• Friday, March 31, 2023

Tribute to Prince Philip

‘Asians share in this moment of national loss’

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (Photo: Kirstin Sinclair/Getty Images for Ascot Racecourse).

By: Radhakrishna N S

By Lord Jitesh Gadhia

Lord Jitesh Gadhia

IN CONTRIBUTING to the debate [on Prince Philip’s legacy], I should like to give voice to the sentiments of the British Indian and wider British Asian communi­ty, who share fully in this moment of nation­al loss and in giving thanks for a life of extraordinary public service.

The many moving tributes paid to Prince Philip have highlighted two recurring themes.

The first is his impec­cable track record of ‘service and duty’ – in supporting the Queen, representing our nation and promoting the work of countless chari­ties, especially the pro­lific Duke of Edin­burgh’s Award scheme.

For the Indian com­munity these attributes are easily recognisable as sewa and dharma. They are among the no­blest of virtues for Hin­dus, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists – faiths which share a common Vedic heritage.

Since last Friday (9), many of these commu­nities in the UK have held their own special prayers in memory of Prince Philip. This re­flects not only the affec­tion in which the Prince and Her Majesty are held, but also the pro­gress we are making to­wards a more cohesive society comfortable in expressing both our in­dividuality as well as shared values.

The second recurring theme is Prince Philip’s unique wit and wis­dom. His wry sense of humour, and quips helped break down barriers with those he met during his public duties. Although some­times viewed as lacking tact or diplomacy, Prince Philip certainly didn’t lack authenticity.

Whenever I had the honour of interacting with Prince Philip, or seeing him in close proximity, I was always struck by the twinkle in his eyes. He had a star quality that could rival any Bollywood actor. Indeed, his four trips to India – three of them with Her Majesty – drew large crowds, as well as inevitably the odd controversy.

The pivotal role played by Lord Louis Mountbatten in men­toring Prince Philip doubled up by sensitis­ing him to the complex­ity and importance of the Indian subconti­nent, a region which represents the largest of the 53 Commonwealth countries, and collec­tively almost 70 per cent of its population.

Which leads neatly to my final observation. The aspect which many among the British Asian diaspora find most intriguing is the Duke’s personal back­ground as a “refugee prince”. He was an outsider who came to this country with very little, and was a self-made young man be­fore marrying into the House of Windsor.

These are circum­stances which many migrant communities can relate to; as indeed they can to the charms and challenges of living in an extended family.

This background may well have ex­plained why Prince Philip was so keen to reach out to other faith communities. His pio­neering work on inter­faith dialogue and link­ing this with topics such as business ethics or protection of the natural environment, are among his most impor­tant legacies. Among many notable interac­tions are the presentation of the Jain Declaration on Nature in 1990; the visit to the BAPS Neas­den Temple in 1996 and the trip to the Golden Temple in Amritsar in 1997 – all of which have been remembered in recent days.

Across the UK and Commonwealth, we should all be grateful for the Duke of Edin­burgh’s long and distin­guished life of public service – it is doubtful we will see the likes of him again.

As the history of the second Elizabethan age is written, the role of Prince Philip will fea­ture prominently, not only in supporting the monarch and repre­senting his country, but also in reaching out to every section of society and embracing the wid­er Commonwealth family of nations.

Lord Gadhia was speaking in a House of Lords debate on Mon­day (12) paying tribute to Prince Philip.

Eastern Eye

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