South Asian History Month: Dr Santosh Mudholkar
16 July, 2020
Do you think there is enough awareness and appreciation of South Asian culture in Britain? What changes would you like to see?
The South Asian sub-continent has geographically diverse landscapes. If one looks at India alone it has lofty Himalayas in the North to the desert of Rajasthan, Sindh, the plains of central India, the Deccan plateau and beautiful coastal strip with its coconut plantation and pristine beaches. The region has a long history going back several centuries of rich cultural heritage, traditions and customs and ethnic diversity. Just in India alone there are 15 commonly spoken languages and around 150 different dialects, a wide variety of ethnic cuisines and people following differing faiths.
Awareness of South Asian culture is gradually increasing in Britain largely due to Asian diaspora who reside here but also due to globalisation and easy of International travel and tourism. Asian cuisines have certainly made their mark in major U.K. cities, and there is a growing awareness of Indian music and commercial Indian cinema (often referred to as Bollywood).
Is there anything significant about South Asian culture that you would like to see become more mainstream?
The positive health benefits of Yoga and meditation are now slowly being recognised globally but not yet fully reached mental health service users in NHS. "Yoga" is a Sanskrit word which signifies the union of mind and body. The word “Meditation” equates to “dhayana”. There is a wonderful opportunity to roll out Yoga and mediation as treatment within mental health services along with adopting healthy dietary habits.
Mental health service users should also have the choice of Asian cuisine and be able to access regional music on their television if they are admitted to mental health units.
How can we celebrate South Asian History Month and honour people who are part of the community?
Britain’s association with Asia dates to early 18th century with the formation of East India Company (EIC) and subsequent British colonial rule which lasted for over 175 years in British India (which included Pakistan and Bangladesh). Since its inception in 1948, now 72 years back NHS has relied heavily on International doctors, historically, a large proportion of whom are from Asian sub-continent.
Over the years each successive generation of doctors from South Asia have played a significant part in its success by taking up difficult to fill posts in far-flung places up and down the country. A lot of these posts were in undesired areas and in sub-specialities, where local English graduates were unwilling to live and work. So, NHS and Mental Health services, in general, owe South Asian psychiatry colleagues a lot for enabling expansion of mental health services in the U.K. Around a third of psychiatrists are from South Asian countries.
I am pleased that RCPsych is acknowledging and recognising the contribution of psychiatrists from South Asian sub-continent by celebrating South Asian History Month. It is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the contribution, success stories of medical leadership, jobbing clinicians, academics and researchers in the field of mental health from South Asian diaspora. I would like to thank Mr Paul Rees, Chief Executive of RCPsych and Dr Adrian James, President, Royal College of Psychiatrists for their support for this event.