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«The third generation of Indians in Britain Cultural identity and cultural change Vorgelegt von: Abgabedatum: 16.10.2008 Judith Frübing 1. Gutachter: ...»

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2.1 The Sample The study was conducted in London and consists of two major samples. One group, twentyfive respondents, are affiliated to sampradayas (guru-led Hindu movements), fifteen of them belonged to the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) and ten to the Sai Baba Movement. The other group of teenagers, namely twenty respondents, take part in the Duke of Edinburgh Award programme at the Brent youth service.25 Another eight youngsters were interviewed at length. Sampling as such was helpful because it allows comparing young British Indians who are strongly affiliated to a religious group with others who are not. This offers a wider and balanced perspective on the British Indian youth.

However, it was not proved whether teenagers of the Brent sample are affiliated to a particular sect (Appendix 5).

Northwest London, particularly the borough of Brent including Wembley and Willesden, was chosen as the main place for the research (most youngsters of the ISKCON sample also live in the area or in Harrow). Despite its huge Indian community and despite being a centre of Indian life in Britain, it is an ethnically very divers borough.26 After Leicester Brent is the second-highest concentration of Indians in Britain (Anwar 1998, 21). Unlike Southall which is majority Punjabi Sikh, Brent’s Indians are from diverse backgrounds. Nevertheless, East Frübing, 40 African Hindus originating from Gujarat constitute the majority of Brent’s Indian population (Storkey 1996: 211). Consisting mainly of semi-detached and terraced houses, Brent is an area in which people are comparatively well-off; the majority belongs to the middle-class.

The study focused on children growing up in a middle-class ethnically mixed environment because it was expected that they do not suffer from structural discrimination through factors of class or place; and thus are more open towards British culture. The cosmopolitan background and the lack of structural discrimination allow the youngsters to choose their cultural outlook, orientation and identity. The borough of Merton, including Wimbledon, Merton and Morden (where the Sai Baba Centre is located) and Brent can be structurally compared. However, Wimbledon and its neighbouring boroughs towards the southwest are less ethnically mixed as Brent.

The sample consisted of 21 male and 32 female respondents for the questionnaires. 76% were between 13 and 18 years old. The respondent’s parents originated from East Africa, India and Sri Lanka. In contrast, most grandparents originated from the Indian subcontinent, which reflects the movements of the Indian diaspora in the 20th century. Concerning the social background of the respondents the sample confirms “the Indian success story.” About half of the parents work in professional, managerial or technical occupations which often demand a degree and are generally well-paid. One third works in manual or non-manual skilled jobs. Only few parents are employed in unskilled or partly skilled positions (Appendix 5.4). Interestingly, only few mothers stay at home. Still, women tend to do social jobs working in education, the National Health Service or care.

However, one has to be careful with these results. Indians are very concerned about status;

some answers to questions on professions may be embellished. Many answers like manager or businessmen neither tell us what the father manages, how much money he earns nor how many and what kind of skills are required. Probably, many teenagers do not exactly know their parent’s profession. It is also unclear whether the parent actually works in that profession. A mother may be a doctor or an accountant but actually stay at home in order to care for the family. Nevertheless, the results give us a general overview over the family’s social position. One can derive that almost all families are settled in Britain working in good positions. British Indian Hindus have generally been successful in the British school system (National Statistics). Most importantly the data confirms that the teenagers who took part in the survey are not marginalized. Nearly all of the respondents were Hindu, apart from two Muslims, one Jain and one Buddhist.27 Frübing, 41 In addition to the 54 questionnaires four longer interviews were conducted with three girls and five boys. Two interviews were conducted in the Sai Baba Centre in Merton, one in the ISKCON’s Radha Krishna temple in central London and one in a Brent Gujarati Community Centre, namely the Dudden Hill Community Centre.

Pradeep,28 who was interviewed at ISKCON’s Radha Krishna temple, was at 22 one of the eldest in the survey. His mother grew up in Britain though born in Delhi. His father is American but the marriage failed. He is now living with a white British stepfather. The family is of Hindu Vaisnava tradition. Originating from a high social background, they have become quite affluent through being highly qualified and fulfilling leading positions in Information Technologies.

Being a graduate student as well, Ranjitham is also 22 years old. Her parents as well as her grandparents originate from Sri Lanka. However, her mother was born in Malaysia, where her grandparents still live. Her father being an engineer and her mother a nurse, the family can afford to send both children to a public school and to university. She was interviewed as part of the Sai Baba sample at the Sai Baba Centre in Merton.





