Blind to the oriental enrichment that pervades our lives

15th September 1995 at 01:00
If proof were needed that the silly season is not over, it is The TES publishing the letter from Michael Groves questioning the oriental influence on British society.

To list all the influences would fill your next issue and be outside my scope, but consider a few: soap and shampoo are of Indian origin. The British must have been extremely dirty before they reached India. Perhaps Mr Groves too is unacquainted with them? Bungalows and verandas, pyjamas, jodhpurs and gymkhanas are of less significance.

Mr Groves cannot see any oriental influence on art,music or architecture. I recently visited the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, probably the most extreme example of the Regency fashion for all things oriental. The Beatles were not the only popular musicians influenced by Indian music. The post-impressionists were very much influenced by Japanese art. Paisley designs for textiles were invented in India for the British market, indeed many of the textiles we use were developed in the East. In the high-street shops last summer and this, I saw innumerable shirts and jackets shaped like the Indian kameez.

Salman Rushdie and Kazuo Ishiguro were among novelists winning major literary prizes in this country and there are many others worth reading. My Beautiful Laundrette was just one of the excellent films reflecting the presence of Asians in this country.

Mr Groves does not mention mathematics and science, but our number system is Arabic and without the mathematicians of classical Arabia we would have no zero.

Much of the oriental influence on British life and culture comes from the history of mercantile domination (the days of the East India Company) and then of Empire.

Asian people in Britain today can truly say: "We are here because you were there."

These are just a few of the contributions which oriental culture has made to the development and present nature of British society. He does not mention the African or Caribbean contribution, but I doubt if even Mr Groves can walk down any urban street and deny the Caribbean contribution to young people's fashion and music.

I pity anyone who shares Mr Groves' ignorance, and I fear it is such ignorance that Nicholas Tate's pronouncement seeks to perpetuate.

SARAH COX 214 Roundwood Road, London NW10

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