On a mission of sewa to make a difference

On a mission of sewa to make a difference

iGlobal columnist Bhaven Pathak shares his experience and thoughts on recently collecting his MBE for services to Business and British Hinduism, conferred in the New Year’s Honours List for 2021.

During colonial rule in India, my grandfather survived a shot in the chest by soldiers serving the British and was even imprisoned for protesting for independence. It is remarkable that 80 years later, there I was at Windsor Castle to finally receive my MBE for Services to Business and British Hinduism at an investiture ceremony.

Although the honour was announced in December 2020, it was only at the investiture ceremony did the whole thing really sink in.

Here I was – a regular working-class guy from London raised by a widowed mother and often dependent on benefits – invited to be a guest at one of the most prestigious and acclaimed historical venues in the entire country (and maybe world?) to meet with royalty and be awarded a medal.


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The occasion was awe-inspiring in every way – from the spellbinding architecture, history and appearance of Windsor Castle to the other honours awardees who each had achieved something incredibly amazing.

A particular highlight was meeting Her Royal Highness, Princess Royal. I had never met royalty before, and so I wasn’t quite sure what it would be like. But she was delightful, polite and very interested in the work I do both in the community and professionally. All the while, as we stood there conversing in the breathtakingly opulent Grand Reception room, the live classical orchestra played ‘Rondeau from Abdelazer’ in the background. It was hard not to feel overwhelmed.


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New British Indians

As my wife Puja and I left Windsor Castle, we reflected on how things have changed over the generations; it feels as though we are a new breed of Indians, born and raised as British but with a value system and heritage unmistakably Hindu.

In some ways, this honour recognises that Hindus and Indians, in general, have become an integral asset to the country, bringing hard work, enterprise, academic achievement and high morals and ethics to British society.

The investiture was for the MBE I was awarded, which was in recognition of Services to Business and British Hinduism.


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Motivation to do more

Recognition is not why we engage in sewa – the selfless service of others, but it does allow us to do more and even inspire others. It makes others aware of what is achievable with selflessness and determination.

In addition to my professional career in the city and working with different businesses, my service to the British Hindu community has been in many different forms. I have worked extensively with youth and in furthering the traditions of the Hindu faith. This has included over 500 kathas (recitations) on Hindu scriptures, bhajans (devotional songs) and pujas (rituals). Over the years, I have also been very keen to help the younger generation access their faith and culture by guiding them through their education and careers with their Hindu identity in mind.

Although I still don’t feel that I have done anything near-heroic, I have tried to make whatever little difference I can by volunteering, fundraising for charities and mentoring disadvantaged young people, as I was myself. And I don’t see the MBE as a reason to congratulate myself and rest on my laurels, but rather do more and support others already doing so much.

I have heard so many people think and say, “if he can get Honours, then so can I” – which is something I am so pleased to hear. I really want this MBE to encourage others to serve the community and others and perhaps help them realise that it doesn’t have to be a choice that means compromising on other things in life, such as career or family.

by Bhaven Pathak

Bhaven Pathak is a British born, Director and senior corporate financier in the City of London and Founder and Trustee of Yog Foundation, a registered UK charity that seeks to revive Hindu values and bring the community together for doing good in the spirit of selfless service.

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