Britain gets a first Indian woman Lord MayorMay 15th, 2008 - 11:24 pm ICT by admin
By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, May 15 (IANS) Manjula Sood, an Indian-born councillor, Thursday made history by becoming the first Indian woman to be made a Lord Mayor in Britain - appropriately, in a city dubbed Little India. Although the post is largely ceremonial - unlike that of the elected mayor - it marks an Indian success as this year marks the 800th anniversary of the creation of the Lord Mayor’s office in the city of Leicester, home to between 72,000 and 90,000 people of Indian origin.
Sood, who moved from Punjab to join her husband in Leicester in 1970, told a glittering ceremony that it was a “great honour for me to represent the city.”
“This year will be an historic time for Leicester in many ways, and I am really looking forward to doing all I can to promote what’s going on here, across the world,” she said.
Taking the role of the traditional Lady Mayoress is Sheenal Sejpal, who will be marrying Sood’s youngest son Mitesh later this month.
Mitesh and her older son Manish Sood, who is also a Leicester city councillor, will be her consorts.
Sood first became a Leicester city councillor October 1996, for Latimer ward, after working as a school teacher for nearly 20 years.
She was inspired to take up the role following the loss of her husband Paul Sood, who had been the councillor for that ward until his death May 1996.
In May last year she became the first Asian woman to join the city council’s Cabinet, where she took on the new portfolio of health and well-being.
She is a member of the Leicester Council of Faiths, and a governor at Leicester College.
And she has recently joined a national task force for black, Asian and ethnic minority women formed by British minister Harriet Harman.
Sood has earlier spoken about how she had wanted to go back to Punjab when she first came to Leicester, 160 km from London.
“When I arrived here on December 18, 1970, I didn’t want to live here - I wanted to go back. It was snowing, it was so dark, I was living in an old Victorian building which was cold. For one week I wouldn’t even open the suitcase.
“I phoned my grandfather after a week and he said, ‘Leicester is your home, Britain is your country, make the most of your opportunities. I have given you education, go and get some training and find a job’.”
“I don’t want to be the first and last Asian woman Lord Mayor in the country,” she added.
According to Britain’s 2001 census, 26 percent of Leicester’s 280,000 population is of Indian origin. But some Indian community leaders now put the figure at closer to 33 percent.
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