Ziauddin Sardar - Balti Britain (5 stars)

Ziauddin Sardar - Balti Britain

Ziauddin Sardar - Balti Britain (Granta)

Balti Britain is a comprehensive and startling exploration into how Britain and India have shaped each other's fates. Ziauddin Sardar, an academic and cultural commentator, admits to his own ignorance of Asian history in the UK, which makes each of his findings seem like fresh discoveries rather than dry recountings of historical facts. His quest to find the origins of the word 'curry', for instance, is a page-turning mystery in itself.

Sardar brings the reader every step of the way around the corners of densely populated Asian communities in Glasgow, Birmingham and Bradford, and writes with an outsider's wit and intelligence about his observations. It's his compelling curiosity, driven by the universal question of identity, which creates fascinating reading for people of any origin. Typically for such an epic journey, answers to the big questions don't come without a little navel gazing, and Sardar recounts his life and family history to bring context to the Asian Diaspora. He writes with affection during touching passages about his father and life in Pakistan and these autobiographical elements balance out the denser chapters of theoretical debate.

The achievement of this book, however, is rediscovering the lost history of a complex migration that goes centuries beyond the widely known post-war influx. Cutting through imperialist psychology, Sardar seeks to unravel the true story of Mother India's connections and does so in great depth. By demystifying 'otherness,' Sardar places the accent where it belongs, in a celebration of true multiculturalism.

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