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Queen Mary Alumni

South Asian Heritage Month Testimonial: Agha Hasan

This South Asian Heritage Month, Agha Hasan (Sustainable Energy Systems MSc, 2018) shares his experience of moving to the UK as a 24 year old, his pride in his South Asian heritage, and the beauty he has found in embracing different cultures. 

Man standing next to a poster which reads 'South Asian Heritage Month'

We all know how integral of a role one’s cultural background plays in forming one’s identity. Growing up in a Pakistani household and moving to the UK as a 24-year-old, the culture shock was profound. 

I was always proud of the rich, colourful history, beautiful clothing, distinctive customs, delicious cuisines, and unique language. I learned that my grandparents were in India before Partition took place 75 years ago. My grandmother told me about how difficult it was and the struggles she faced relocating to Pakistan. Our layered history profoundly influenced the identity of Pakistanis today - even those that had moved to UK at some point in time. The British abruptly ended a two hundred year plus rule of the Mughals, which changed the subcontinent irrevocably over the next 100 years. Then, with the death of almost 2 million people, a whole new country was birthed. Liberation, sacrifice, unlearning, and learning was all that these citizens of both nations knew. 

I am proud of my South Asian roots and all the other roots that have been planted in the UK to make up the multicultural society that we enjoy in the UK. 

The more I discovered about my heritage, the more I embraced it in the UK. How could I not represent my roots knowing the long and arduous struggle to freedom my forefathers faced? Now I proudly let people know where I’m from when asked about my ethnicity on the streets of London. It was quite the learning curve, as it took me a while to get the hang of things: like London slang, how to get around, how to find places that appeased my ‘desi’ palate, etc. I was trying to find the perfect middle ground where I could explore this new, wonderful space without compromising the values I grew up with. 

Of course, there were several ups and downs, but now, as someone who has graduated and is working in UK politics, I couldn’t be more grateful for this journey. Studying in one of the best universities in London, successfully completing a degree, and working in the ‘the mother of parliaments’ under the first Pakistani Muslim MP of England, have all helped me to feel proud and confident of my South Asian heritage. Interacting with the 1.6 million Pakistani diaspora in the UK and celebrating South Asian Heritage Month in Parliament has made me feel recognised and honoured to be living in the UK. 

Overall, I have learnt so much about my heritage from the Pakistani community since living in the UK and I have also been able to add to my sense of self and belonging by exploring other cultures as well. I am proud of my South Asian roots and all the other roots that have been planted in the UK to make up the multicultural society that we enjoy in the UK. 



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