Actor, Writer, Director, Raconteur Madhav Sharma
Acclaimed actor Madhav Sharma, trade promoter Patricia Hewitt and Dame Asha Khemka OBE, Principal and CEO of West Nottinghamshire College, were tonight named winners of the inaugural Dadabhai Naoroji Awards.
The awards, presented by the government and chosen by a group of cross-party politicians, are aimed at honouring individuals whose contributions have enhanced the India-Britain relationship in the areas of culture, commerce and education.
The three widely-respected winners were presented with their awards at a special reception held at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office attended by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
Mr Clegg said: “It gives me great pleasure to present these awards to three outstanding individuals on behalf of the British Government. They have worked tirelessly to strengthen the bond between the UK and India.
“As advocates of UK-India relations, their work continues in the same spirit as that of Dadabhai Naoroji, helping our two great nations work together to achieve fairness, mutual understanding and economic prosperity.
The event was a reminder that the India-Britain relationship is “one which we must continue to foster and one from which both our nations have a great deal to gain”, the Deputy Prime Minister added.
The awards are named after Dadabhai Naoroji, the Mumbai-born independence icon and Britain’s first Indian-origin MP, and were first unveiled by Mr Clegg during his visit to India in August.
Calcutta-born Sharma – a formidable actor, writer, director and voice-over artist – was honoured with the Culture award in lieu of an extraordinarily prolific and eclectic career spanning a half century.
His innumerable credits include numerous appearances for the Royal Shakespeare Company, iconic TV shows such as Coronation Street, The Bill, Doctors and Nurses and Doctor Who, countless radio dramas including The Archers and an adaptation of Midnight’s Children, Hollywood blockbusters such as ‘Entrapment’ all the way through to lending his distinctive voice to audio book versions of Kipling classics.
Accepting the award, Sharma paid tribute to two men who helped shape his life and career.
“The first was my Maths master at secondary school who was the first person to recognise & foster my love of the words and language of the Warwickshire Lad and who taught me, most importantly, how to listen.
“Also, I can never forget a particularly beautiful summer evening when I, as a young schoolboy, went to the Indian Institute of World Culture in Bangalore and listened enraptured to an Englishman – yes, an Englishman – singing traditional Karnatic music.
“When I met him afterwards, he asked what interested me the most and when I shyly answered ‘Shakespeare, Sir’, he did not laugh or think me odd but merely said: ‘Art knows no boundaries. Here I am, an Englishman, singing classical South Indian music in South India. Perhaps one day, you will play Shakespeare in England.’
“And I walked back home with a spring in my step, and the beginnings of a secret dream in my heart.”
Ever the raconteur, Sharma added: “To live is to dream, and I intend to go on living and dreaming well into my ‘second childishness and mere oblivion’. What unites us in the human condition seems to me to be more important that anything that keeps us separate and divided.”
The Rit Hon. Patricia Hewitt (Left) with Indian High Commissioner Ranjan Mathai
Patricia Hewitt was honoured for her tireless work promoting the India-Britain trade relationship as chairperson of the UK India Business Council.
The former cabinet minister charged with the health and trade portfolios, Mrs Hewitt has gained a reputation for her boundless energy and a deep love for India.
“It is a privilege to be the Chair of the UK India Business Council at this particularly exciting time in UK – India relations”, Mrs Hewitt said after her win.
“The recent visit to India by the Deputy Prime Minister – and his inauguration of these new Awards – underscores the UK Government’s commitment to strengthening economic ties between the two countries.”
The award for achievement in education – a cornerstone of Naoroji’s work – was given Dame Asha Khemka OBE, just the second woman of Indian origin to be given the female equivalent of a British knighthood.
Dame Asha is the principal and CEO of Vision West Nottinghamshire College and founder chairperson of the Association of Colleges India as well as a prominent member of the Indo-British Trade Council, an organization which helps British businesses tap into the Indian market.
Dame Asha Khamke OBE
“I am deeply humbled to be the first recipient of the Dadabhai Naoroji award for Education”, Dame Asha said.
“Dadabhai Naoroji is a true icon within Indian and British history, his legacy has paved the way for me and for countless other Indians to make a significant contribution to strengthen the bonds between our two great nations.”
The three winners were chosen from among more than 80 individuals nominated by the public and a shortlist prepared by a ministerial panel comprising Liberal Democrat Minister David Laws, Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister Hugo Swire, Trade and Investment Minister Lord Livingston, Universities Minister Greg Clark and Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries.