And now, for a bit of kathak in the Commons

October 15th, 2009 - 10:30 am ICT by IANS  

Pratibha Patil By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, Oct 15 (IANS) Put it down to an Indian autumn - after a performance of Bollywood dance at Buckingham Palace, it was the turn of kathak in the House of Commons.

Pratap Pawar, a well-known kathak dance exponent from India, gave a recital before an audience of British-Indians in the Members’ Dining Room of the British lower house of parliament Wednesday. The occasion - a celebration of Diwali hosted by Britain’s three main political parties along with the Hindu Forum of Britain - provided an opportunity to MPs to gamely vie with each other to prove their Indian credentials.

The clear winner was Sarah Teather of the Liberal Democrats party, who learnt Hindi for two weeks, so she could tell her appreciative audience in a surprisingly clean accent: “Main House of Commons mein aapka swagat karti hoon.”

Pointing to her party leader, she then added: “Main ab Nick Clegg se aapka parichay karvati hoon.”

Teather, whose Brent East constituency is home to a large number of ethnic Indians, had set an entirely different level of challenge to British MPs, many of whom struggle to muster up anything more than a ‘Namaste.’

Then John Bercow, the speaker, turned up with his wife Sally in a shimmering blue salwaar kameez.

“Our country would, for your involvement, be immeasurably stronger,” Bercow told his audience, who included Hindus, Sikhs and Jains from all walks of life.

Harriet Harman of the ruling Labour party and leader of the House, added: “When I first to the House of Commons in 1982, I looked forward to a day like this, when we would celebrate Diwali in the House.”

“Looking at my diary, it seems as if the entirety of this fortnight is taken up with Diwali events,” said Dominic Grieve of the opposition Conservative Party, the shadow justice secretary.

Lord Navneet Dholakia (Lib Dem), had a word of warning for British politicians who are preparing for general elections due by June 3, 2010.

“Don’t fall for the [far-right] British National Party trap on immigration. Instead, speak loudly about the contributions made by the Indian community,” he said.

The Diwali event, hosted by MPs Keith Vaz (Labour), Mark Fields (Conservative) and Sarah Teather (Liberal Democrats), followed a performance of Bollywood dance at the Buckingham Palace Tuesday to celebrate the coming visit of President Pratibha Patil.

(Dipankar De Sarkar can be contacted at

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