Category Archives: British Indians

This Edinburgh toddler knows the capitals of 196 countries!

At an age when other children her age are learning to walk, two-year-old Rakshitha is busy making us feel worse about your lives 🙂

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IT ALL started during an 11-hour plane journey when Rakshitha’s father Ramesh Kumar, 33, and mother Kavitha, 30, tried to keep the two-year-old occupied by learning the capitals of India, Britain and a handful of other major world countries.

“My wife and daughters came over from India to the UK in March and on the flight we were keeping Rakshitha occupied, telling her that the capital of India was New Delhi and the place we were going to was London,” Ramesh a project manager with Royal Bank of Scotland, toldThe Mirror.

To their astonishment, she was able to memorise every capital they mentioned. Intrigued, the family bought a colourful children’s book listing 30 of the world’s better known capital cities. Within a week, angelic Rakshitha had learned all 30 off by heart. And now, she can recite the capital cities of 196 countries after just three months of learning and memorising.

When her mother or father call out the name of a country, little Rakshitha answers back with the right city. And videos uploaded to YouTube by Kavitha show Rakshitha naming capitals as though it was as easy as saying one, two, three.

At an age when other children her age are learning to walk, Rakshitha is busy making us feel worse about our lives. Oh, and she can do it under five minutes.

It’s not just capital cities Rakshitha can remember – she knows nursery rhymes and lullabies word perfect too. Ramesh told The Mirror: “Even when I sing her a lullaby and I think she’s sleeping, the next day she’ll be up and about singing it back to me.”

Pic courtesy: Centre Press

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She waived her anonymity as rape survivor to set up maternity clinic for victims of sexual violence

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Indian-origin Pavan Amara’s My Body Back Project establishes facility in association with Barts Health NHS Trust

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An Indian-origin rape survivor in the UK recently opened the country’s first maternity clinic for rape and sexual assault victims, providing them with specially-trained midwives and psychologists, reports PTI.

The Indian-origin woman has founded the My Body Back Project, which has jointly established the new maternity clinic with the Barts Health NHS Trust in London. The clinic will provide extra antenatal support with specially-trained midwives, psychologists and paediatricians.

If it proves successful, it could be rolled out across other UK hospitals as well. “They don’t have to say what happened, although they can if they want to. Whatever they feel is right for them. We will then book them an appointment and take it from there,” Pavan Amara, the founder of the My Body Back Project, said.

Amara, who was raped as a teenager, waived her anonymity as a victim when she helped set up a sexual health clinic at the Royal London Hospital for victims of sexual violence last August. With more than 800 women using the service since it was set up, talks are under way to open a similar unit in Glasgow, reports BBC.

Though the service will be integrated into a regular maternity ward at the Royal London Hospital, women will follow a different antenatal route from the moment they are referred. As well as being offered extra, longer meetings with specially-trained staff, women will be able to have more of a say as to how their birthing rooms are laid out and legal advice over their medical checks.

The clinic will also provide antenatal classes and breastfeeding advice, which has been altered for women who have experienced sexual attacks, and offer specialist gynaecological examinations and mental health support after labour.

“There might be some characteristics that come across during the birth and it’s a shame because if we had known before we could have worked with them during the birth to help them have a positive pregnancy,” Inderjeet Kaur, consultant midwife at the clinic, told BBC.

Women can also self-refer to the maternity clinic by emailing the team to make an appointment.

The Indian-origin woman’s team has already received many international emails from women who cannot use the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) but she also plans to offer women in other countries one-off appointments in the form of video calls.

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Look who’s just bagged a junior minister’s post in the new UK govt

Indian-origin MP Alok Sharma named Parliamentary under secretary of state at the foreign and commonwealth office

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British lawmaker Alok Sharma has been named Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), becoming the second Indian- origin minister in Prime Minister Theresa May’s Cabinet.

The 48-year-old MP for Reading West, who had previously served in a special role of infrastructure envoy for India in the David Cameron-led government, was named in the latest set of junior ministerial posts announced by Downing Street recently.

He was first elected to the British parliament in May 2010 and was re-elected in May 2015 from Reading West. In his new role in the FCO, Sharma will work closely with newly-appointed foreign secretary Boris Johnson and is likely to be handed the charge of Indian affairs.

