September 20 2015
A Sri Lankan born novelist was just one of several high achievers highlighted at an awards ceremony…
By Suman Bhuchar
AUTHOR Romesh Gunesekera was presented with the Media, Arts and Culture Award at The 15th Asian Achievers Award on Friday (September 18).
More than 800 people gathered at the Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane in London to mark the achievement of many inspiring figures from the British Asian community.
Speaking to www.asianculturevulture.com after accepting his award, Gunesekera said: “It’s nice to get an award. I guess, it’s partly to do with the last book.”
His most recent novel, “Noontide Toll” was critically acclaimed and was shortlisted for the DSC South Asian Literature prize in 2015.
The book, a collection of interconnected short stories, explores power relations post-civil war in Sri Lanka, through the eyes of a tourist taxi driver.
The author, who was at the Jaipur Literature Festival earlier this year to hear Jhumpa Lahiri win the DSC South Asian Literature Prize for “The Lowlands” spoke to us in Jaipur about his latest work, explaining its origins and themes. It’s here.
Gunesekera triumphed in a nomination list which included filmmaker and activist Deeyah Khan; Adil Ray, actor and writer of the BBC sitcom “Citizen Khan”; and architect Asif Khan who has been garnering much praise and recognition of late. His design of the Mega Faces Pavilion of the Sochi Winter Olympics Games (2014) received the Cannes Lion Grand Prize for Innovation (Cannes Lions mostly recognise achievements in marketing and advertising).
“Books last longer than the technology that produces them,” is the author’s mantra, and while Gunesekera was happy to read them in any form, he explained that, “I also like the traditional book and sometimes the companionship of a physical book is good fun!”
Among the other high profile winners were England cricketer Moeen Ali, who was named Sports Personality of Year, Lord Rumi Verjee CBE, presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award and Nish and Sach Kukadia, the founders of business, Secret Sales, declared Entrepreneur of the Year. (For full list of winners, please see below).
There were also a number of celebrities at the event. Among these were music producer Naughty Boy, Kiss FM DJ Neev,“Great British Bake off” star Chetna Makan, singer Arjun and many of the cast from Sky reality TV show, “Desi Rascals”.
Also attending were top level political figures, including chief guest, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, former Business Secretary, Sir Vince Cable, Cherie Blair who spoke, Labour Mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan and Indian High Commssioner Ranjan Mathai.
The evening was dedicated to ‘tributes to the Asians serving in the Uniformed and Civil Service’, with Fallon praising Asians for contributing six per cent of GDP whilst being only four per cent of the population – while at the same time bemoaning the lack of Asian representation in the armed forces.
He told the audience they only made up seven per cent of the overall recruits, and added: “Well behind those in the metropolitan police and ambulance service”.
Later that evening, Lance Corporal Tuljung Gurung, was awarded the Uniformed and Civil Services Award, for his bravery in fighting off two armed Taliban fighters and saving the lives of his two comrades. He has already received the Military Cross for his valour.
The awards were hosted by BBC News Anchor, Sangita Myska and actor, Nitin Ganatra; while the nominated charity of the evening was the Loomba Foundation with Cherie Blair making a passionate speech on its behalf and the erstwhile Lord Jeffrey Archer running the auction.
The auction which featured seven lots including three luxury train travels across India raised £44,000 for the charity.
Prime Minister, David Cameron sent a video message proclaiming that “day in day out British Asians achieve so much and this country is so much better for it,” while politician, Sir Vince Cable, who was the chair of the judging panel – praised the talent prevalent in the community.
The award ceremony was punctuated with a series of entertainment interludes, including a dance performance by FatBoyz Dance, artist, Lumina who plays her violin with a laser beam and probably ‘the fastest artist in the universe’, Vilas Nayak, whose showpiece is making a painting in less than two and a half minutes and he made a picture of what initially appeared to Dame Edna but turned out to be Her Majesty The Queen.
CB Patel, editor/publisher of Asian Business Publications Limited Group, which organises the Asian Achievers Awards, (which is sponsored by EY), said the group is going to introduce an award that recognises “philanthropy” called Asian Voice Charity Awards next year.
The event also saw the publication of the first Asian Voice Global Indian Rich List – researched & complied by Philip Beresford and edited by Ashish Ray (Ray Media).
Main picture: Cherie Blair with music producer Naughty Boy and Romesh Gunesekera with his award. All pics: Shevy Sandhu
ASIAN ACHIEVERS AWARDS 2015 WINNERS LIST
Businessperson of the Year
Iqbal Ahmed OBE, Seamark Plc
Entrepreneur of the Year
Nish & Sach Kukadia – Founders Secret Sales
Sports Personality of the Year
Moeen Ali – England Cricketer
Uniformed and Civil Services
Lance Corporal Tuljung Gurung – – The Royal Gurkha Rifles
Lifetime Achievement Award
Lord Rumi Verjee CBE
Media, Arts and Culture
Romesh Gunesekera – Author
Woman of the Year
Bindi Karia – Technology Startup Expert and Advisor
Achievement in Community Service
Jasvinder Sanghera CBE – Founder, Karma Nirvana
Professional of the Year
Satvi Bungar – Director, BDO