The wahindis are the people from Hindi backgrounds as described by the Africans from East Africa. However, the wahindis have had mixed feelings about India ever since it became independent in 1947. At the start of 1960’s India and Pakistan were the homelands of wahindi parents but not, by extension, the preferred homes of the younger generation which had grown up in the wahindi-lands or the colonial territories of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Emigration, expulsion and even repatriation became forms of departure from East Africa; dictated more by considerations of nationality or economic factors rather than by patriotism.
For many wahindi India reflected misery and destitution, dirt and dust not to mention corruption and economic mismanagement and chaos. Overcrowded cities and towns, many with poor sewage and water facilities, overcrowded railways and roads offered little incentive for migration to the Sub-Continent. However, thousands of the wahindi people from East Africa went back to India as they had no other options. However, thousands more abandoned the homeland when they acquired new gleaming passports from their new countries of adoption. In the main the wahindi were impatient with India while they became property owners and businessmen and professional practitioners in the UK, US and Canada. It was during the process of assimilation or integration into societies in the aforementioned countries that the wahindi had to make hard choices. Lord Tebbitt’s ‘cricket test’ did not work ; the wahindi supported India and Pakistan in increasing numbers when major cricket tours took place. The Sikhs, always passionate about hockey, supported India until the decline and fall of Indian hockey dampened their support. On the other hand support for cricket teams from the Sub-Continent vastly increased as they gained prominence and won matches over and over again. Sachin Tendulkar became a super hero while David Beckham only managed to get attention when a Bollywood-type film featured him and his bendy kicks shot balls into the goal.
Interest in the emerging Indian economic miracle had started to gain wahindi support around 2005 but when Indian economic growth faltered, many wahindi took reassurance from relatively strong financial sustainability in the countries of their adoption. However, for a growing number of wahindi who failed to integrate into societies in UK and North America, India became a symbol of moral and spiritual identity.
These were the major indicators of failure to support their countries of adoption:
- Many older Asians in the UK bought property in India. For some these there was always a perceived threat of expulsion from the UK. A property in India offered security just in case Britain chose to expel them; such was the fear and instability that Idi Amin had caused. Many older British Asian passport holders were convinced that they could lose their citizenship at the drop of a hat.
- Hundreds of Sikh and Hindu temples in the UK have been sending substantial donations to counterparts and charities in the Sub-Continent, sometimes illegally and knowingly against the provisions of charity law. There was a thin line here. While support for religious shrines could be justified, funding for some of the dubious causes was not .
- Support for formal educational and health projects in India was perhaps sustainable but similar causes also merit support in the UK and North America.
When dynasty- or caste and religious led politics in India had become well entrenched many wahindi turned away from the home of their parents. The young wahindi people who left East Africa from 1960 to 1972 are now approaching pensionable age. Thousands have retired. What do the demise of the Congress Party in India and the emergence of ‘the mysteriously modifying Modi’ mean for the wahindi? Modi represents hope and aspiration. Modi may unleash an economic miracle in India. Why does this matter to the wahindi? For many, Modi offers an opportunity to support India again. It will be fine to become connected with India. A potentially thriving India offers pride and hope. An emerging Indian economy under Modi which may offer higher standards of living and financial and economic opportunity in general is also attracting attention from the wahindis in the diaspora.
It may be ‘OK’ to be a supporter of India again. Growth and prosperity may bring pride and joy to the wahindi not the least because it has become easier to access 24 hour news coverage through social media and news organisations. Indian broadcasters offer dedicated programmes which are targeted at wahindi markets in Europe and North America. Life is becoming good again without leaving the comforts of the wahindi sofa in London, New York or Vancouver. Modi the moderniser may deliver the goods which have not only eluded India but also offer renewed hope to a large number of wahindi who have been running India down. Modi, they say, will build roads, railways, toilets, schools, universities and hospitals in time for the next election.
Lets give Modi a modest amount of time. Modipura will not be built in a day.