The minister who previously held the position, Hugo Swire, has resigned from the government along with Indian-origin peer Baroness Sandip Verma, who had served as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Department for International Development (DfID) in the Cameron government.

The new Secretary of State in charge of DfID had been announced as Priti Patel last week.

While Patel had been a vocal supporter of Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU), fellow Indian-origin MP Sharma had campaigned for Remain and even set up a cross-party group called British-Indians for IN.

Their presence in the Cabinet reflects May’s broader attempt at balancing her Cabinet with pro- and anti-Brexit campaigners as her government begins the process of the UK leaving the economic bloc.

Born in India, Sharma grew up in Earley and Whitley Wood and went to Reading Blue Coat School in Sonning and Salford University where he received a BSc in Applied Physics with electronics in 1988.

Sharma subsequently qualified as a chartered accountant, training with Deloitte Haskins & Sells in Manchester before moving into corporate finance advisory with Nikko Securities and then Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken, where he held senior roles based out of London, Stockholm and Frankfurt. Alok advised corporates and private equity firms on cross border mergers and acquisitions, listings and restructurings.

Sharma is currently a governor of a local primary school in Reading. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Society for the advancement of the Arts, Manufacturing and Commerce. Previously, he served as a chairman of the political think tank Bow Group’s economic affairs committee. In 2013, he was appointed as the Conservative vice-chairman for BME Communities.

Sharma is married and lives in Reading Borough with his wife, two daughters and his dog Olly.

Pic courtesy: www.aloksharma.co.uk

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This website aims to chronicle the Sikh contribution to WWI

UK Punjab Heritage Association launches empirefaithwar.com as part of a wider three-year project to coincide with the centenary of the Battle of Somme on July 1, 1916 — described as the bloodiest battle of the Great War

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A new website which aims to build the biggest database on the Sikh experience in World War I has gone live as part of a worldwide crowd-sourcing initiative, reports PTI.

The UK Punjab Heritage Association (UKPHA) launched empirefaithwar.com as part of a wider three-year ‘Empire, Faith & War: The Sikhs and World War One’ project to coincide with the centenary of the Battle of Somme on July 1, 1916 – described as the bloodiest battle of the Great War.

“We have created an exciting interactive ‘Soldier Map’ that displays the records of approximately 8,000 Sikh soldiers. We want to enrich the records that already exist and add as many more as possible to preserve vital information that is at risk of being lost forever,” UKPHA said in a statement.

“By combining family memories and memorabilia with archival records, we have the opportunity to collectively create the definitive database of the Sikh experience of the Great War so that their sacrifices and suffering will never be forgotten again,” the association said.

The project has received a grant of 448,500 pounds from the UK’s Heritage Lottery Fund to chronicle the sacrifices made by Sikhs in the Battle of Somme and other battles between 1916 and 1918.

Although accounting for less than 2 per cent of the population of British India at the time, Sikhs made up more than 20 per cent of the British Indian Army at the outbreak of hostilities.

They and their comrades in arms proved to be critical in the early months of the fighting on the Western Front, helping save the allies from an early and ignominious defeat.

According to estimates, every sixth British soldier serving during World War I would have been from the Indian subcontinent, making the British Indian Army as large as all the forces from the rest of the British Empire combined – including the forces of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa.

The story of Sikhs in World War I has been captured through original artefacts, unpublished photographs and drawings, newspapers and comics, postcards, works of art, uniforms, gallantry medals, and folk songs sung by the wives left at home in an exhibition in London two years ago.

Many of these elements will filter through into the website, which has already attracted 200 families to engage with the project.

The ‘Soldier Map’ uses Google Maps technology to place a soldier in his place of birth in pre-Partition Punjab. It has a ‘Citizen Historians in Action’ section which invites Sikhs and non-Sikhs from around the world help create a virtual memorial and legacy.

The website also includes audio interviews with veterans, recorded over 30 years ago by historian and author Charles Allen. Close to 1.5 million Indians served the British Indian Army, fighting in all the major theatres of war from Flanders fields to the Mesopotamian oil fields of what is now Iraq.

