Rishi Sunak made history yet again as Britain’s first Indian-origin Chancellor of the Exchequer stepped out of his No. 11 Downing Street home in London to lay out a traditional rangoli decoration and light up some diyas at the doorstep to mark Diwali.
Sunak, 40, was born in Hampshire, south-east England, to Indian migrant parents – a pharmacist mother and a National Health Service (NHS) GP father. He is married to Akshata Murthy, the daughter of Indian IT giant Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy, with whom he has two young daughters Krishna and Anoushka.
He has often spoken about being a British citizen and a proud Hindu and regularly visits the temple with his family. However, Sunak’s message this Diwali was for British Hindus to follow the lockdown rules and refrain from the usual tradition of temple visits and getting together with friends and family.
He said: “I know how difficult it is not to be able to see each other. Just a couple more weeks and we are going to get through this and it’s going to be so much better on the other side.
“We will have lots of happy times afterwards. But, to keep everyone safe right now, just follow the rules.”
Lockdown restrictions in England have meant that and gurdwaras across the country are turning more towards virtual festivities this year.
"Faith is important to me, I'm a practising Hindu, I pray with my kids, visit the temple when I can – at the moment rather less so because I'm busy,” the told the BBC.
And, pointing out the finish line at the end of the strict lockdown in England on December 2, he added: "For us as Hindus, Diwali is special, and it's going to be difficult this year. But we've got Zoom, we've got the phone, and most importantly, we've got each other. Whether you can see someone or not the bond of family, that bond of love is always going to be there. And it will be there on 3 December as well."
While Sunak’s personal Diwali touch this week marks a first, the UK Prime Minister does annually host a gathering and an Annakut, or mountain of festive food, from London’s next door at No. 10 Downing Street. However, this year that particular celebration also had to be called off due to the coronavirus pandemic lockdown but used the ‘iGlobal’ DiwaliFest2020 to send out a warm message of hope and optimism.
*For the UK PM’s message and other highlights from DiwaliFest2020,