Living An English Dream

England: The Land Where The Sun Never Rises


It was not so long ago that I graduated from Kurukshetra University as a computer engineer. Like any ordinary graduate I was very ambitious. I was even more excited when I got my first job in a multinational IT company based in Janakpuri, Delhi. Somewhere deep inside, I had dreamt of living an exciting life and I had a feeling in my gut that studying MBA in the United Kingdom could fulfil the same. I came to the UK in January 2009, which was a drastic climatic change as I had experienced heavy snow for the first time in my life.  People around me were of a different colour and they surely had a different way of thinking, as after spending 21 years of my life in a state like Haryana, I was supposed to be crude in my thoughts.  It can be understood from the fact that I was a firm supporter of marriages within same castes, male dominant, a bit biased towards South Indians etc. (I am really not proud of that).

Studying in the UK

In January 2009 I had reached Heathrow airport where I struggled to find the right terminal for the bus to Northampton. I met a lady there and requested for help, and believe me she walked with me for half an hour to make sure that I was at the right place and that we make an announcement for the university bus.  I was amazed at such a kind gesture and it left me with a nice impression. I made loads of friends at the university, basically from India, Europe, China, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Studying MBA at the University of Northampton in 2009-10 provided me a platform which I was missing back in India, i.e. synthesize expressiveness. It was the time when I had to struggle the hardest in my life to achieve a balance. On one hand, I was struggling to find a job on the side to support myself; on the other, I was undergoing a transformation of thoughts in an open society. Studying in a university where I was around people from more than 100 countries, who spoke more than 75 different languages, was definitely an advantage. It helped me eradicate stereotypes from my mind. For example, I used to hate the Chinese because of the Indo-Sino war in 1962, which went away when I had a Chinese girlfriend. I have observed how love can vanquish all differences.

I had my first unpleasant experience in February 2009 when one of my housemates, who was an English student, called me a “slum dog” because he ws offended by a little mess in the living room.  Later on he did apologise but I think it was the very first time in my life that I had been verbally abused by someone.  While walking on the street several times people called me “Paki” as well.

The first thing I was taught at University was to stay away from stereotypes, work on adjustment, be business minded and manage the perceptions of people. Somehow I did realize that I am not only an individual in England but I’m also carrying the identity of an “Asian” with me. When I used to think about why these things happen with Asians I always concluded that it had something to do with the perception of locals. In March 2010 one of my friends faced a racial attack at Northampton Town Center, when a few English guys bashed a bottle on his jaw. He was admitted to the hospital and he received a little compensation from the British government too. On the other hand, I was a member of the social anxiety group which was hosted by Ruth, who was a very good friend of mine. I found lot of care and love from people in that group.

Though I find myself a highly insignificant entity on the canvas of English society but being a strong and independent man, I have ignored most of the negatives and kept only the positive thoughts with me. I got a two month internship with a local company in Northampton, which I enjoyed a lot and finished on a happy note. I had also published a few research articles alongside, in Operations Management. An interesting thing about the UK employment system is that when we apply for a job they do ask for racial background information of the candidate, which helps them in making an informed decision.

Later in June 2011, I was hired by University of Northampton as a consultant in Logistics. I was happy as my IT and management skills were appreciated in the interview. It made me feel professionally successful, as all my hard work had paid off, but that was not the end. The organization I was placed in a consultant as (BACA Safety & Workwear, Northampton), was an SME and a family business. It was a traditional organization managed by people of a Christian faith. I was surprised that out of a staff of 40 members, 39 of them were white (English) and only one of them was of African origin. On the third day of my joining, the director, Lewis Calder, of the company explained the story of the black slave and the blacksmith to me. In his story, he elaborated on how a black slave has to focus on his own work, without using his mind, to keep his master (the blacksmith) happy. Other than that, his opinion towards Indians was, again, that of slum dogs. It reminded me of the incidence which I had faced two years ago. Anyway, later on his son, who was the general manager of the company, apologised to me for the incidence.

It was not sufficient to leave it at that. In March 2012, in another conversation on business expansion in India, Mr Lewis explained to me that the British had given trains, irrigation systems and postal services to Indians but now they realized that they have given it to dogs. Surely it was the worst experience I ever had in my life. That was the time when my self-respect was hurt. I had taken the matter to my employer, The University of Northampton, and I received apologies and sympathy, but nothing substantial. Because of this behaviour, I had gone off sick in August 2012 to seek justice. Unfortunately the laws in the UK are highly crippled and incapable of protecting people from different races. It simply says, “Nothing is Possible”, when it comes to justice. It is interesting to see that the UK Department of Justice declared that the figures of race-related incidences are going low (Reference 3). However, when it comes to lodging a complaint for the same, the nexus of police, citizen advice bureau and employer start walking away from the matter.

The UK is an expert in marketing itself as a saviour of human rights and I myself am a member of organizations such as British Red cross and Change.Org which help people in developing countries. It’s an irony that when inequality is exposed in the UK itself, all organizations start walking away from the issue. In an English society one can get a good job if he or she adopts a Christian name (Reference 1).  On one hand, the British Government formally agrees to the fact that multiculturalism is a failure in the UK, whereas on the other, it never ever tried to look at its crippled laws which are a huge disaster when it comes to protecting the rights of minorities. I believe there is certainly a need of so-called introspection somewhere. Loads of people may disagree with me but that is what I have faced for the past four years, and I find this situation to be like a maze, which is as complicated as the UK’s double standards towards human rights.

Now I can understand how dangerous it can be, keeping perceptions and stereotypes in mind.  I would not like to be the one who adds burden onto my own back, but all I would like to say is that unless we do not admit that there is an issue, it is always hard to diagnose it.  I can see that this attitude of the British government would widen the gap between communities instead of filling it up.

Abhey Sharma



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