Conversations on Identity

Identity in second or third generation diaspora of Indian origin seemed to be a recurring theme in the discussions of the group which had organized itself for a 10 week program at the Indian Community Centre-Sukh Sagar at San Gjwann,Malta.

The program was focussed on raising awareness of emotional intelligence through Yoga.

The program coordinator is Mamta Bhatt  who trained at Yoga Institute, Santacruz, Mumbai, India the oldest organized institute of Yoga anywhere in the world and a RYT 500 Yoga Instructor affiliated to Yoga Alliance (USA) and International Association of Yoga Therapists(IAYT-USA). The present group represented the third such batch which has undergone training at the Centre.




An Anthropology of ourselves

One of the previous workshops had focussed on the theme of Self esteem

While seeing the responses one was reminded of the Mass Observation Anthology initiated by Tom Harrison and a heterogeneous group of middle-class leftish intellectuals in 1937 in Davenport, Bolton. The program helped bring forward some of the lingering issues within the Maltese community of Indian Origin regarding the fusion culture and identity evolving in the next generations. The President of the Indian Community-Mr.Michael Mohan Bharwani acknowledged that the vision of the founding fathers of the Sukh Sagar Community centre to provide a platform to engage in cultural activities, structured programs was carried forward by this program centered around Yoga.

Origins and Establishment of the Indian Business community in Malta

The sociologist Mark Anthony Falzon explored the origins and development of the Maltese Indian community in an interesting article (Bank of Valletta review, Nov 24, Autumn 2001) which locates the Indians of Malta within the wider historical and geographical framework within which they belong.  All Indian traders living and working in Malta belong to the Bhaiband jati within the Hindu Sindhi ethno-linguistic group. Locally they are known simply by the generic term ‘l-Indjani (‘the Indians’)- this is due to the fact that , as opposed to places such as London or Bombay, there are no significant populations of Indians from other ethnic groups to compare them with. The article tells of three waves of migration, the first was after the British Annexation of Sind in 1843, the second after the 1947 Independence and  partition and the third wave is the economic migrants starting from 1970s to present. These have been divided into “Trade diaspora” of 19th century, the second was the direct result of the political and social strife that came with the partition of India and the third migration is the ‘economic diaspora’ which has seen millions of people move out of the subcontinent in search of opportunity.

Those interested in the details can go through Falzon’s well researched article.

However, since the article was written in 2001 there has been some change in the composition of the Indian diaspora with people of other Indian ethnic groups coming the stay, work, educate in Malta.

The Final program-26th February 2012

There were sessions of guided meditation, demonstration of Yoga Asanas by the participants in the program, skits to demonstrate aspects of attitude through everyday examples. Some  jokes were also put in to lighten the atmosphere.

The program coordinator provided a platform to students to lead and show what they had learnt in the past weeks.

A heterogeneous group

The heterogeneity of the group, with  mature persons of different walks of life, from different nationalites come together centre enhanced the experience for the participants.

Virpi, a physiotherapist of Finnish origin helped to expand concepts teaching students exercises for back ache.

Esmeralda, a Maltese ballerina led the group through a dance and also made persons more aware of their own body.

Generations and proposal of having cultural education

There were at least four different age groups, the children, the young, the middle aged and the older generations who will all be having their own issues and needs. Future programs can keep this in mind.

Talking of generations one experienced person told of a proposal of  around 20 families contributing towards having an educator who will give instruction on various aspects of culture. However, as this required a regular monetary contribution (around 50 Euros a month-600 a year) the idea did not take concrete shape.

Adopting projects in communities back home

Identity was a recurring theme of concern and discussion.

This can be fostered by planning to adopt certain projects in communities in their country of origin. If this is done in a programed manner rather a one-time monetary contribution, one can follow the progress of the project and develop a sense of identity.

Helping new immigrants

This is not a Sindhi group, but for the entire Indian community, one veteran who is one of the main energies behind organizing said.

How can more people be involved?

Students and newer immigrants who are professionals can be given structured guidance regarding immigration issues, visa rules and how to integrate in the community.

A friendship centre and reading groups

The local Maltese and European communities can be involved in structured programs like Yoga. In addition, having a calendar around issues like civil liberties can be made. One interesting person whom I met and has done a lot in this field is Father Mintoff.

While driving to “The Peace Lab” at Hal-Far I told my friend David Milner about the roots of the civil rights movement, the intellectual and spiritual forefathers of Gandhi,  Leo Tolstoy and Henry Thoreau and how the American civil rights movement was influenced by writers like Zora Neale Hurston , James Baldwin.

Forming such reading groups, will add intellectual depth.

To buttress our understanding we are trying to go into specifics of meanings.


Gita Readings: Dictionary project :Meanings of words from scriptures

Sankhya Yoga- System of self-realization, primary emphasis is laid on the direct perception of the Universal self through constant meditation.

To read the full article

Fusion Identity and moving forward

It is a work in progress, through immigrant communities of different backgrounds and issues but an interesting conversation has started.

The next series of worshops will commence on 18th March,2012 .


About prashant bhatt

A psychologist, interested in mindfulness practices. I practiced medicine as a radiologist for 23 years in India and Libya as a radiologist before shifting to Canada. A regular diarist, journaling since 1983 Reading journal :
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12 Responses to Conversations on Identity

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  9. Stuart Schaar says:

    Prashant, My book with your article in it just came out. Please resend the best place
    to mail the book. Best, Stuart Schaar

  10. Sagar Bhatt says:

    A very interesting article on culture; interacting with people of different cultures affects identity in a positive way and teaches a lot!

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