Cricket, culture: It’s raining ‘India’ in London

Updated on Jun 01, 2019 01:23 AM IST

Walk around central London during summer months and you are most likely to run into prominent Indians, with family in tow, shopping or just taking in the many delights of the capital.

Also returning is the five-day Jaipur Literature Festival at the British Library from June 14, for its sixth edition in London.(HT Photo)
Also returning is the five-day Jaipur Literature Festival at the British Library from June 14, for its sixth edition in London.(HT Photo)
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It’s not exactly an ‘Indian summer’ yet in England with temperatures around 20 degrees, but there is already much warmth around ‘India’, thanks to the cricket World Cup and several big-ticket engagements in the cultural calendar.

Walk around central London during summer months and you are most likely to run into prominent Indians, with family in tow, shopping or just taking in the many delights of the capital. Politicians, bureaucrats, executives and the chatteratti – all come over.

Even in the most dull, dreary and grey times, India is part of London’s everyday life – from connected historical sites to food and music. Travel on the Tube and you run into a large number of cricket fans donning the Indian team’s T-shirt.

“They all come here during the summer; I meet most of my friends from India in London, not while visiting India”, says an Indian industrialist and long-time resident of London. His friends include Bollywood stars who come over for shooting or holiday.

From Saturday, the two-day Kushwant Singh Literary Festival returns for its second edition in London at the King’s College, featuring prominent writers and individuals associated with the iconic editor-writer, who studied in London and later served in the Indian high commission.

Also returning is the five-day Jaipur Literature Festival at the British Library from June 14, for its sixth edition in London. Besides the usual suspects, speakers include Jeffrey Archer, Pico Iyer, Manisha Koirala and Venki Ramakrishnan.

India is one of the central themes of a major exhibition at the Kensington Palace, the childhood home of Queen Victoria (1819-1901), who went on to be the ‘Empress of India’. England is celebrating the 200th anniversary of her birth.

For the first time, on display in the stately Aspley House in Hyde Park Corner is silver cutlery adorned with Deccan-style elephants and other motifs presented to Arthur Wellesley, who led the colonial army against Tipu Sultan and the Marathas in early 19th century.

Visiting London last week was writer Amitav Ghosh, who launched his new book, ‘Gun Island’, at the London School of Economics and the Hay Festival in Wales, where his session with Guardian writer-editor Claire Armitstead was one of the most popular.

Sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan also launched his book, ‘Master on Masters’ last week before a packed audience at the Nehru Centre. Gopal Gandhi, a former centre director, spoke on ‘Atonement in politics: perspectives from Mahatma Gandhi’.

India-related themes and events are common in London’s academic and cultural calendar, particularly at the School of Oriental and African Studies and the LSE, but there were more such seminars after the recent Indian election, where experts sought to make sense of the outcome.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Prasun Sonwalkar was Editor (UK & Europe), Hindustan Times. During more than three decades, he held senior positions on the Desk, besides reporting from India’s north-east and other states, including a decade covering politics from New Delhi. He has been reporting from UK and Europe since 1999.

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