Diwali festivities began at 10 Downing Street last evening as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Rishi Sunak and wife Akshata Murty lit Diwali lamps at a special reception at their official residence. Members of the Indian diaspora, parliamentarians, entrepreneurs, and Bollywood celebrities were present on the festive occasion.
Their residence was decorated in a theme of vibrant marigolds and candles, as the first couple marked a year since Sunak took charge as the UK’s first Prime Minister of Indian heritage.
The couple reflected upon their “extra special” Diwali one year on, with Sunak looking back at the “incredible moment” when he visited India to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the G20 Summit in New Delhi as the first British Indian Prime Minister.
“Diwali is an incredibly special time for all of us and our families, but for me, now, it also brings back amazing memories of becoming Prime Minister this time last year,” said Sunak.
“It has been a year of incredibly hard work, some real progress, and of course, memories that will stay with me for the rest of my life… It was an incredible moment to go to India for the G20 as the first British Indian Prime Minister, and be there for India’s big moment on the world stage with Modiji,” he added. “That was a very special moment for all of us, as we saw what has happened to India’s development over the years. It was a proud moment for everyone, and it was an incredible success.”
On a lighter note, cricket fan Sunak also touched upon the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup going on in India, but quipped that it was the less said the better about the England team.
Looking back on his first year as prime minister, the 43-year-old leader of the Conservative Party admitted that it had brought with it many challenges, during which it was the values of his parents, Yashvir and Usha, that had sustained him.
“Values of hard work, a commitment to service, understanding the value of education in all things and making the right decisions, not just the easy ones… over the last year, I’ve spoken to [you] quite a bit about my family’s story — about my Naniji boarding her first-ever plane to come here from East Africa over 60 years ago, a journey that I know will be familiar to many of you in this room. It was a story about hope, faith, ambition, and putting the next generation first. We should be filled similarly with hope and ambition,” said Sunak, whose grandmother migrated from Tanzania.
“And, what better way to celebrate this Diwali than with the brilliant people in this room who are lighting the way for our future,” he concluded, with the words “Shubh Diwali”.
Temples from around the UK had contributed to an Annakut display as festive offerings to God and children from the Avanti Court Primary School recited religious shlokas at the reception.
Sunak and Murty interacted with guests, including Indian High Commissioner to the UK Vikram Doraiswami and Bollywood stars Akshay Kumar and wife Twinkle Khanna and Preity Zinta.
The X handle of 10 Downing Street posted images from the event on social media, with the message: “Shubh Diwali to everyone across the UK and around the world celebrating from this weekend.”