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Meet the three Indian-origin professionals featured in the ‘100 Most Connected Men in the UK’ list for 2016

While Mumbai-born Sarosh Zaiwalla was the first Asian man to establish a London city law firm in 1982, Rishi Saha is the head of public policy at Facebook UK; Samir Desai is director at Funding Circle, a fintech ‘unicorn’

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Sarosh Zaiwalla

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In 1982, Zaiwalla became the first Asian man to establish a London city law firm. Born and raised in Mumbai, the lawyer left India for London to become a solicitor, just like his father.

After qualifying, he trained at Stocken and Co, a maritime law firm in Fleet Street. Among Zaiwalla’s most renowned early interns was a young Tony Blair. Over the course of his illustrious career, Zaiwalla has represented a number high-profile names, including the Gandhi family, the Dalai Lama, Benazir Bhutto, the ruler of Dubai, Tchenguiz brothers and the Chinese government, to name just a few.

Zaiwalla successfully represented the case between Iran’s largest private bank, Bank Mellat, in its highly-profiled sanctions litigation with the European Council. Zaiwalla’s firm had successfully challenged the ruling, whereby the European Court of Justice upheld the decision that Bank Mellat did unfairly have sanctions placed upon it by the European Council. The European Court of Justice confirmed the annulment of the fund-freezing measures in place against Bank Mellat since 2010 and also ruled that the European Council failed to provide sufficient grounds or evidence.

Rishi Saha

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Saha is the head of public policy for Facebook in the UK. He previously led digital communications at 10 Downing Street and the Cabinet Office, with responsibility for online outreach and citizen engagement on behalf of the Prime Minister. The 36-year-old Saha joined Facebook from the WPP consulting firm, Hill+Knowlton Strategies, where he served as the Dubai-based regional director for the Middle-East, India, Africa and Turkey region.

A born-and-bred Londoner of Indian-origin, Rishi also serves as a trustee of the Taylor Bennett Foundation, a charity that addresses the need for greater diversity in the communications industry through the delivery of a training and personal development programme for black and minority ethnic graduates. He is the one behind the ‘Pimp My Party’ Internet game for David Cameron.

Samir Desai

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Desai is the co-founder and director of Funding Circle, the largest peer-to-peer lender in the UK that focuses on SMEs. Founded in 2010, the platform recently topped £1 billion in lending. Operations have expanded into the US as well as parts of Europe and is one of the largest Fintech successes in the country. Desai is responsible for driving the company strategy, overseeing the company’s finances and managing the day-to-day operations at Funding Circle. He has worked extensively in the financial services sector. Before founding Funding Circle, he was an executive at Olivant, a private equity investor in financial services businesses in Europe, the Middle-East and Asia. Prior to this, Desai was a management consultant at BCG, advising a number of major UK and global banks and insurers on strategy, new product initiatives, and operational efficiency.

In December last year, Desai was honoured as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). In a statement emailed to Business Insider, Desai said: “I am honoured to have been awarded a CBE. This honour is testament to the hard work of the Funding Circle team who have helped originate £1.25 billion of loans from thousands of investors to small businesses in the last five years – creating over 50,000 new jobs globally.” A CBE is one of the UK’s most prestigious awards, and sits just one rung below a knighthood in the order of heraldry in the UK.

Photos courtesy: Tom Stockill; YouTube, The Sunday Times, UK

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This octogenarian NRI from UK talks the talk, walks the walk

Balwant Singh Grewal’s latest – completion of a 3,000-km walk from Kanyakumari to Delhi to spread awareness about blindness and raise funds

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An 80-year-old NRI based in London and native of a village near Ludhiana in Punjab just concluded a 3,000-km walk from Kanyakumari to Delhi to spread awareness about blindness and raise funds.

Grewal, who heads the UK-based charity India Association, started the walk on October 26 last year. The fund he collected during the course of his walk will be donated to ‘Saksham’, an organisation working for the cause of the blind, and the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund.

During his six-month-long walk called ‘Bobby Walk Full Circle 2015,’ Grewal covered 4,160 km to raise up to 1.5 million pounds.

Grewal, fondly called ‘Bobby’ by his friends, covered places such as Madurai, Puducherry, Chennai, Nellore, Guntur, Visakhapatnam, Bhubaneswar, Kolkata, Asansol, Ranchi, Gaya, Patna, Varanasi, Allahabad, Kanpur, Lucknow and Noida, before reaching New Delhi.

