By: Dr. Atul Keshavji Shah
Born in the small town of Mombasa in Kenya, and with the culture of Jainism on my doorstep, I was hugely fortunate. All I can remember about my childhood was fun and being a part of a huge community - there was no sense of me or I. Until I came here at the age of 18. To say I got a culture shock is to put it mildly. Like most immigrants, I was in awe of Britain, but Britain was certainly not in awe of me. I have just written a book called 'Celebrating Diversity' which tells the story of my experiences. How I gave to so many organisations and groups voluntarily and selflessly - for me it was a natural instinct to build and nurture communities. However, I had great difficulties in workplaces, where my enthusiasm aroused suspicion and became threatening to others. Nobody helped or guided me to 'fit in'. Although Britain offers huge opportunities, there are also real glass ceilings, and even though today there is so much legislation about race equality and diversity, most workplaces are breaking the law and getting away with it. It does not realise that among its citizens are some beautiful ancient cultures which can help solve their problems. They are majority cultures even though they may be 'ethnic minorities'. Jainism is definitely one such culture.
I want to help build a better Britain, to educate about the timeless Indian values and to show that there are alternative arts and sciences which are worth knowing even though they may not have white or western origins. Vegetarianism has three thousand year old roots, but very few people would know it today. White media are restricting coloured wisdom. However at the grassroots level, there is a real level of interest and desire to learn. I am determined to educate and raise awareness about Indian values and wisdom for the 21st century.