How Do Britain's Asians See The Royal Wedding?

For a few hours Friday, the world will be transported by a royal wedding in Britain. Crowds will wave flags and cheer. Kings and clerics, lords and ladies, politicians and celebrities will all parade in their finery. But do these images really represent the British? Among the country's Asian community, reaction is mixed.

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And I'm Melissa Block.

For a few hours on Friday, a lot of attention will focus on one wedding: the royal wedding in Britain. It will be celebrated with much pageantry and style, with big crowds in London, waving flags and cheering. We'll see kings and clerics, lords and ladies, politicians and celebrities all parading in their finery. But do these images really represent the British?

NPR's Philip Reeves has been on the road taking the pulse of that small, complex island nation.

(SOUNDBITE OF SIREN)

PHILIP REEVES: This is Southall in the west of London. Twenty years ago, Prem Singh(ph) moved here from Punjab in northern India. He considers Britain his home and likes it well enough. There are moments when he wonders if it likes him.

PREM SINGH: For some people like - they're always keeping in mind, like, why there's so many outside people in this country? So many people think like that. Like foreigners, why are you here? They're still thinking like this is my country and my this and that.

REEVES: Singh runs a small computer shop. He worries. Business is bad these days. Singh keeps getting burgled. And then there's the family.

SINGH: We are worried for our kids. They always telling us this happen, this happen, this happen.

REEVES: That includes racial abuse. Singh is quick to say the culprits are a tiny minority. It still hurts. Life is tough for Singh, yet ask him about that wedding.

SINGH: I am interested. I'm very happy we feel like it is a family wedding. We want to forget everything and we want to go for it, just enjoy the wedding and the street party.

REEVES: Southall has one of the largest concentrations of people of South Asian origin outside the subcontinent. There are others in Britain. Some 40,000 live here in the Scottish city of Glasgow.

Queen Elizabeth loves Scotland, which is in the north of her kingdom. She has lots of land up here and a couple of castles, including one at her giant Balmoral Estate, where it's said William and Kate may honeymoon.

But the royal wedding is not such a big deal among those who live here, says leading Scottish historian Tom Devine.

TOM DEVINE: They're much cooler up here about it. There's not, by any means, the same kind of interest.

REEVES: Scotland's a nation within the United Kingdom. It has its own parliament though with limited powers, and a very strong sense of identity.

ANNAWIDDY DIN: I don't see myself as being British because I don't know what British is to be honest.

REEVES: Annawiddy Din is Scottish, although persuading her fellow citizens of that fact has sometimes been difficult.

DIN: There was few people from ethnic minorities when we were growing up. And, I mean, in school, yes, you got called names and even when you were outside you got called names.

REEVES: Din was born in Pakistan, but moved to Glasgow at the age of two. That was nearly 60 years ago. Attitudes have improved greatly in Glasgow since her childhood, though they're far from perfect.

DIN: Even my nieces know what the for fourth generation is. Some people will stop and say to you, when are you going home? You know, you don't belong here. And she says, well, I was born here. And I couldn't know where to go.

REEVES: Din's not much interested in the wedding. She works with poor, often jobless young people from Glasgow's minority communities. She thinks the money would be better spent on them. But she has some words of praise for the royal couple.

DIN: For me, one of the things that's been really positive is that they said they don't want wedding presents and that anybody that wants to give them a present can go to website and see their charities and donate money to the charities, which I think is tremendous.

HANZALA MALIK: Well, when I'm in Glasgow I'm a Scot and I'm a Brit. And when I'm in Pakistan, I'm a Pakistani. And I stand on my own two feet and I stand up to any challenge that they make to that, because I have legal rights to both places.

REEVES: Hanzala Malik was born in Britain to a Pakistani father and a Scottish mother. He now sits on Glasgow City Council. Islamist extremist attacks and the rise of anti-Muslim nationalist groups are a source of tension within Britain. Yet many Britons of Asian origin have, like Malik, flourished in the last few decades, achieving positions of power in politics, business and also the media.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

HARDEEP SINGH KOHLI: If you don't mind me asking, when was your first kiss? Can you remember?

NORRIS: I was probably 18.

SINGH KOHLI: I'm, you know, six-foot, brown guy with a big pink turban and a beard, and yet people in Britain roll down their windows and shout jocko(ph). They think I'm Scottish. They believe I'm Scottish.

REEVES: Hardeep Singh Kohli grew up in Glasgow and has since become a British celebrity as a broadcaster, writer and comedian. His views on the royal wedding draw on his roots in India's Punjab.

SINGH KOHLI: You know, my parents come from a country that's been risen on a caste system, where you were born into privilege and I've seen the finest minds, the most able citizens held back because they were born into their own caste. So I'm not well-disposed towards what is effectively a caste system. But on the other hand, let them get married, you know, they're allowed to get married.

REEVES: Hanzala Malik, the Glasgow city councilor believes his city's Scottish Asians generally take a more positive view of the wedding.

MALIK: We are part and parcel of this country. We're here to stay and we're here to make a contribution. And we will celebrate every good opportunity we get and this is going to be one that we'll celebrate whole-heartedly.

REEVES: Philip Reeves, NPR News.

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