Veeran and Ravanan are affiliated to the Sai Baba movement as well. Both are 15 years old and their families originate from Sri Lanka. Their parents are in the professional category and both attend public schools. Like Ranjitham’s parents their parents have come to Britain for studying.

In the second group interview two girls, Sheela and Madayanti, and two boys, Rajesh and Vikram have been questioned at the Dudden Hill Community Centre in Brent. They all take part in Gujarati language classes which the centre runs. Both girls are 14 and the boys 13 and 16 years old. All of them originate from Gujarat, but parts of Sheela’s and Rajesh’s family have come from East Africa. Living in Brent their parents work in skilled, managerial or technical positions.

Apart from Sheela, whose grandparents have passed away and Ranjitham, whose grandparents live in Malaysia, all interviewed teenagers see their grandparents on a regular basis if not every day.

2.1.1 The Sampradayas

–  –  –

they all have more precise and defined structures and teachings than traditional Hinduism.

Therefore they have a stronger stand in the diaspora (Nesbitt 2007: 51). Encouraging their members to regularly take part in congregational activities, they build communities and offer a social space which does not exist as such in traditional Hinduism with its rather individual worship. However, this social aspect of religion strengthens ethnicity and cultural identity. Most sects publish their own materials and books and run some kind of educational programme. Both ISKCON and Sathya Sai Baba offer publications and educational courses in English. They also have a special youth organization. These things are important in the diaspora as they offer guidance, understanding, meaning and a stronger sense of identification for young British Indians. Consequently, sampradayas attract more and more young Hindus in Britain. (Nesbitt 2007: 68, Carey 1987: 83-84, Lyon 1997: 5) ISKCON and the Pandava Senas The Hare Krishna movement is generally ethnically mixed as a consequence of its history, which started in the West. Its particular beliefs cannot be explained in the scope of this work. However, it is important to notice that the devotional concentration on Lord Krishna and on the worship of the founder of the movement Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada involve a strict ritual order and discipline as well as a strong focus on study and selfimprovement (Nesbitt 53). Operating world-wide, the movement is highly organized. Its publications are translated in many languages, and connections are not only held to India but to all other places in the world. Hence, ISKCON is influential in Hinduism, particularly in the West. The London temple as well as the Bhaktivedanta Manor north of London is visited by pilgrims from all over the world. This and the missionary activities of the movement explain its great openness towards others. Worship mainly takes place in a congregational manner and the temples offer a wide range of community services and activities. For this reason as well as because of its universalism and its attempts to relate Hinduism to a modern life, ISKCON attracts more and more Indians in the diaspora (Carey 1987: 83-84).

The movement is particularly successful among the more affluent and privileged of the British Indian population (Carey 1987: 82). Especially East African Indians have been drawn towards the movement. They are accustomed to regular worship at the temple and did not find other facilities in British towns. (Carey 1987: 86-89) Frübing, 43 The Pandava Sena, ISKCON’s youth organization, was created in 1994 by a group of young Hindus. Their aim was to make Hinduism and Krishna Consciousness interesting for young people.

Pandava Sena realised the need for a spiritual revolution in the youth. Spiritual values, teachings and practices were in short supply, and where they did exist they were irrelevant or simply just too boring for a younger generation. The Pandava Sena began organising and creating festivals, retreats, music, dramas, discussions, presentations, debates etc to carry a simple and relevant message to the youth (ISKCON Pandava Sena).

The Pandava Senas share this history with other Hindu youth groups, which are often sect related. They are all committed to the practice of religion and to the maintenance of cultural heritage. Shukla argues that they thereby satisfy an exclusive and nationalist understanding of Indian identity (Shukla 2003: 233). Certainly, Hindu youth groups offer identifications with Indian culture apart from copying their parents and provide a self-confident affirmation of Hinduism. ISKCON’s scriptures, activities and preachings give a moral and religious orientation to the young people shaping social and personal identities. This shows that “sectarian commitment and socialization may prove to be a powerful instrument in the

process of identity management for future generations of Hindus in Britain.” (Carey 1987:

93) On the example of ISKCON’s Pandava Sena one can see that a creative redefinition of religion and ethnicity has taken place among the Hindu youth. They are connecting and merging religious tradition with cultural elements of a western youth culture. In this way ISKCON attracts more and more young British Indians. Not all parents and community leaders are in favour of this development. Firstly, some families fear that children favour religious life to academic and economic success. Further, the movement has been criticized for its Krishna-centric view, which could lead to fanaticism. (Carey 1987: 97-98)

Sathya Sai Baba, the Bal Vikas and the Youth Wring at the Sai Mandir Wimbledon



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