Grewal was accompanied by a team of four – his ‘walk project’ director and joint secretary of India Association Dr Rajan Bhanot, a driver, a chef and a cleaner.

Upon completion of his journey, he was received by Indian minister of urban development M Venkaiah Naidu at the India Gate in New Delhi. Grewal said his walk has generated substantial awareness about blindness. At a gurudwara in Nagpur, about 200 women came forward to donate their eyes, he claimed.

This is not the first time Grewal has gone on a long walk. A few years ago, he undertook a 500-mile walk from the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh to the English Houses of Parliament in Westminster to raise a million for bowel cancer research at St Mark’s Hospital in Scotland.

In fact, he is no stranger to personal challenges. A keen sportsman all his life, in 2001 he ran the London Marathon in just over 5 hours, and in 2004/5 (aged 68) he completed an extraordinary walk covering 2,500 miles across India from the North-West frontier to the deep South. This walk raised £100,000 for research into Cancer and AIDS.

Bobby is a remarkable man in many ways. Born in Punjab, India, he has lived in Britain since 1958 and is very proud to be British, not having forgotten the values of life he inherited from his birthplace. He has worked as a successful property developer and now passionately believes in giving something back to the society which has given him a very good life during his time in Britain.

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More than just a ‘Priti’ picture: This Indian-origin woman is leading the ‘Brexit’ campaign

Priti Patel, the senior-most British Indian member of David Cameron’s cabinet, is part of the ‘leave’ camp, which favours Britain’s exit (or ‘Brexit’) from the European Union in the referendum

 

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Priti Patel says quitting Europe will make Britain stronger. The senior-most Indian-origin member of David Cameron’s cabinet, is part of the ‘leave’ camp, which favours ‘Brexit’ or Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU) in the referendum.

On February 20, Cameron, Britain’s Prime Minister, set June 23 as the date for a referendum on the country’s membership of the EU. His announcement followed a protracted renegotiation of the current conditions of Britain’s membership at a summit in Brussels. The move immediately prompted government ministers to declare their backing for either the ‘remain’ or ‘leave’ campaigns.

“For 41 years, the British public have been denied a referendum on Europe, and their say on the powers and money that Brussels has taken from us. They now have the chance to hold its undemocratic and unaccountable institutions to account by voting to leave the EU,” Patel, the 43-year-old employment minister, was quoted as saying by Daily Mail.

“I believe we can only safeguard Britain’s future by once again becoming a genuinely sovereign country, with British laws being made in the British Parliament in the interests of the British people,” she adds.

In the context of British Indians, Patel has used the country’s love for Indian food, dubbed curry, to make her case stronger. She says membership of the EU meant unmanageable levels of European migration which led to Indian chefs being denied visas. “There are over 12,000 Indian restaurants in the UK. But the future of this sector is under pressure and at risk while we remain in the EU,” Patel was quoted as saying at a gathering in London recently by Newsgram.

Along with MPs Kwasi Kwarteng, Dominic Raab, Chris Skidmore and Elizabeth Truss, Patel is part of the five-strong “Class of 2010” seen to represent the party’s “new Right”. She voted against gay marriage, campaigned against the smoking ban and once referred to British workers as “among the worst idlers in the world”.

On economic matters, she’s an unapologetic Thatcherite. The former prime minister had a “unique ability to understand what made people tick”, Patel said of her idol, Margaret Thatcher, in an interview with Total Politics. “Managing the economy, balancing the books and making decisions – not purchasing things the country couldn’t afford.”

Born in London to Gujarati parents who fled Uganda in the 1960s, 43-year-old Patel is a graduate of Keele University, where she studied economics, sociology and social anthropology. After graduating, she spent several years working in press relations and consultancy, including a controversial stint representing British American Tobacco.

She became a card-carrying Conservative aged 18 and first fought for a seat in 2005, unsuccessfully fighting to become MP for Nottingham North. However, new leader David Cameron identified her as a promising young talent and she was parachuted into the safe Tory seat of Witham, where she was duly elected in 2010. Following the 2015 general election, she was named employment minister in the Department for Work and Pensions.

She is also married and has a seven-year-old son.

Pics courtesy: The Telegraph, UK

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