As one of the British Indian community champions to be honoured for his work with an MBE in the Queen’s Jubilee Honours list in June, Councillor Pranav Bhanot was among the privileged few to be invited to Her late Majesty’s historic state funeral at Westminster Abbey on September 19.
Here, he shares his reflections from a once-in-a-lifetime event, attended by royalty and foreign dignitaries as the world bid a final farewell to Britain’s longest-serving monarch and Head of the Commonwealth.
How does it feel being among the few to be invited to the Abbey?
I feel it is a bitter-sweet emotion. On the one hand, I am very grateful to have received an invite and feel privileged but at the same time, the circumstances are very unfortunate. When I learnt about the invitation, it was very unexpected, and knew it will be a very unique day.
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What did the Queen mean to you and your family?
The Queen was like another grandmother (Dadi/Nani) like figure in my life. Just like a grandparent, she has remained a constant in my life over the past 34 years and has been visible as a guiding support during some of the most difficult life events including the pandemic and some of the happier events such as the 2012 Olympics.
Her commitment to duty and service was quite inspirational and has certainly been something my family and I have looked up to. We live in a four generational family, from my grandmothers (nani/dadi) to my youngest son, who is eight months. Whilst we all have different personalities and different outlooks on life, one thing we all agree on is the admiration and affection towards the Queen. She has left huge boots to fill.
You were conferred your MBE by Her Majesty this year too; how do you reflect upon 2022 as a whole?
It is a year of gratitude and I am of course thankful. Four years ago, I lost my nanaji (Dial Das Sharma) and six months ago my babaji (Basheshar Nath Bhanot) passed away. Both of these individuals inspired me to get involved in service to the community, including through politics and law.
I have really missed them over the course of the year and wish to dedicate all the key highlights of the year to them both. Having two young kids has kept me very busy through the course of the year and makes it difficult to absorb everything. However, I'm thankful to my supportive wife, Shefali, family, community and community organisations that have guided and mentored me over the years. Manoj Ladwa, of India Inc. and formerly of NHSF (UK), remains one of my biggest inspirations and guides.
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How do you see UK-India relations develop under King Charles?
I think the relationship needs to be one of mutual respect. The relationship between the UK and India is only going to become more important as the true ramifications of Brexit are seen in the UK and India continues at a rapid rate of economic growth.
Whilst India and the UK's shared past relationship is important to acknowledge, it is also essential for any new monarch to understand the new ambitions for a new India. I hope any new monarch will champion any new trade deals and do their part in enhancing diplomatic relations.
A large number of His Majesty's subjects from the Indian diaspora, just like the royal family, value the notion of service, duty and commitment to family life. It is for this reason I believe many members of the British Indian diaspora hold the royals at high regard. I hope that relationship continues from strength to strength.