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Tushar Unadkat Part 1 / Part 1 of 2 (continued in Part 2)

Home Away from Homeland
By Tushar Unadkat

A non-resident Indian (NRI) is an Indian citizen who has migrated to another country, a person of Indian origin who is born outside India, or a person of Indian origin who resides outside India. Other terms with the same meaning are overseas Indian and expatriate Indian. In common usage, this often includes Indian born individuals (and also people of other nations with Indian blood) who have taken the citizenship of other countries.

A Person of Indian Origin (PIO) is usually a person of Indian origin who is not a citizen of India. For the purposes of issuing a PIO Card, the Indian government considers anyone of Indian origins up to four generations removed to be a PIO.

The NRI and PIO population across the world is estimated at over 30 million (not including Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan Diasporas).

The Indian government recently introduced the "Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI)" scheme in order to allow a limited form of dual citizenship to Indians, NRIs and PIOs for the first time since independence in 1947. It is expected that the PIO Card scheme will be phased out in coming years in favour of OCI.

In the past decade during my international travel, I produced a photographic research titled, 'Home away from homeland' <>

The theme of this exhibition is concerned with the experience of various generations of Indians living abroad who try to retain aspects of the life they remember before they left India. After one or two generations Indians seem to find themselves in a time warp that relates to an India that no longer exists, except in the memory of their grandparents. In some ways their way of living Indian culture is more traditional than is possible in contemporary India. Thus, through the practice of photography, a body of work is created on the theme of 'Home away from homeland'.

Picture of Indian children playing outside the Vishnu Temple, TorontoHere the word 'Indian' is used in the broadest sense and includes Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, and Sri Lankans. These images focus on the social, commercial, cultural, religious and day-to-day activities of Indians and observe the fine blending of different cultures. The intention was to capture what Indians have adapted from the West and vice-versa.

"I chose this theme because, as an Indian abroad myself, I share the concerns and experiences of my fellow exiles. I am both an observer and a subject."

As a part of the research this work has traveled around in England, Scotland, Germany, New York and Canada to compare the differences and similarities between the Indians in different parts of the West.

In 1961, the local authorities of the city of Leicester in England and Krefeld in Germany declared the cities as "twin" towns. It is said that Leicester has the largest Indian population in Europe. Hence the purpose of choosing Krefeld in Germany was to investigate the Indian community in the "twin" town of Leicester. To compare the lifestyles of the 'Indian' in different parts of the West, a study was then conducted in New York and Canada.

The work is addressed to various audiences. For example, for those Indians who cannot travel abroad, it will be an awareness-raising project that expresses the significance of their community in foreign lands. It could also target the population of different countries, to inform them about the Indians who live amongst them and their special culture.

A new flavour on this project can be seen through the images taken in India, of the Non Resident Indians (NRI). The aim of this exhibition is to establish a visually recorded history of Indians living abroad before the Millennium.

Indians in the UK

The Indian emigrant community in the United Kingdom is now in its third generation. As an immigrant group, people of Indian origin have been remarkably successful. Indians in the UK are the largest community outside of Asia percentage wise, and the second largest population wise, only surpassed by the United States.

Indian culture has been constantly referenced within wider British culture, at first as an "exotic" influence in films like 'My Beautiful Laundrette', but now increasingly as a familiar feature in films like 'Bend It Like Beckham'. Indian food is now regarded as part of the British cuisine.

According to the UK National Census, in 2008 there are likely to be well over 1,600,000 citizens of Indian origin in the UK.

(continued in Part 2)

Photo Credit: Tushar Unadkat

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The project was made possible with the support of the
Department of Canadian Heritage through the Canadian Culture Online Strategy

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