Lest we forget

In a place called Patcham just outside Brighton on the south coast of England, there is an impressive white domed pillared structure called The Chattri. Upon this war memorial inscribed in English and Hindi it says:

“To the memory of all the Indian soldiers who gave their lives in the service of their King Emperor this monument erected on the site where the Hindus and Sikhs who died in hospital at Brighton passed through the fire is in grateful admiration and brotherly affection dedicated.”

Over 12,000 wounded Indian soldiers passed through the Brighton and Hove hospitals during the Great War, and The Chattri memorial is built on the same spot where 53 bodies were cremated, with the ashes later scattered into the sea.

These are just 53 of the millions of reasons why I, as a young British man of Indian descent, wear my poppy with pride at this time of year. 

For me, this ultimate sacrifice that my fellow British countrymen have given over the course of our shared history, means that I have been indebted to them, from the very moment that I was born.

Although we here in Britain have had our fair share of struggles in a less visible but no less essential movement for civil rights for persons of ethnicity, I am confident that we as a people are more united and integrated than others would have us believe.

And it is through our shared history and heartache, our sacrifices and our defence of freedom and the rule of law, that we have gradually shaped and strengthened the bonds which now unite us as a society.

As we second and third generation British-Asians grow up, advance within our careers and create families of our own, far from being confused or unsure as to why people wear poppies or even whether we, as members of minority ethnic communities can or should also wear them, I sincerely hope that one simple truth is borne in mind.

A poppy is a subtle and dignified public display of unity. Unity with all the countless men and women who have given up their lives fighting for the ideals which make our country what it is, and upon whose sacrifice we can live free, and under the equal protection of the law. Whatever our backgrounds or our upbringing, whatever our political, cultural or religious beliefs, the simple truth is that without the sacrifices of generations of brave individuals that have come before us, we would not be blessed with all that we have, and with all those whom we love. 

Lest we forget.

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