Tribute to Sujata Aum Barot: A pioneering British Indian female radio & TV personality

Tribute to Sujata Aum Barot: A pioneering British Indian female radio & TV personality

A popular community activist Sujata Aum Barot sadly passed away after contracting Covid-19 recently. The 59-year-old presenter from Leicester was well-known for being the first Indian-origin female presenter on British radio and TV. She also stood as an independent candidate for Leicester East in the 2017 General Election. She campaigned on behalf of various causes, including immigration, minimum wage, disabled rights and issues that affected local people in the city.

Sujata had been shielding at home with her elderly mother, who is now seriously ill in hospital, when she contracted Covid-19 and passed away in the early hours of January 23. She had long struggled with health conditions, but it was never obvious to those who didn’t know as she’d never shy away from putting on her dancing shoes when occasion called for it, or speaking her mind on panels and fighting on the frontline for causes which were dear to her heart.

YouTuber and presenter Parle Patel recalls being concerned for her health at a garba function where she had been dancing for a prolonged period, to which she replied: “I rather enjoy these blissful moments now and then deal with it in bed with a brew tomorrow!" She used her platform to challenge Leicester East MP Keith Vaz in 2017, in reference to whom she said: “Used to be good, but now needs to retire and go, as the diverse local communities have urged”. In one of her election campaign videos, she reassured the Belgrave constituency: “I am determined, focused and not scared of a challenge. I don't do PR stunts, I just get on with it. I’m not a fan of living the high life. I live with you, among you and will fight with you for causes that matter to you.” She was a fierce community activist and resolute in her determination to ensure the local Leicester East community was never taken for granted. A huge support to the next generation of artists, presenters and change-makers, she will be sorely missed by those who knew, loved and respected her.

Here’s a collection of messages from the community paying their respects to the trailblazing British Indian figure:

"Rest in Peace Sujata Aum Barot. You were crazy, funny, caring and brilliant all rolled into one. I cannot believe you're no longer with us. Suj joined BBC Radio Leicester a year or so after me. Those were pioneering days of British Asian broadcasting, with a new crop of young, talented broadcasters coming through, eventually laying the foundation for what went on to become the national BBC Asian Network.

We had brilliant laughs in those days with people like Mike Allbut-King, Deepak Patel, Neeta Kara... we all became great friends, but also started to redefine what Asian programming was all about. Suj was a brilliant presenter, and very funny – her Pee-wee the parrot voice for a fictional bird we had created, or playing one of Cinderella's ugly sisters in a very Asian pantomime are enduring memories of those pioneering days. Suj went on to present on Radio 2, Network East with Sanjeev Bhaskar, on top of presenting on Radio Leicester.

And in her later life – despite her own health issues, she fought passionately for the community on issues like the Belgrave library closure. She was devoted to her mum who is still in hospital with Covid. Let's pray for her, and for Suj's soul... farewell my friend, rest in peace in the abode of the Almighty, you are now reunited with your amazing dad, Babubhai Barot – and I can just picture the two of you making beautiful music in heaven."

- Kamlesh Purohit, Deputy Managing Editor, BBC Radio Leicester

"The community has lost a huge personality. Her role as a community activist will leave a huge gap. Sujata Aum Barot, you were a huge role model for me, and always pushed me to continue to help fight for righteousness. You were always strong, and inspirational and regardless of your health problems continued to stand and campaign for all good community causes. Your love & support will always be missed. Thank you for all that you have done.

May your legacy live on. Jai Shri Krishna. Aum Shanti"

- Priti Raichura, Events Planner

"The world has lost a beacon of light. The seas have lost a lighthouse. The community has lost a pillar stronger than any mountain. Sujata Aum Barot, you were a pivotal role model for me. You fearlessly backed my campaigning for veganism.

Your love & support was endless. Thank you. May your fight for justice & fairness for all beings continue through us."

- Dina Aherne, Animal Rights Advocate

“Despite her underlying health issues, this lady was mentally full of energy and zest. She was very passionate about causes important to her and always encouraging others, especially the youth and their endeavours; she was forever supporting me with mine. Knowing that this spark has disappeared is a sad pill to swallow.”

- Dr Rishi Handa, Head of Sanskrit, St. James Senior Boys’ School

"Another giant of our community goes. Sujata Aum Barot you will be missed. Thoughts go with your family."

- Parish Councillor Pranav Bhanot

"I still remember when I first spoke to Sujata Aum Barot. It was a late evening in 2015. I was freezing and waiting for a tube at a dusty North West London tube station after I had finished a rehearsal of some sort. I was 24 and doing free work was just another brick that new budding artists like myself had to do.

My phone rang and it was from a number I didn't recognise. I picked up and a charming, warm and firm voice greeted and immediately began to sing my praises. ‘Tare global jaavanu chhe!!! I'm going to connect you with some people. Now don't worry some of them are a bit akal vagar na but apde apdu joiye levanu’. Within minutes I felt this random lady had been in my life for years! I had no idea who this person was, we had zero mutual friends but within days... She set up my first international gig in America! I was flying out to be on a stage in front of 10K people because of some random auntie?! ‘Never call me auntie, unless you must. I'm your friend P’ Suj would say.

Thank you always Sujataben for believing in me, for teaching me to understand the power of my comedy, for making me feel intelligent and most of all of loving me no matter what we've argued about... May Mataji accept you in her dham. She truly has got a legend at her gate today... I guess when I next meet you, I'll start the rant of by: you left way soon ‘sareli, bareli, mareli Mata’. I'll miss you forever. Lots of love from "your vhalo dikro" P... Om Shanti Shanti Shanti. Jai Shri Krishna, Jai Mataji."

- Parle Patel, YouTuber and Presenter

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