By Amit Roy
AS CHILDREN in the heat and dust of India, we learnt about the “Lady with the Lamp”.
So, it woke memories from long ago to hear Prince Charles refer to her last week when opening the NHS Nightingale Hospital in London by video link from his home 530 miles away in Birkhall in Scotland.
“I need hardly say that the name of this hospital could not have been more aptly chosen,” he said, in what I thought was perhaps the most moving speech I have heard him make.
“Florence Nightingale, ‘The Lady with the Lamp’, brought hope and healing to thousands in their darkest hour,” he reminded us. “In this dark time, this place will be a shining light.”
His words brought to mind how independent India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru captured the moment after Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination on January 30, 1948: “The light has gone out, I said, and yet I was wrong. For the light that shone in this country was no ordinary light. The light that has illumined this country for these many years will illumine this country for many more years, and a thousand years later, that light will be seen in this country and the world will see it and it will give solace to innumerable hearts. For that light represented something more than the immediate past, it represented the living, the eternal truths, reminding us of the right path, drawing us from error, taking this ancient country to freedom.”
The Queen also shone a light when she spoke from Windsor Castle last Sunday (5).
“Across the Commonwealth and around the world, we have seen heart-warming stories of people coming together to help others, be it through delivering food parcels and medicines, checking on neighbours, or converting businesses to help the relief effort,” she said.
“This time we join with all nations across the globe in a common endeavour, using the great advances of science and our instinctive compassion to heal. We will succeed – and that success will belong to every one of us.”
Her own memories took her back 80 years when she mentioned her late younger sister, Princess Margaret: “It reminds me of the very first broadcast I made, in 1940, helped by my sister. We, as children, spoke from here at Windsor to children who had been evacuated from their homes and sent away for their own safety. Today, once again, many will feel a painful sense of separation from their loved ones.”
At 93 and after 68 years on the throne, the monarch has lived through the dark days of the Second World War when an estimated 80 million people perished across the world, and seen the ebb and flow of fortune.
As Asians we have much to learn from the British, just as they have as much to learn from us.
“The pride in who we are is not a part of our past, it defines our present and our future,” she said.
She ended with a touch of Vera Lynn: “We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.”