To celebrate South Asian Heritage Month in Bexley, we asked Dr Sid Deshmukh – Bexley GP Lead, and Jattinder Rai – CEO of Bexley Voluntary Services Council (BVSC), to share what their South Asian heritage means to them.

Jattinder Rai, CEO - Bexley Voluntary Services Council

“I love how rich and colourful Punjabi culture is and relish the opportunity to share it with others.”

Jattinder Rai is CEO of Bexley Voluntary Services Council (BVSC), which supports and amplifies the voice of voluntary and community organisations in the borough. Until recently Jatinder co-ordinated Community Connect social prescribing service, supporting local people to improve their health and wellbeing by connecting them with activities, support and services across the borough.

What does South Asian Heritage Month mean to you?

For me, it provides an opportunity to celebrate South Asian Heritage, and the various vibrant, energetic, wonderful cultures that it includes across different countries. It’s a chance to open conversations and raise awareness of different languages (If I had a pound for every time I’ve been asked if I speak Indian…), and learn about different religions, traditions, and customs. Regardless of our heritage, we all have so much to learn from each other, and equally so much to share.

Tell us what you are proud of about your South Asian Heritage

Oh, so much! I’m a British born Sikh Punjabi, I grew up in south east London, but Punjabi was, and is, my first language. The first English word I learnt was ‘teacher’ when I started school.

I am very proud to share my heritage through Bhangra, which is much more than ‘screwing a lightbulb’ and ’patting the dog’. One of my greatest moments, was being able to share this form of Punjabi folk dance at the 2012 Olympic Closing ceremony. It was a phenomenal experience and wonderful to be able to share with the world. I love how rich and colourful Punjabi culture is and relish the opportunity to share it with others.Putting aside the dazzling clothes and delicious food, I’m proud of the smaller moments – seeing the community come together during hard times, from food-packages home cooked by aunties (that technically aren’t related), to Guru Ka Langar – providing free hot food to all those in need. It’s always during the most difficult moments, that I appreciate my heritage the most. That, and weddings, if you haven’t been to a Punjabi wedding, you are truly missing out!

What support can the South Asian community access through BVSC and the Voluntary Sector?

Voluntary and Community organisations have been instrumental in tackling health inequalities to date. We’re keen to work closely with, and as part of, the Integrated Care System to build on existing work, and provide more targeted support within individual communities.

Home | Bexley Voluntary Service Council (bvsc.co.uk)

Dr Sid Deshmukh - GP Lead

South Asian culture is “more than just a curry”

Bexley GP, Dr Sid Deshmukh shares his story about why he’s proud of his South Asian heritage and working in Bexley.

Tell us a bit about yourself and the story behind how you became a GP Lead in Bexley

I was born in Mumbai and trained as a Gynaecologist in Mumbai. Mumbai is a city that never sleeps. It’s always on the move, vibrant and happening! It is multicultural, and people of all religions work together and play together.

I came to the UK in 1996 to further my education and worked as a Gynaecologist for 3 years. As a passionate musician that plays the drums, I have performed as a freelancer with many bands in the UK. In 1999, I got to know a group of GPs who also had their own band called Heart Beats. I started playing with them, and we used to talk about general practice and I found the idea of becoming a GP very attractive. I switched from Gynaecology to General Practice and have been a GP Partner in Sidcup for the last 20 years. I was always keen to work with commissioners and provide my clinical input as to how we can improve the care of patients. I have been a clinical lead in Bexley for a number of years, and I am proud of my role.

Tell us why you are proud of your South Asian heritage

For me it’s the vibrancy. I see it in all aspects of life, from arts and culture, the language, the food (and it’s much more than just a curry!) the feeling of community, the various forms of music and the fusion of lived experiences, all the way to the many ways we approach work. I like to call it the “immigrant mind-set”. It’s the idea of the hustle, to experiment and learn, to persevere towards a goal. I also get the best of both worlds here with double the number of celebrations – celebrating all the Hindu and Christian festivals

As a GP does it bring great satisfaction to be able to help the South Asian community in Bexley?

It absolutely does. In Bexley there are health inequalities between different communities and ethnic groups, with Black and South Asian communities experiencing higher rates of infant and maternal mortality, cardiovascular disease (CVD) and diabetes.

I see great opportunities working as a clinical lead and Chair of the Local Care Partnership and also working closely with other practices in Primary Care Networks and wider stakeholders of the Integrated Care System.

We must work together to find new solutions for tackling health inequalities. I think voluntary groups, community champions and other partners across the Bexley system have an essential role to play. We must get better at reaching out to these communities and building relations, targeting the right people with the right messaging, and using community leaders to help raise awareness around different health issues. I am looking forward to contributing to these efforts.

For more information about diabetesDiabetes – NHS (www.nhs.uk)

For more information about cardiovascular disease: Cardiovascular disease – NHS (www.nhs.uk)

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