Arrival of the native

Ethno-entrepreneurship gets cracking as the well-settled generation of Non-Resident Indians begins to accumulate culture.

Invented India has begun to encroach on the cultural landscape of London. The West End musical, Bombay Dreams, produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber (Jesus Christ Superstar), The Really Useful Group and Shekhar Kapur, has begun its run at the Apollo Victoria where tickets range from £14 to £40. The musical track of Monsoon Wedding is selling briskly at Tower Records on Piccadilly Street. At the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), the exhibition "Cinema India: The Art of Bollywood" opened on 26 June and will continue till 6 October this year. Tube stations across the city sport posters of one or another Bollywood-related 'event'.

In this new outbreak of culture, India has been abridged to a caricature from Bollywood, whose allure now matches that of yoga as a niche-market commodity. The crowds that throng to rediscover India are not drop-out flower children looking for karma, dharma, ganja and themselves. It is a clean-cut mob of Anglo-Saxon yuppies seeking ethnic discovery, and angst-ridden, identity-starved British Indians who are never allowed to forget the roots they cannot have. The first generation Indian immigrant was too preoccupied with the accumulation of assets to be diverted by trifles. For the well-settled generation that has come of age, it is time to balance the account and accumulate culture. Pedigree is the wannabe's sign of arrival, and this ethnically pastless generation has turned to the figments of Bollywood imagination to invent the realities of its forgotten homeland. In the process, this enforced nostalgia gives ethno-entrepreneurship a promising bottom line.

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Himal Southasian