Charity Talent contest – update

We have received a large number of entries for our ‘talent contest’ to support the ‘Foodbank’ charity and promote our young talents. Many thanks to all our talents for their enthusiastic participation. The entries have been sent to independent judges for evaluation. We aim to announce the results in the next (i.e. July) Newsletter.

Until now, the Society has generated ca. £ 700 for the ‘Food Bank’ charity. Sincere thanks to its members and well-wishers for their generous support. We have been in discussion with the local ‘Foodbank’ and a leading superstore to efficiently organise this event.  We aim to transfer the ‘food materials’ to the ‘Foodbank’ in the 3rd week of July.  There is still time to make the donations so if you have missed the opportunity please spare a few moments to help the needy local community during this stressful time.  The details to make the donations are given below:

Account name: South Asian Society

Sort Code: 09-01-55

Account Number: 66415186

Reference: Your surname-Foodbank

As we head towards the Great Escape: Notes from the Editor’s Desk

Since March 23rd, when the clampdown started in England, our streets and parks have been quiet; all regular life seemed to have ground to a halt. It wasn’t easy for me, or for others, to accept this new normal. Time was elastic and seamless, and you were waiting for something to happen, to break the awful dream that you were living. We are now hearing that those states in the USA like Texas and Florida, which eased social restrictions and distancing earlier, are now facing a resurgence of cases:  we know that the virus is here, and will be with us, it is for us to be wise about our actions. This virus has no respect for borders and other socially created divides in society. WE are ALL reeling from its impact, in different ways and diverse extents. WE have faced the abrupt cessation of our everyday, taken-for-granted routines of life. Our working practices are radically being transformed, some have been canceled altogether, others face various threats and ruptures, now as well as in the future. 

But the strange eeriness of the recent past is waking up, the street noises are more discernible, the lockdown as we know it is going to change as we look forward (or not) to that which is being touted as the Great Escape from the 4th of July. More social outings, more frequent laughter of groups coming together…our communities are slowly getting back to normal, but I hope it does not come at a cost. I hope reassuring sounds of nature is not obliterated by raucous get-togethers. It has been good spending so much time together, and being at home; let us be sensible in the next phase as well.

Before we go much further, I must make clear that the views expressed in the newsletters are of the authors and do not necessarily reflect that of SAaS. I also invite articles to reach me before the 26th of the next month (i.e. July 2020) at the following email: Let us make this collective resource a big success.

Dylan’s words are still fresh in my mind: “How many years can some people exist before they’re allowed to be free? How many times can a man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn’t see?”

Keep smiling and stay safe

Smita Tripathi

Editor, SAaS Newsletter

Stay Safe: Coronavirus is a merciless killer!

In my opinion, headlines in the news media (e.g. BBC) are rightly being over-cautious while reporting deaths within South Asian communities linked to the Pandemic. Headlines such as “South Asians are most likely to die of coronavirus” have stoked fear among the South Asian community. This is particularly so, as reported death among health care workers of Asian origin is much higher compared to other populations. Although it is of high priority to focus on the safety of BAME/South Asian community especially when they represent a considerable proportion of frontline/key workers, it is indeed of utmost importance to have clarity about the issue so that appropriate approach can be adopted to identify most vulnerable members of the society.  I have been working on COVID19 with my fellow academics and researchers within the UK and elsewhere in the world (Ireland, Germany, and India). As of now, despite higher death incidence in the BAME community, there is no concrete evidence or peer-reviewed reports showing a direct association between COVID19 susceptibility and ethnicity in general. Higher mortality in the South Asian community has been linked to factors such as a higher incidence of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases or a higher risk of occupational exposure.

