Recruitment Administrator, Human Resources
Staying true to my Indian roots
"I am an only child of immigrant parents from India, and they have both helped me stay true to my Indian roots. Up until the age of three, I spoke Gujarati as my first language. Even today, I’m amazed by how I’m able to listen, speak and translate English and Gujarati so seamlessly. I’m very proud of my mother tongue.
When I am at work, I want people to know that I am Indian - I don’t want to hide that part of my identity.
My parents and my wider family have been very influential for me and have taught me a lot about different elements of my Gujarati background. Growing up, my mum always taught me about cooking different Indian dishes, whether it was asking me to help chop vegetables or just taste the food.
I realise now that as well as making sure I’d be well-equipped for an independent life in the future, she was sharing recipes with me that had been handed down to her so that I could stay connected to my family and cultural roots.
Food for the (cultural) soul
Food is a really important part of my cultural identity and one of my favourite Indian dishes is khichdi. I’m sure this will come as a surprise for other Indians as the dish isn’t very flavoursome, but I was always the one person in my family who would want to eat khichdi. It’s a typical dish that many Gujaratis will grow up eating at least once a week without fail!
My mum still makes amazing food like mixed bhajia and double roti (also known as Dabeli) and these days, while I do have Dishoom’s recipe book to hand, you can’t really beat your mum’s cooking!
Khichdi, also known as Hotchpotch in English, is a dish in South Asian cuisine made of rice and lentils. In Indian culture, it is considered one of the first solid foods that babies eat.
From a very young age, I have also been involved in the Hindu Sevika Samiti (UK) – an organisation established in 1966 by Hindus who had immigrated to the UK during that period. Girls and women of all ages and backgrounds come together at activity centres called shakhas – which loosely translates to ‘branches’ in Sanskrit.
We meet every Friday to take part in different activities including traditional Indian games like kabaddi or yoga classes, and get the opportunity to learn about our religion and culture. Over the years, these gatherings have given me the opportunity to gain a better understanding of my Indian heritage, and about the different people who have helped to shape the Indian community in the UK today.
Kabaddi is a popular contact sport from South Asia. When attacking, the offensive team sends across a 'raider' into the opposition’s half who must touch one of more members of the opposition to score a point. When defending, the objective is to capture the raider.
Feeling accepted at Imperial
When I am at work, I want people to know that I am Indian - I don’t want to hide that part of my identity. It’s really important to me that my colleagues know about my background and upbringing and that I am accepted. Since joining the College in November last year, I feel my experience as an Indian member of staff has been positive.
I’m part of the Promotions and Recruitment team and my main role is to assist with the end to end recruitment process for the Faculty of Medicine - from setting up job adverts to issuing final contracts and everything in between.
It’s an exciting role and I've taken on projects such as analysing our protected characteristics data and setting up training sessions for the team. I’m finding it really interesting to see how recruitment at the College works.
I want to help people who come from underrepresented backgrounds get their foot on the ladder and give them the same opportunities that someone who is more privileged would get.
I feel welcomed by my team and can see that my colleagues don’t shy away from turning to me if they have questions related to my Indian culture and background. I know others might think ‘why are they asking the only Indian person in the room?’, but being able to have open conversations makes me feel I can educate and help people to understand more about different cultures.
I think it’s great when people in your team want to know how you celebrate a certain festival – and I celebrate many, like Diwali and Navratri. This year, the month of August has coincided with Sravana Maas, an auspicious month celebrating Lord Shiva, the god of destruction. To celebrate this holy month, I have been fasting every Monday (or Somvar).
Creating opportunities for all
As someone who works in Human Resources and is interested in conversations around social mobility, I want to help people who come from underrepresented backgrounds get their foot on the ladder and give them the same opportunities that someone who is more privileged would get. Imperial has a diverse talent pool, but I think more work needs to be done to hire candidates from different ethnicities, especially in senior leadership roles.
I feel fortunate to say I’ve never had any bad experiences because of my ethnicity, skin colour, or my name…
One thing I would like to see improve at Imperial is better awareness of the IMPACT programme for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) staff. I didn’t know about it when I joined the College, and heard about the programme from a colleague who had been part of it. It’s important that staff who identify as ethnic minorities are able to connect with one another through programmes like this, and the College should do more to promote it.
I feel fortunate to say I’ve never had any bad experiences because of my ethnicity, skin colour, or my name, and I hope we can create environments where others feel the same too.”
Nandini shares her story as part of Shifting the Lens: a celebration of cultural diversity at Imperial.
This interview was edited by Martha Salhotra and photographed by Thomas Angus.