Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Pride Vs Prejudice

The title of the biographical book of former Lord Mayor of Wolverhappton (UK), Bishan Dass Bains, Pride Vs Prejudice
resembles the famous novel of Jane Austen, first published in January, 1813 – Pride and Prejudice basically deals with issues of manners, upbringing, morality, education and marriage in the society. The theme of the novel is still relevant in the contemporary times. Bishan Dass Bains, it seems, has also dealt with the same traits in his book at hand as he asserts in the title page itself “One man’s fight against racism and inequality.” One can make out and understand that Mayor Bains is a staunch Ambedkarite. The book has been rightly dedicated to “Babasaheb Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the architect of Indian constitution, the emancipator and liberator of untouchables and down trodden masses of India.” The publisher of the book is also an ardent Ambedkarite and my friend Harmesh Jassal of Malind Prakashan who has published dozens of books in recent times on Dr. Ambedkar and Mahatma Buddha and subjects pertaining to dalits of India and under-privileged of the world at large. Pride Vs Prejudice makes a good reading. I take this opportunity to congratulate and appreciate both the author Lord Mayor Bishan Dass Bains and the publisher Harmesh Jassal. Prof. Carl Chinn of University of Birmingham in his nicely written Foreword of the book has rightly said “One of the pioneers of this Indian migration was Bishan Dass Bains whose absorbing and inspirational life story has been set down in an important book called ‘Pride and Prejudice.’ It is important because it is a rare account of first generation immigrants’ experience.”

Mayor Bishan Dass Bains is a proud inhabitant of Wolverhampton, one of the famous and big cities of the U.K – “a vibrant, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic city with a history that stretches back to 985 AD.” He himself says in the Introduction of the book “I am proud to be associated with and to be living in this city over the last more than half a century. I regard myself a true Wolfrunian as against an Asian as I lived in India for only twenty years of my early life.” With this sense of belonging, no wonder, he rose to the coveted position of the Lord Mayor of the great city of Wolverhampton.

The publisher’s note on the back side of the cover page of the book gives the fore-taste of the book with these words. “In 1963, Bishan
Dass Bains left his small village in northern India for an exciting new life in Great Britain. But he did not except to find pride and prejudice and inequality not only amongst the British population but also amongst the large Asian community as well. Despite this he entered local politics and eventually became Mayor of Wolverhampton, the first Asian to hold such a prestigious position anywhere in the country. The book tells of his personal fight to overcome prejudice and racism in both his social and public life. It is a story that is disturbing and inspiring in equal measure.” One would tend to agree with these assertions. It was not easy and maybe it is still not that easy to achieve and attain such heights in ones career as Bishan Dass Bains did particularly because of his social background back in India and financial paucity in his early days in the UK.

Bishan Dass Bains’ is the story of many of us with poor family backgrounds back home in India. In spite of numerous difficulties and hurdles, he could make it to higher education in a degree college in Hoshiarpur and graduated in 1963, a rare honour for an ordinary person that too belonging to the socially marginalized strata of the society. Bains Sahib has given a detailed account of his ‘Tryst with destiny’ starting towards the end of 1963 when he came to the UK on a ‘Work Voucher’.  Starting from casual labour to a blue collar, from blue collar to a white collar job, from a white collar to a managerial executive position must have been a hell of an experience for him. His experience as a member of the trade union in the early 1970s was not very pleasant. He records in the book, “However, unfortunately the union was for white workers only and the interests of black workers never became an agenda item for them. If any Black or Asian worker ever raised concerns over equality of opportunity or objected to unfair treatment, their voice fell on deaf ears.” Nevertheless, he persisted with his trade union and community activities. Where ever, we Indians go, we take with us our baggage of caste also. Bains sahib’s encounter with the dirty caste system is an eye opener when he was eased out in 1975 by an Indian landlady in Leicester only because he was an untouchable back home in India. Bishan Dass Bains engaged himself in the community activities against racial discrimination and racial prejudice in the 1970s particularly in the wake of Enoch Powell’s “River of blood” diatribe. He worked with the Anti-Nazi League, Indian Workers Association, Indian Republican Group of Great Britain, Guru Ravidass Dharmak Sabha among others to address the social and community issues. But it could not satisfy his inner urge to do something more as some of these organizations, according to him, were lacking clear direction and agenda. He was fed up of the infighting of these outfits for leadership. I don’t think the situation is any better now also. He was attracted to active public life and politics under the flag of the Labour Party. Here also he faced opposition and discrimination not from the locals but from the caste oriented mindset of Indian Workers Association dominated by the Jat Sikhs and the likes of Niranjan Singh Noor, President of the Indian Workers Association, an outfit of communists affiliated with the likes of Harkishan Singh Surjit. In spite of stiff opposition from these Indian quarters, Bishan Dass Bains got elected to the Metropolitan Borough Council of Wolverhampton in 1979 with a good majority. He did not look back from there on and became the Lord Mayor of Wolverhampton by his own right in May, 1986. Unlike India, Lord Mayor in the UK not only leads the city politically but also socially and culturally. I have had the first hand experience of this as the Consul General of India in Edinburg, Scotland 2007-08. Bishan Dass, being the first Asian, did the honours with aplomb while maintaining the traditions and also introducing the new order in a cosmopolitan city of multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-faith, multi-racial society. Speaking at the Mayor Making ceremony (oath taking), Bishan Dass Bains rightly acknowledged Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and his Indian roots and said, “Secondly and most importantly, I shall
remember my political and moral beliefs without which a person in public life is arid. The influences on my life have been many, the teachings of my guru Dr. Ambedkar who struggled so hard for the poor and deprived people of India, the struggle of the trade union movement and the policies of the Labour Party. All these seem to me to point in the same direction, the promotion of equality, liberty and fraternity. My wife, my family and I shall be delighted to try
Vidya Chander with First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond
and promote these ideals in Wolverhampton over the next year.”  In the face of threats and abuses from the opposition and other detractors, which I believed was not a general trait of the British politics and public life, Bishan Dass Bains prevailed. It is interesting to note from Bains Sahib’s narration that I have something in common with him. I am also a humble Ambedkarite like him. Second, we both shared the common dilemma of taking along our spouses, Lady Mayoress Ram Piari Bains and my wife
Vidya Chander, a gracious lady of an Indian Diplomat i.e. me, in our high profile official duties and responsibilities, given their educational and family backgrounds. I am happy to observe that both the worthy and gorgeous ladies could make and stand by their husbands with dignity and grace. Bishan Dass came out with flying colours as Lord Mayor of Wolverhampton. In the next elections in 1987, he lost to his Liberal party opponent. Bishan Dass Bains candidly admits that primarily he lost because of the unfortunate incident of Clinton McCurbin happened in February, 1987 which divided the electorate on racial and other extraneous considerations on one hand and the deep rooted caste prejudices of the fellow Indians. These are the hard ground realities even in the UK. Bains Sahib remained active and engaged in political and social work and again made it to the Wolverhampton Council in 2004, yet another feather in his cap. Besides serving in the Council, Bains Sahib actively worked with voluntary and community organizations such as the Haque centre and the Sewa Centre. People appreciated the services rendered by these centers.

