, Diwali, Teej, Holi and many other functions have been held at various events ranging from London, Indian High Commission to Community halls, restaurants and open park grounds. It is at these events I have tried for the first time Haryanvi dishes such as Ghevar.
Interesting fact – the UK can fit 2.8 times into Texas (USA) but Texas has one Haryana Group to compare to the UK who has 4 groups, Haryana Association UK, Haryana in UK Association, Jat Samaj UK and Jaats, UK.
Is it egos or for personal gains or for social community reasons that UK has numerous Haryana related groups? I have tried to attend many functions as and when it happens. Each events have been successful. Despite the goodwill shown by Haryanvi group organisers, each function has a reputation for running on Indian Standard Time!
Numerous guest speakers have attended events for example Ex C.M. Haryana, Om Prakash Chautala and Bhupender Singh Hooda, Rahul Gandhi, Gen. Dalbir Singh Suhag, Ram Bilas Sharma, Manoj Kumar, Baba Ramdev, Saarthak Lal, Gajender Phogat, Mannu Davan (MD) and many others. Common themes at these events are food, music, quizzes/questions on Haryana as well as networking, Haryanvi dressing up and gossiping!
2nd Generation Immigrants
Referring myself as a 2nd generation of Indian migrant implies connection to ancestral Indian/Haryana heritage. People like myself and subsequent generations born in the UK deem ourselves as British as truthfully we never migrated.
Now turning to 3rd and 4th generation who were born in UK. Majority are doing professionally well. I have two gorgeous professional grown up sons who are 3rd generation. They have been fortunate enough to have travelled to India a dozen times.
Yes, they are familiar with Indian and native cuisine but they do not know their heritage language, admittedly this is becoming a common factor amongst this generation. Being their mum, who am I to complain as I can neither read or write Hindi.
But it’s nice to see this third generation in the UK meeting up socially whenever feasible but maybe not as much as their grandparents did decades earlier.
For a number of reasons, such as more mixed racial marriages, better opportunities and life standards here in UK compared to what India has to offer; such as issues related to infrastructure, environment and other factors I personally feel that 2nd and future generations of Indian immigrant, may find it hard to carry the torch of Indian/Haryanvi culture here in the UK or return to their ancestral home, India.
However, we must not say never as in these global times jobs &/or family can take you anywhere worldwide.
I believe it will be the new immigrants from Haryana, with the help of digital technologies, that will have the energy and drive to continue to preserve the Haryanvi culture in UK by attending events, be involved with networking and assist/help when needed.
Since 2016 I have joined numerous WhatsApp groups, which ironically even now discuss issues that were raised by the immigrants from almost 40 years earlier. But today’s modern technology has made it easier to instantly communicate messages and events across the country and to the world.
It was in autumn 2017 that I became proactively involved and interested with matters relating to Haryana in India or abroad. I became a team member of an organisation named Global Haryana (International NRI platform which connects Haryanvi living abroad).
My outlook, views and understanding are so different to 1st generation Immigrant Haryanvis. But the lesson which we all can learn is to leave behind the worst that each culture and traditions has given and concentrate on the positive and beneficial aspects that can be implemented and adjusted to where you currently live.
Haryana is attempting to position itself globally but progressive and positive change is so needed economically and socially. I truly feel if the infrastructure and lifestyle that we enjoy and have in the UK is available in India, so why would anyone want to leave Haryana or India?