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Resilience, community, and great-tasting kebabs.

Reflecting on my experiences as a British Asian in the UK.

Growing up in the 1970’s in the UK as a British Asian was a very interesting time. On the one hand, I was proud of my heritage, but on the other, I also wanted to conform and fit in. Growing up I remember vividly how I longed to eat with a knife and fork and would painstakingly lay the table with all the cutlery and trimmings whenever we would occasionally have a roast dinner.

I can remember the stories that my dad would share about coming to the UK with £3 in his pocket, and what the signs on the rental houses in London would say for certain immigrants. It wasn’t easy to listen to, but as I grew up, I realised the amazing resilience and strength that my parents demonstrated. Being thousands of miles away from your loved ones and leaving behind the only life that you knew must have been so incredibly difficult. But they wanted a brighter future for their children, so they created their community wherever they were. Friends became like family, and we would always be going to an Aunty and Uncle for dinner at the weekends. My Dad’s kebabs were legendary, making them with chilli for the grown-ups and without for the children. How I miss them now.

I learnt to speak Punjabi from an early age, and even though I was very shy to speak it to my family members back in India, I am now so pleased that I can converse fluently in this rich and at times very funny language. My wanting to conform changed when I went to university and could see more people that looked like me. Representation has always been so important, and I love the blessings brought by my Indian heritage and what that means to me and my children. I am equally proud to be British and have embraced growing up in a multicultural city like London.

It is such a privilege to be able to bring my experiences and culture to Penna, an organisation that is focused on celebrating differences. We’re aware of the role that Britain’s rich and diverse heritage can play in encouraging growth in our local economy.

It is for that reason that I am so passionate about working with local government, ensuring that stories and lived experiences like mine are heard. Reflecting the community served in the workforce allows for collaborative, accurate

ensuring the workforce represents the communities they serve. If you’d like to find out how Penna can help you begin your diversity journey, then get in touch with us at

Written by: Sapna Sharma – Senior Consultant, Executive Search

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