Theresa May and Narendra Modi
British Prime Minister Theresa May and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi walk through the gardens of Hyderabad House, on November 7, 2016 in New Delhi, India.Getty Images

Last week I visited Mumbai with a BBC radio producer, also a British Asian, to make a programme on top Bollywood stars. One night, at 2am, some guests started talking loudly in the corridor. I asked them to stop politely. They carried on for another 20 minutes. So I shouted. (Shouldn't have, I know).

At breakfast I was describing the incident to my producer when a very cross lady spoke up: "Yes you were very rude, too rude. We were there only for a few seconds. People like you coming to our country and insulting us. You people in the UK hate us Indians. Look at your government – not even giving Visas to us, even for weddings. Remember India is going up and UK going down." Golly. That was an unexpected tirade. It was a sign of the times.

We two, who have ancestral roots in India, who speak several Indian languages, were suddenly cast as interlopers and, worse, representatives of the anti-immigrant government. Both of us felt unexpectedly wounded by these comments. There were other moments of cold rejection. I go to India often and have always been welcomed. Once I was even a VIP guest of the government. They saw me as a wandering daughter of the subcontinent. What happened to that bond? First, in 2014, the BJP, the Hindu nationalist party won the election and Narendra Modi, once banned from the US, became PM and a global player. Then Brexit happened. Then Trump. A new disordered world order arrived.

Modi, May and Trump are all simultaneously chauvinistic and dead set on global domination. They seem to have formed a fine triumvirate, but how can such a contradiction be sustained? Populations led by these leaders are, at present, travelling to the future without maps. At least Modi thinks through his policies and appears measured. The other two are all over the place. Their visa wars are a symbol of political maladroitness and madness.

Last November May scuttled off to woo and, at the same time, subdue India, to pacify and to notify its people. She delivered a bag of mixed messages. God knows who her advisers were. She offered rich and talented Indians privileged immigration status, but only if all those thousands of Indian over-stayers currently in the UK go back home. Indian students told me they were humiliated by British immigration officials and some had decided not to bother. They would go to Canada instead.

The disconnect between Mrs May's fine words on this special relationship and the ugly reality is leading to deep resentment, even among Anglophile Indians. An old friend, an internationally respected film director, shared his dismay: "Your Mrs May needs to know we are proud people, not fools, not any more in awe of British power. She needs to learn humility and international relations. I love Britain's history and culture, but not its degraded politics. To see her acting like a political concubine to Trump brought shame on your great nation, but also made us see through her."

As for Trump, I did not meet one person who felt a shred of respect for the guy.

As for Trump, I did not meet one person who felt a shred of respect for the guy. Yet the victorious American rang Modi as soon as he got to the White House. Perhaps because they have one big thing in common: they both pathologically dislike Muslims. But the bromance did not last. Young Indians, over several decades, have obtained the H-IB visa that gives them the right to take up skilled jobs in the US after finishing university. Trump is not keen on continuing this migration.

Indians are suddenly finding that they are as vulnerable as the unwanted refugee. Families and individuals are having to rethink their futures. Trump is enabling white supremacists and America is a no-go land for Indians.

Now here's the irony: a vast number of US Indians voted for this grotesque man because he was good at business. The Indians I spoke to were even more furious with these brethren than the President.

Because of the actions of May and Trump, I think (though can't be sure) India is making it tougher for Britons and Americans to get work visas. Tit for tat. One can understand the reaction.

I usually came back from India optimistic and exultant. Speaking my home languages and eating home-cooked Indian food gives me back a part of myself. Not this time. Some other British Asians I met in Juhu felt similarly dislocated. Meena, a teacher in the Midlands expressed it best: "I used to belong to east and west. Now that is impossible. And I can't choose."


Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is a journalist, columnist, broadcaster and author. Follow @y_alibhai