Imagine cricket, coconuts and Koh-i-Noor! I was immensely proud to present certificates of excellence to 45 of India's top educational institutions, in Palace of Westminster this week - and proudly tell them that the statue of Mahatma Gandhi looking at Parliament, could have inscribed on it. "I told you so" and were he alive today, he would be looking at these educational centres from India and be immensely proud - because each of them had a focus not just on grades, but on character, nation-building, leadership, environment, shaping and helping make a better world, improving the body and the mind. Our schools should be temples. These institutions have got it right.
I invited them to see the Memorial Gates outside Buckingham Palace commemorating the service of Indian soldiers and others from the Commonwealth in the two World Wars, who fought for British Independence - and gained it for Britain too.
Well done ‘Skilltree' and 'Great Places to Study' for showing them where they need to improve further and sharing best practice. Shekhar Bhattacharjee and Arvina and your team make us proud with the work you are doing for strengthening UK-India relations.
I use the term 'coconut' to express to one recipient who is a retired High Court Judge, that I would in my days as a Barrister have been terrified to appear before him. He replied he is like a coconut - hard on the outside, soft on the inside. I quipped, I too am often called a coconut, but in the UK it means something different.
I bring Koh-I-Noor to this discussion primarily because during the UK-India roundtable, I advised the UK Prime Minister to build closer ties by returning the diamond! I suggested the audience may wish to steal it back on their visit.
And Cricket because - I felt the Baroness who had missed the India-Pakistan game as she was hosting a Swami, may have overdone the prayers - given the humiliation the Indian cricket team inflicted on their opponents. 'Bichara (poor) Pakistan' we all agreed.
What all of these institutions have in common, is that they saw a role for themselves in nation-building. This is not the norm in our schools. Also, their role was to form tomorrow’s leaders. That in the UK is something the Etons think of themselves, not your average school.
This is typical of the awardees.
“Anubhuti’s mission is to create a learning environment conducive to nurturing the learners and the educators to be creative, capable, compassionate and equanimous citizens of character with global outlook. Anubhuti shall achieve this mission with a rational commitment to the time-tested, multifaceted Indian culture, the spirit of mutual dependence, enlightened entrepreneurship and global outlook, leading them to be socially aligned, environmentally conscious and sensitive human beings.”