Summary: East meets West and global collaboration. Description: As an Indian born and bred in the UK following my parents’ immigration back in the 70’s I would say I am lucky to be a living example of East meets West. However after soon realising that I am probably bordering more towards Western influence I decided to set sail (ok actually I flew) to Hong Kong in search for a new Asian experience. Here it was all change; new sights, sounds, language and culinary delights to name but a few.

As I began my process of mingling both inside and outside the workplace, I noted a handful of Indians knocking around in the heart of Kowloon but on the Island side I was certainly a rarity. And to tell you the truth I marvelled in it. It comes as no surprise that the UK has a heavy South Asian mix, and so here I am simply another face in the crowd. In Hong Kong however I felt somewhat celebrity like quoting on more than one occasion I was a visiting actor from Bollywood shooting my next movie. The applause was thick and fast.

In the most part my cultural origins were not questioned but on one occasion a local delved more deeply into my Indian heritage. So what is Hinduism actually about, she asked. Is it safe in India? Why do Indians have arranged marriages? Why are there so many Gods? Quick to realise my apparent Bollywood status was soon to be uncovered I did my best to give my take on the ethos of my religion. Which to be frank was probably a relay of snippets from Wikipedia I had read in passing.

I was amazed by the straight talking inquisition which could at times have been perceived as slightly intrusive. Eventually and unexpectedly the questioning stopped. Months passed and the topic was not broached again. That was until recently, when now back in the UK, I received an email describing her involvement in a mock Holi festival in the local community. Details describing the huge success of the event, coupled with photographic evidence of their partaking was, simply put, just breath-taking! And for those of you that don’t know Holi is an Indian festival aimed to mark the arrival of Spring and celebrate the God Krishna and the legend of Holika and Prahlad. Dance, song and the throwing of powdered paints and coloured waters lie at its centre.

Focusing on the field of medical education, we often hear how it is an arduous process to seek collaborators in one’s home country but this is even more true abroad. Despite our desire for medical education to be evidence based, the stark reality is that without collaboration globally we will never reach a firm conclusion as to what is actually meant by best practice. So as I continue to seek inspiration from cultural integration, I hope that my fellow educators can do the same.

Dr Neel Sharma, Honorary Clinical Lecturer, Centre for Medical Education, Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Email - [email protected]
Vivian Chau, Institute of Medical and Health Sciences Education, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, The University of Hong Kong