Mystics’ Esha Nayar: Why we should all learn about South Asian culture and history

South Asian Heritage Month (SAHM) takes place from the 17 July until the 18 August and seeks to celebrate the large range of cultures and traditions that are held within the subcontinent, which consists of eight countries: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives.

Here Manchester Mystics' Esha Nayar shares her thoughts on the awareness campaign and why she wants the basketball community to learn more about South Asian culture and history. 

SAHM was founded by Jasvir Singh and Binita Kane in 2018 but the first event took place in 2019 at the House of Commons. Even though it is a relatively new celebration, it is still extremely important that organisations make an effort to celebrate the month as it helps us in becoming more diverse and inclusive.

Basketball England can give individuals from my community a platform to share their experiences and stories, which is especially important as South Asians are an underrepresented group across the sporting world.

Sport has many social, physical and mental benefits and some people don’t get involved because they feel it isn’t for people like them. By highlighting athletes and role models from underrepresented groups, we can help encourage more people to join in and therefore increase participation levels.

My family

This year's SAHM theme of ‘Stories to Tell’ encourages people to share their experiences and their perspectives.

I am of South Asian descent, three of my grandparents are from India, and the other one is from Kenya.

I grew up in a predominantly white area, as well as being one of the few and sometimes only person with South Asian heritage in my primary school. I was aware of the differences but tended to shy away from them, but as I have grown older, I have become more aware about my heritage and have been more inclined to learn about it.

Esha Nayar

Break down negative stereotypes

Celebrating the month also helps people understand the cultures and traditions that make up South Asia. Through education, we can help break down negative stereotypes, as well as destroy commonly held assumptions.

I have often received comments from teammates such as ‘but you can’t eat bacon’, ‘you’re not allowed to drink', ‘can you read this Arabic?’. These questions are lightly thrown around, but it all comes from the assumption that all South Asians are Muslim.

This is just one example of the many misconceptions some people hold and there are a number of reasons for this. Some people may not have been exposed to a diverse environment, leading to their perceptions of some ethnic groups being based on what they have read or seen in the news or other media outlets.

Jaz Bains became one of the first players with South Asian heritage to play in the men's NBL, when he joined the Reading Rockets in 2021. Image - Todd Lindley

UK’s influence on South Asia

The history of the UK’s influence on South Asia is significant because of the extent of its rule over the area between 1757 and 1947, whether that was the East India Company, which was a British trading body, or the British Raj, which was the Crowns’ rule over India.

Even the dates of the campaign reflect Britain's influence: the start date – 18 July 1947 – is when the Indian independence act was passed, which created two new independent dominions: India and Pakistan (and eventually Bangladesh).

The end date of the campaign – 17 August – is when the Radcliffe line was published, which is the boundary that was demarcated in the Punjab and Bengal provinces to outline which areas would go to which country.

Both of these dates relate to partition, which was the change of political borders in the subcontinent that accompanied the dissolution of Britain’s reign.

An estimated 14-18 million people were displaced, between 200,000 and 2 million people lost their lives and around 2.2 million went missing.

As Britain had such an influence on South Asia it is important for us to learn about its cultures and histories.

However people choose to celebrate the month, it is vital that it is done respectfully.

If you would like to learn more, the South Asian Heritage Month website has a large range of resources available or you may like to follow Brown History on Instagram, which publishes the stories and histories from South Asian communities worldwide.




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