Celebrating Indian independence in the UK may seem like the ultimate paradox, especially if you apply the old cricket test that Norman Tebbit used to describe loyalty. However, this is exactly what the Anoopam Mission in the UK did with style, grace, and respect for both British and Indian sentiment.
The celebration on 15 August 2023 at the Anoopam Mission Mandir in Denham, UK brought together the community in a sense of unity and liberty with its lively fusion of culture, speeches, flag-hoisting, and food. The Anoopam Mission promotes spiritual development and cultural preservation as a focus for the Hindu and British community. Although admittedly, much of the crowd was of Indian ancestry, it aspires to be a place where individuals from various backgrounds come together to help those seeking enlightenment through Bhakti yoga and selfless service to humanity.
The festivities began with captivating cultural performances that showcased the rich diversity and artistic talents within the community. The audience enjoyed a diverse display of Indian cultural heritage, with various dance styles and captivating music. Among the notable guests were Steve Tuckwell, the Conservative MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip; the Right Honourable Bob Blackman, the Conservative MP for Harrow East; Virendra Sharma, Labour MP for Southall; Chandrakant Sharma of HSS UK; CB Patel, a stalwart of the British Asian Press; and Nikita Trivedi from National Hindu Students Forum UK. Their remarks underscored the strong relationships that India and the UK have maintained while also honouring India’s Independence Day. Their words resonated with all attendees, leaving everyone in no doubt, that being British and of Indian heritage was a matter of pride and inspiration for both identities.
Sant Bhawant Param Pujya Sahebdada, who graced the proceedings, provided the much-needed spiritual touch, and we were reminded that in the past, political leaders would always seek out spiritual guidance. While summarising all the speeches, he highlighted that all individuals must look to serve the society they live in without forgetting the dharmic principles that are universally applicable. Through selfless service to humanity, the Indian community has been accepted as an integral part of British society, and the statistics shared by speakers showed that those of Indian heritage are living bridges and ambassadors of values that create a sustainable, vibrant relationship between the UK and India.
The highlight of the day was the flag hoisting ceremony, where both the British and Indian flags soared high. As the national anthems played, everyone stood together, symbolising the harmony between our two nations and the shared values of freedom and respect. Following the speeches and flag hoisting, the celebration continued with more captivating cultural dances. Anyone who has attended an Indian event knows that good food is a necessary component, and this event did not disappoint with the serving of a flavoursome saatvik meal cooked on the premises by volunteers.
It was a day of reflection, inspiration, and unity, where historical wrongs were not hidden but with an understanding that both countries must look forward while learning from the past. The idea that provided the most guidance was that ‘Swatantra’ is more than just a historical occurrence or ‘independence’ on paper. It is a notion that encapsulates the need for an independent mindset and capacity for self-direction. Britain and India need to chart a new pathway, and at the Anoopam Mission, we were reminded that the right spiritual guidance for political leaders can be an integral part of good, holistic governance if those in leadership espouse righteousness and selflessness.
The chant of Jai Hind on the shores of Britain were therefore not a geographical or national call but a call to all those present to do their duty for the good of call. As a young British student, born in the USA to Indian heritage parents I hope more of us can see beyond borders as we did that day.