Something funny happened at a recent event.
The event was yet another awards ceremony – one of the innumerable Asian Awards ceremonies that pepper the British Indian calendar here in the UK.
The chief guest was Dinesh Patnaik, a veteran diplomat who had days before been made the Deputy High Commissioner and a man, it appears, who doesn’t mince his words.
Taking to the stage, Mr Patnaik’s first utterance was “Now I’ve been told that many of these awards ceremonies are a scam…”
The media table at the event gasped. Smiles broke out amongst us because someone had finally told a word – or a few words – of truth. The merits of the actual awards ceremony are beside the point.
It showed that the second-in-command at the Indian Mission in London – arguably one of the most important foreign missions in the United Kingdom – is a force to be reckoned with.
And as is often the case, behind every formidable man there is invariably a rather formidable woman. In Mr Patnaik’s case, it is none other than his life partner, the equally formidable Poonam Patnaik.
The youngest of six children who grew up in Orissa in the 1960’s an 1970’s she describes herself as a “liberal” and worked previously as a journalist, including for the Indian Express. As if that’s not enough, she’s also a talented singer.
An Indian lady living in the UK, Mrs Patnaik is the ultimate first generation migrant who has accompanied her husband to the four corners of the globe.
And one of her first tasks in the UK was addressing members of ILUK at the launch of the group’s website at the Palace of Westminster.