Queen Elizabeth II today hosted a historic reception at Buckingham Palace to launch UK India Year of Culture 2017.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley was joined by an Indian delegation including the likes of Kamal Hassan, Suresh Gopi, Kapil Dev, Gurdas Mann, fashion designers Manish Arora and Manish Malhotra, sitar maestro Anoushka Shankar among others at the grand event on Monday evening.
“That my name was recommended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a huge honour. This is a great occasion to celebrate the shared history of India and the UK. The English language is the best example of that and I often refer to it as a great Indian language that unites us all,” said Tamil actor-filmmaker Hassan.
“This is the kind of celebration of India-UK culture that should have happened long ago,” said Kapil Dev.
Indian high commissioner to the UK, Y.K. Sinha, invited the Indian cricket legend back to the UK in June to launch a special cricketing event celebrating India-UK ties as part of the UK India Year of Culture events, which he accepted.
The Queen was joined by her husband, Duke of Edinburgh, and grandson Prince William and his wife Kate.
High-profile guests from various fields were greeted to the main foyer of the palace with a special Indian dance performance on the steps titled ‘Ekam’, presented by Akademi and choreographed by Arunima Kumar. It showcased the cultural diversity of India in the form of dance. Musicians from the Bhavan Centre in London performed Indian music, with Balu Raghuraman on the violin and Shri Balachander on the Mridangam.
“As we celebrate this 70th year of Indian independence, we remember the soulful soul of Mahatma Gandhi. I am looking forward to having eye contact with the legendary Queen who is the longest reigning British monarch. We were under this regime and we have lots of good things they initiated in India, which we carry on with pride… but we built over that and are zooming into one of the most developed nations,” said Malayalam superstar and politician Gopi.
UK-based Indian-origin filmmaker Gurinder Chadha described the evening as a “perfect combination” of the two cultures and singer Gurdas Mann added: “I am ready to do the bhangra if I get the chance”.
The guests pored over unique displays from the Royal Collection, including ancient Indian manuscripts such as the ‘Shahnama’ and some Persian calligraphy and Indian ornaments.
The event included the projection of a unique artwork on to the Buckingham Palace façade of India’s national bird – the peacock.
Royal chef Mark Flanagan and the chef from Veeraswamy, the UK’s oldest Indian restaurant, Uday Salunkhe, led a kitchen team at the palace to prepare a special spread of canapés. The Indian dishes prepared were essentially Anglo Indian in taste, with flavours from different regions of India.
Uday said: “Today’s food is a classic case of the amalgamation of the Indian food and British food. Bringing out the Indian flavours in such miniature form was difficult, but after six weeks’ trial and working over the weekend, it has come out perfectly well today.”
Priti Patel said “As a member of the diaspora and a member of the British government, it’s amazing to see the depth of the UK-India relationship. I’ve been able to have discussions with minister Jaitley on the political situation in both our countries and the incredible trade opportunities that we have.”
London’s deputy mayor for business, Rajesh Agrawal commented “UK and India have a shared history on so many fronts. Celebrating 2017 as a UK India Year of Culture is a big landmark. In the last 20 years India has progressed a lot and our relationship needs to be constantly refreshed.”
Kunal Nayyar was overwhelmed,he said “I am born in Hounslow, a British kid who grew up in New Delhi and then moved to America and then ended up on this TV show [‘Big Bang Theory’] and all my dreams came true. So it’s really come full circle to be invited by the Queen.