April 28, 2022

The Boy With The Topknot

I made 36 highlights while reading The Boy With The Topknot by Sathnam Sanghera. The book will give you insights into British Indians.
  • I stayed true to three fundamental tenets of middle-class London life: never confess to religiosity (you may as well confess to paedophilia); never admit to being impressed by a celebrity you've met (you may as well confess to paedophilia); always moan about your job (it seems the price of a flash job in your twenties is self-loathing).

  • I obeyed the three fundamental tenets of my Sikh household: never confess to religious doubt (you may as well confess to paedophilia); never get annoyed with repeatedly explaining what you do for a living (unless you're a doctor or an IT consultant, they won't understand); and never admit to a male relative that you don't want a drink.

  • I know it's fashionable nowadays to lay claim to a miserable youth, to confess to having been fed cat litter and posted off to Pakistan at thirteen to get forced into a marriage with a moustachioed uncle. But I had a happy childhood and was pleased with the fact.

  • For a while, we were poor. We were poor in the way that Punjabi immigrants are poor. In other words, not really.

  • Like most Indians on our street, we even owned our house. In the seventies, my parents bought it for a few hundred pounds; we had no debt, and rather than go hungry, we got routinely overfed.

  • You have to live with the person you love; individual happiness is everything; you can't live your life for other people.

  • The Sikh faith, founded by Guru Nanak, was liberal. It taught monotheism, the brotherhood of humanity, rejected idol worship, the oppressive Hindu concept of caste, and had tolerance at its heart. Its gurdwaras were open to anyone. It was unique in respecting other religions and other people. Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth guru, had preached equality and proclaimed that his disciples should 'recognise the human race as one'.

  • Indians always glare at other Indians.

  • I shrugged vaguely in a way that intended to convey frustration with the Punjabi obsession with status symbols.

  • I was, like lots of men, nervous about commitment.

  • Desperation can lend you a kind of courage.

  • They say it usually takes a death or birth for someone to want to know about their family history.

  • The best offering a father can make his children is himself, and in this respect, mine was fantastic.

  • That is another thing that adults often get wrong about childhood: yes, it is the most carefree time of your life, but, at the same time, if you consult the small print of your memory closely enough, you'll probably recall it was also the time you could be at your most anxious.

  • Schizophrenics do not have a 'split personality' in the Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde sense. The word derives from the Greek for 'split' and 'mind'. Specifically, it refers to disordered thought and was coined in 1911 by Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler. He observed that sufferers had difficulties sorting, interpreting and responding appropriately to stimuli.

  • How the wealthy get respected over the educated or the happy is one of the most irritating things about Punjabi culture.

  • Several studies have demonstrated that people with schizophrenia in developing countries such as India, and people from such cultural backgrounds, have a better chance of improvement.

  • I suppose I could blame the entrepreneurial streak that runs through Indian culture. We seem to fantasise about setting up businesses like other races fantasise about becoming pop stars and footballers.

  • Sometimes it's easier to be courageous when you have an audience.

  • Sikhs have the second-highest marriage rate of all religious groups in Britain (59.2 percent, after Hindus at 60.8 percent), the lowest proportion of people who have never married (27.8 per cent).

  • Like Bollywood movies, Sikh weddings aren't meant to be analysed: they are simply exercises in escapism and showing off, a mindless, albeit heartfelt, amalgamation of influences from various cultures.

  • I was regularly stunned at how little Punjabi men had to say to one another until they consumed half a bottle of whiskey each.

  • It's not about where alcohol takes you. It's about what alcohol takes you away from.

  • Here you have the difference between Indian and Western narrative methods. Not only is there more drama, but while the Western way is linear – X happened, then Y happened, and, as a consequence, there was Z – the Indian method is roundabout and circular: there was X, and Q and D, and did I mention M?

  • You could rewrite the NHS guidelines on healthy eating, replacing the word 'vegetables' with 'ghee', 'fruit' with 'red meat' and 'water' with 'beer', and you'd have a sense of what is considered healthy eating by Punjabi men.

  • The Indian obsession with marriage extends to believing it can cure mental illness. In a recent study from North India, nearly 18 percent of male students and 50 percent of female students surveyed believed mental illness could be cured by marriage.

  • I realised that what I had seen as the intellectual superiority of my peers was, in some cases, just expensive schooling.

  • He argued that raising a family was like wiping your bum after going to the loo - a private act conducted behind closed doors. You cannot do it 'normally' because you have no way of knowing what 'normal' is.

  • The single worst thing about being illiterate is how people can deny you your rights.

  • You can shut the door on the past. But, no matter how much you try to beat the present into submission, it keeps coming back at you, like those comedy birthday candles that refuse to be blown out.

  • Many horrendous diseases out there rob you of your dignity and bodily functions. But to have one that robs you of your sense of self and makes you frightened of your mind, those who you love terrified of you - there is little worse.

  • Put it another way: sometimes it's better to talk about difficult subjects rather than conceal them beneath a web of secrets and lies. And it's probably time I took my advice.

  • Indeed, when Guru Nanak established our faith, one of his motivations was to free people of the burden of caste.

  • 'Caste is worthless, and so is its name,' he wrote in the Guru Granth Sahib. 'For everyone, there is only one refuge - recognise the light, do not ask about caste.'

  • 'God is in the Hindu temple as well as in the mosque,' wrote Guru Gobind Singh.

  • Know where you come from, but don't let it stop you from becoming who you want to be.