Originally broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2011
As India’s economy has boomed, many British Indians – born or brought up in the UK to immigrant Indian parents – have been encouraged to make the reverse journey. In two programmes Hardeep Singh Kohli visits the busy centres of Bangalore and Mumbai and tracks down some of those who have decided to change their lives and make a go of it in India. But do they see themselves as Indian or British? What do they relish and what do they miss?
In the first programme Hardeep is in Bangalore – centre for IT, finance and outsourcing – where he meets is Nina Bual. She arrived in India on a one-way ticket, having become fed up with her PR job in London. Now she is a successful entrepreneur running four spas. The second returnee decided on an unlikely venture – to open a French patisserie with his French wife. This is Shashi Halai from Finchley and together they have expanded their business to pizzas and quiches – and not a curry in sight.
Many of the returnees work for major international companies, who find Bangalore offers the chance to expand into the huge Indian market. One of these is Rajiv Sagar. His wife gave up her UK job and they and their 2 children moved to one of the prestige gated communities. Once past security you enter a world of manicured lawns and ordered comings and goings – totally unlike the rest of the heaving city. The Sagar’s will eventually be moving back, but that’s not the case for Sati and Priti Joshi who have put down firm roots, bought a house, and committed themselves – but adapting to life in India is not easy, and the ever-present custom of bribes, is something they fight against.
In the second programme Hardeep is in Mumbai – 20 million people crammed into this coastal centre offering everything from Bollywood to Banking. One of the most successful British entrepreneurs is Nanesh Patel who from his factory in Leicester managed to export samosas to Chennai. So successful and so tasty was their reception that he built a factory in Gujerat and now sends them throughout India and the world. An equally successful export is the rap singer Hard Kaur. Born in India she came with her mother and brother to Birmingham when she was 12 and started singing after leaving school. But, as she tells Hardeep, it was the Indian fans that have made her a huge star, and though she returns to visit her mother in Birmingham, Mumbai is her base.
There’s also Anita Patel from Leicester who’s running her wedding planner service taking couples to glamorous locations, and Yusuf Hatia who’s set up a public relations company from scratch and feels the dynamism and energy.
Would Hardeep join these and the others who have taken the plunge and sought new opportunities in India? He tests his own talents as a stand-up performer when he does a gig at the Mumbai Comedy Store, an offshoot of the London centre for stand-up comedians and aimed at the young liberal Mumbai middleclass. If they laugh loud and long enough, would he be tempted…
Produced by Richard Bannerman & Ladbroke Productions (Radio) Ltd for BBC Radio 4
N.B. Some audio has been edited from the original broadcast version due to copyright restrictions