Pride Vs Prejudice is a well written account of a man, Bishan Dass Bains, who did well in life, in spite of many pitfalls of pride and place; he rightly or wrongly faced in the course of his journey from a small village in Punjab in India to a cosmopolitan city of Wolverhapton in the UK. The story is inspiring for the younger generations. I personally feel that it would have been all the more better, if the author could have provided some more space to his work and experience with the dalit outfits and community both in India and the UK for the benefit of the society at large. Bains Sahib’s experience, as a trade unionist, a politician, a social and community activist and above all a Mayor of an important city like Wolverhampton, is rich and diversified. Let us hope he shares that with us, from an Indian perspective, in a separate volume in the days to come. One can understand the state of his mind when he spoke at Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Mission Society at Bedford in January, 1987, “I am proud to be associated with and to have worked for Babasahb’s mission over the past many years. In fact, the mission of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar has hugely inspired my whole life. Often people asked me the reasons for being an Ambedkarite and my answer always is that when a person has been a victim of caste based hatred and had suffered racial prejudice for his whole life, it is natural for him to become a dedicated Ambedkarite.”

The last chapter of the book has been titled as “Nirvana”. Though I vaguely understand the meaning of nirvana yet I thought of checking it from the Google ji the great. The meaning of Nirvana in the Buddhist sense is, “(in Buddhism) a transcendent state in which there is neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self, and the subject is released from the effects of karma and the cycle of death and rebirth. It represents the final goal of Buddhism.” In simple language, the dictionary meaning of the word is, “Nirvana is a place of perfect peace and happiness, like heaven. In Hinduism and Buddhism, nirvana is the highest state that someone can attain a state of enlightenment, meaning a person's individual desires and suffering goes away.” Being an ardent follower of Dr. Ambedkar, Mayor Bishan Dass Bains, it seems, has a strong influence of Buddhism on his life and conduct.  He concludes his biographical narration with these words, “Pride vs Prejudice is a story of just my life; it is a story of millions who had been through or are the subject of prejudice, oppression and discriminatory treatment on this beautiful planet earth. I salute all those who had scarified their lives fighting for the cause of equality, liberty, justice and peace.” He lived a life of achievement and contentment and received respect and affection which made him write, “All these compliments, respect and affection are a source of great pride in my life and resonate my feelings as if I had attained Nirvana in life.”

With this, I wish Mayor Bishan Dass Bains good health and further success in the years to come.

अपना मुक़्क़दर आप बनाते हैं एहले दिल;
हम वह नहीं जीने ज़माना बना गया !



  1. Beautiful review of Book, 'Pride v/s Prejudice' that gives a nice account of discrimination of Indians even when they shift abroad & prove their mettle by becoming Mayor of Gracious City Of Wolverhampton in UK. The review of the book by Ramesh Chander Saheb IFS becomes more important has the latter himself is witness to the caste discrimination in India & in spite of that all he reached the position of Ambassador of India. I would love to read this book.

    1. thanks joginder palji. i value your support. regards.

  2. I am grateful to Mr.Ramesh Chander for doing a balanced and comphrehensive review of my book Pride VS Prejudice.I appreciate whole heartedly your efforts for high lighting most of the bullet points in the book. I am fully aware that the book fall short of expectations in some way and the extent of deep rooted discrimination and prejudice in Indian society.The reasons for this being that I am not an ameteur writter, and secondly it was my deliverate intention to target the western in particular English audiance to make them aware of the stigma of caste prejudice.Finaly your ascertion of NIRVANA and its ethical link to Budhism is right. Once again thank you very much for devoting time to read the book and doing a nice review.Jai Bheem, Nammo Buddhaye. B. D. Bains
    please keep in touch on email bdbains@gmail.com phone 7491646216

    1. thanks mayor sahib. i was wondering that there was no response from you. i am not an expert myself but love to write often as a hobby. of couse, it will be my pleasure to be in touch with you. my telephone and e-mail ID are: +9988510940 and rc2345@yahoo.com