Scientifically, COVID19 belongs to a well-known family of coronaviruses with RNA (Ribonucleic Acid) as their genetic material. One of the mechanisms by which this virus gains entry into the host cells is via the ACE2 receptor. Recent scientific research has revealed that circulating ACE2 levels are higher in men and in patients with diabetes or cardiovascular diseases. This partly explains higher mortality in males and in patients with underlying conditions such as diabetes or cardiovascular diseases. It is well known that diabetes and its associated complications are more prevalent in people from South Asian descent; however, this cannot be construed to generate general headlines reported by media outlets.  It could be assumed that diabetic individuals from any ethnic background with comparable lifestyles would be equally likely to succumb to COVID19. Socio-economic and socio-cultural factors including maintenance of social distancing due to cultural traditions and economic deprivation are likely to be key determinants in mortality associated with COVID19 patients within the BAME community. In addition, it would be important to thoroughly examine the patient data sets from both BAME and other communities. This should include multiple factors such as economic disparities, cultural factors, and quality of life. It may emerge that healthy individuals or individuals with underlying conditions from any ethnic backgrounds and similar professional and economic status are equally likely to have COVID19.  In this context, I would refer to an article recently published in “The Guardian” by Dr. Winston Morgan, a Clinical Biochemist (University of East London), stating that “Structural Racism” is the key underlying cause of high mortality in BAME community.  Given the reported higher mortality among the South Asians, it is indeed a time for introspection within policymakers and managers for taking positive steps to identify the underlying scientific risk factors and work practices to improve quality of life and avoiding undesirable exposures of COVID19 within the community. While the media generalisation should be taken with a pinch of salt, the communities need to be vigilant to follow government rules to protect themselves from this merciless killer! ‘Stay safe’!

Dr Vikram Sharma

Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences, University of Plymouth

Disclaimer: We accept no liability for any errors, omissions, or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them. The opinions expressed in this post are solely the author’s own views and do not necessarily represent the views of our society. Out attempt is to provide a platform for community members to share their views, reflections, and opinions through our website.

‘Maa’, why aren’t I white?

“Maa, why aren’t I white?” I asked, 5 years old. It wasn’t something that I had ever thought about until another child had pointed it out. It didn’t make sense to me, because in my mind I was just like everyone else – I was white.

Having had very few brown people around me, except my family, I didn’t realise the subtle effect this has had on me. It wasn’t until I went to university that I was truly confronted with the reality of it. The sudden diversity that I was thrown into in London, gave me unprecedented volumes of comfort and relief. That I could blend into the melting pot of races and cultures. That I was no longer one of just a handful of BAME students in my school, but one of a larger number. That I no longer felt I had to represent both myself and my entire culture to others – I could just be myself. That I now had many brown friendships, where we have a shared understanding of experiences as second-generation immigrants that didn’t require constant explanation.

Only now have I reflected on the experiences I had growing up in Plymouth and how they have shaped me into the person I am. Fortunately, outright racist comments or acts committed against me – like local teenagers throwing stones at our house, to the man behind us in McDonald’s loudly announcing that we should “go back to where we came from” – were few and far between. I consider myself incredibly lucky, as I know that this isn’t the experience of many people of colour in this country.

Microaggressions made up the majority of my experiences. Being made fun of for having a ‘moustache’ in primary school, to strangers asking where I “really come from”, to teachers constantly mispronouncing my name despite my corrections (or sometimes just coming to my name in the register before exclaiming “I’m not even going to try and pronounce that”). I’d be lying if I said all these things didn’t have an impact on the way I thought about myself and my culture. For years, I was ashamed of being different – being embarrassed to wear traditional attire, to speak to my parents in Hindi in public, or of my parents’ Indian accent. Much of adolescence involves a desperate desire to fit in, and being of a different race to the majority makes it so much harder to do so.

It wasn’t just the local community that affected me. Just switching on the TV, or reading books, or in films – it was rare to find a British brown girl. Representation in media matters because it reflects our society. If you aren’t represented, your society does not value you. A certain cognitive dissonance appeared particularly in my former years, where I simply didn’t believe that my skin was that dark. I had subconsciously subscribed to the eurocentric beauty ideals that I had been surrounded with. Even in later adolescence when I eventually did recognise my features as being different, I couldn’t see the beauty in my dark complexion or my thick eyebrows. It is only in recent years that I have begun to try to undo that damage. To become proud of my culture and heritage, to admire the bravery of my parents who uprooted their lives in India to move across the world to a country that was likely much more intolerant then than it is now. I have decided to love the richness of my skin and the features which I have inherited from my ancestors. I still have a lot of work to do, but I believe my journey of re-engaging with this part of my identity is still only just beginning.

Miss Anjali Jha

Medical Student

Disclaimer: We accept no liability for any errors, omissions, or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them. The opinions expressed in this post are solely the author’s own views and do not necessarily represent the views of our society. Out attempt is to provide a platform for community members to share their views, reflections, and opinions through our website.