This morning I happened upon Hardeep Singh Kolhi on the radio. Nothing strange in that I suppose, I listen to BBC Radio Two most mornings.
Radio has always been my prefered media choice throughout life; it’s content can range from the inane and humorous to the serious and educational or newsworthy in an instant, with some light musical relaxation in between, by simply turning a dial or pressing a button. Radio, like a book, is strangely comforting but importantly, it can also be a great tool for inspiring thought and getting the old grey matter rumbling into action. And so begins today’s
I’ve often thought that many of our social and business failures are simply the result of our self-importance and inherent insular methodologies in life. Today there is a predominance, especially but not exclusively amongst the younger generation, to live life in the here and now of their own (often virtual) microcosm.
As children we have simple needs, desires and thoughts, we are open to new and exciting experiences, we are learning about life. But as we age we tend to be less excited about or interested in the learning process. We stop ourselves from learning, we have a tendency to get stuck in our ways and beliefs; the factors that have honed our personal traits. Our beliefs and understanding of the world around us and the people in it tend to become fixated. We look at our world through the eyes and minds that were developed throughout our formative years and upbringing. Always assuming we were fortunate enough to have parents who had the desire (and ability) to guide our development.
I tread carefully into the quagmire that is religious belief. I would describe myself as a secular Sikh; most Sikhs I know would be described as such. That’s why, generally, Sikhs can travel the globe and find a niche for themselves in most communities and countries…(Hardeep Singh Kohli)
That’s not all really such a bad thing, it makes us who and what we are however; once we reach a point where we close our minds and lose interest in learning, we run the risk of becoming bigoted. Adopting an insular state where we refuse to try to understand the culture of and/or beliefs of others. And perish the thought that our own beliefs, standards and methods should be open to scrutiny or challenge by anyone outside our miniscule existence!
It is at that point that our development (and social worth) stagnates but more worryingly, we also run the risk of becoming less tolerant to those outside our personal bubbles.
But we all need to have a sense of belonging and a purpose in life; humans are both social and tribal animals, we have an in-built need to adhere to a framework which has a distinct hierarchy of status. The difficulty for most of us is actually finding our personal ‘happy place’ in that social pecking order.
Too many people believe that their inability to move around (generally up) the social (aka financial) ladder is usually the fault of others. In many cases this desire, although often based upon simple greed, is actually incorrect. Yes our initial personal circumstances may dictate our starting point on the ladder but we can all ‘better’ ourselves if we really want to. Our personal skills, capabilities, knowledge and social skills (in general) aren’t always dictated by our circumstances or by others. In short we are who we are and what we make of our lot however; things get more difficult when you’re starting out not knowing who you really are.
As a young child my sense of self was a cultural car crash, a collision between the values of my parents and the ridicule of the playground..(Hardeep Singh Kohli)
Kohli’s childhood predicament, especially in the working-class environment and relevent poverty of 1970’s Glasgow was, according to his writing, fairly difficult. I have no reason to disbelieve what he says, despite any poetic licence of an author. But Kohli’s early life experiences were before the true realisation of the diverse and multi-cultural society we see now. Would things be any easier, harder or different today?
Then or now, we have all faced predicaments in our formative years that we have found uncomfortable or difficult; only the ultimate consequences vary in gravity. But the resulting impacts of childhood development aren’t confined solely to ethnic or religious background issues, parental influence and peer-group pressures are also massive factors to consider and understand.
Think how difficult things can be for a child bereft of any stable, capable and interested parental support during that development process?
Writing for The Independent recently, Kohli made some excellent and balanced observations about the implications of a possible Scottish devolution, something I’ve written about before (see here). Under the title A Scotland that believes in itself can be what it wants, he pointed out how Scotland as a “country once treated as a needy child is able to control its own destiny.”
Shouldn’t a similar belief be the ultimate aim and assumption for any child?
Obviously I’m not advocating that every father (or stand-in) needs to be an Alex Salmond clone, what a scary thought that would be? But Kohli rightly points out that belief and ultimate capability is always possible with genuine and meaningful guidance that is delivered with passion. I would balk at his football analogy however; Salmond managing “Scotland to win the World Cup” – that probably is an aspiration too far!
Back to the original veiled question; how deep we go into trying to understand many of today’s issues? The answer is often and unfortunately, far too shallow!
Hardeep Singh Kohli is a British writer, Radio & TV presenter and comedian. Born in London in the 1960’s, as a child Kohli moved to Scotland with his parents and grew up in Glasgow. Subsequently graduating from the University of Glasgow he went on to work for the BBC, has written for The Guardian, The Independent and from 2007-2009 Kohli wrote Hardeep is your Love, a column for Scotland on Sunday. Kohli was twice nominated as Scottish Columnist of the Year.
To read a PDF extract from Indian Takeaway: A Very British Story, please click on the following link: Where do you come from… Originally.