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February - March 2008
Sir Menzies Campbell is Chief Guest at Bhavan's Diwali BanquetAt this year’s annual Bhavan Diwali Banquet, held at the Marriott Hotel in London, the Chief Guest was The Rt Hon Sir Menzies Campbell CBE QC, together with our joint Chief Guest, His Excellency Sri Asoke Mukerji the Acting High Commissioner for India along with Smt Mukerji.
When the Bhavan had invited the Chief Guest to attend, Sir Menzies was then the Leader of the Liberal Democrats. He subsequently resigned from that post, but later confirmed that he would still be attending as promised. The Bhavan was also pleased to welcome a previous Liberal Democrat Leader, Lord Steel of Aikwood. Other VIP guests included Lord Dholakia, Lord Hameed, Lord Paul, Lord Bagri and Lord Slynn.
In welcoming those present, the Bhavan’s Chairman, Mr Maneck Dalal OBE paid tribute to the help received from the High Commission and the Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. He said that the Bhavan was intent on becoming part of the established education in the UK. To that end we were collaborating with Trinity College of Music (Trinity Laban) and the University of Westminster in the establishment of an Indian Music degree course. He gave a special welcome to Mr Derek Aviss, Principal of Trinity College of Music and his team. He was also pleased to see Lord Paul who was Chancellor of Westminster University together with his wife Lady Aruna Paul, who was one of the Bhavan’s Trustees.
Sir Menzies Campbell began by saying that he had been doing some research concerning the Festival of Diwali. Diwali was truly a festival of Light. This festival had always been an important occasion in India, but was also becoming an important time for this country was well. This was because of the immense contribution made by the Indian community to British life. He went on to say that nowadays there was hardly a family in the UK which did not have some connection with India. The values and aspirations of Diwali were something we could all share. So successful had the Indian community in this country become, that it was catching up with that other ethnic minority – the Scots! The Scots and the Indians shared a common experience in that they had both been conquered by the English – but now were taking them over! Another shared interest was cricket. He asked that if anybody knew of a home-grown Tandulkar, they should contact the cricket authorities here immediately! The recent celebration of the Queen’s diamond wedding anniversary at Westminster Cathedral had been attended by representatives of every faith. If this had been predicted sixty years ago nobody would have believed it. This was a measure of the enormous cultural, social and enriching changes which had taken place over that period.
The Acting High Commissioner for India His Excellency Sri Asoke Mukerji began by saying that he was standing in for the High Commissioner HE Sri Kamalesh Sharma who was in Uganda attending a meeting of Commonwealth leaders. He said that the High Commission was happy to be part-and-parcel of the activities of the Bhavan. The Bhavan played an important role in providing a window for Indian culture in this country. It was a matter of special satisfaction to see how the Bhavan is inculcating Indian culture and its values in the younger generation. India was very much on the political landscape. For instance the Mayor of London was in India at the present time and the Conservative Leader had recently said that India was an example of cultural security. Also the Prime Minister had recently attended Diwali celebrations at the Houses of Parliament.
The Loyal Toast to Her Majesty the Queen was proposed by Mr Maneck Dalal and Lord Steel then proposed a toast to the President of India. A short programme of Indian dance was given by our young students accompanied by Bhavan’s teachers.
The vote of thanks was given by Mr Joginder Sanger, Bhavan’s Vice Chairman. In this he thanked the Chief Guests, The Acting High Commissioner and all the distinguished guests for attending. He reminded those present of the important role the Bhavan was doing in spreading the culture of India and urged everyone to support the Bhavan as much as possible.
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