What makes them go, “Yup, they’re Thai-Indian!”
By Amornrat Sidhu
There are about 400,000 Thai-Indians residing in Thailand according to recent polls. That’s nearly half a million of us that share Indian ancestry, history, and cultural norms with Indians in India and the rest of the Indian diaspora, with one major difference. We consider Thailand home.
This belief and circumstance have irrevocably moulded us into our own species. Most of us identify with the label ‘Thai-Indian,’ and both terms, ‘Thai’ and ‘Indian,’ are equally important to represent us wholly.
Masala asked Indians from communities around the globe for their opinion on Thai-Indians. What sets us apart from other Indian communities, and what fuses us together?
Ishwinder Kaur Birla, 33
I’ve always had fantastic interactions with Thai-Indians and have been very lucky to have made some amazing friends through the years. Their kindness and hospitality are second to none. One of my Thai-Indian friends has always opened her home to me during all my visits, and all of my Thai-Indian friends have always gone out of their way to meet us and to entertain us, despite having hectic schedules.
Pratik Patel, 32
Thai-Indians are generous, caring, and very friendly. They make you feel welcome. There are two incidents that specifically come to mind. Firstly, my wife’s side of the family was so warm that when I first met them, I felt like I had known them for years. Not to mention, my glass was never empty and I was offered lots of delicious food! Secondly, when I got married in Thailand, tourists that were staying in the same hotel joined in on the festivities. It was nice to see that there was no objection from the family, and their presence was just embraced. This would have also happened with the Indian community in the UK.
OPEN-MINDEDNESS AND ADAPTABILITY
Ravneek Chahal, 27
My Thai-Indian friends were mostly fifth-generation Indians who studied with me in boarding school in India. They were fluent in Punjabi and Thai, and took part in all cultural programs. Their adaptability to any surrounding made them relatable and approachable, and I personally found them to be non- judgmental compared to Indian students from India.
Deepti Tyagi, 31
Indian, from India
I believe that Thai-Indians have made a significant contribution to their home country of Thailand. This is clear to see when you visit the Kingdom. I’ve found that their entrepreneurial spirit and complete acceptance of the Thai language led them to have successful businesses,highlighting their adaptability and open- mindedness to their home culture.
Ishwinder Kaur Birla
I think Thai-Indians are known for their love of food! With many immigrant communities, there’s always a challenge when you grow up with two very distinct cultures, and I believe Thai-Indians have managed to find a good balance between the two, having both as staples in their home.
Thai-Indians are also known for their love of food, which is a reflection of their diverse cultural heritage. They have not only made Indian food accessible to tourists, other Indians, and the Thai people by establishing successful restaurants and food businesses in the country, but have adopted the distinct Thai palette into their daily life. I was shocked to find how much Thai food was available to the guests when I attended a Thai-Indian wedding in Bangkok a few years ago.
There are many similarities between Indian and Thai curries, such as the use of fresh spices – coriander, chilli, cumin, and pepper – as well as the use of coconut milk. Similarly, fresh coconut with jaggery in desserts is used in both culinary cultures. These similarities bridge the cultural divide in food between Indians and Thai-Indians, and I think their love for all the different ways these are used in cooking has made them more experimental and open to other cuisines, bridging the gap between them and other cultures too.
Krapow gai and butter chicken. Thai, Hindi, Punjabi, and Urdu. Sat sri akaal and Sawasdee. Sarongs and saris. Songkran and Diwali. Thai and Indian. We are both, we identify with both, we use both, and we can’t live without both – and this is exactly what is respected about Thai-Indians by other Indians. We embody a harmonious balance of both cultures, and use this harmony as a foundation to be open and accepting of everyone and everything else. Well done, us!