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Prince Charles keeps date with villagers
Bhatmajra rolls out the red carpet
Chitleen K Sethi
Tribune News Service

Bhatmajra (Fatehgarh Sahib), March 26
The last that 85-year-old Mahender Singh had heard of the Britishers was in 1947. And today when he was told that his village would play host to the future King of England, Mahender Singh had to be there to watch this day go down in Indo-British history.

An overwhelming reception greeted Prince Charles at the small village here as he began a six-day trip to India, landing at Fatehgarh Sahib this morning with the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh. He was however not accompanied to the village by the Duchess of Cornwall Camilla Parker who went straight to Patiala with Maharani Preneet Kaur.

The Prince wearing a light brown suit with large-sized goggles complete with a charming smile and folded hands, was received by the village Panchayat amid bhangra beats and showering of flowers.

Unprecedented security arrangements had been made at the village with directions that the villagers, other than those on duty, were to stay indoors when the Prince took a round of the village. Every roof-top as a result was teeming with residents trying to catch a glimpse of the British royalty.

Flanked by the Chief Minister, the Punjab Finance Minister, Mr Surinder Singla, and Mrs Lakshmi Mittal, the Prince, followed by his entourage of another 30 persons, charmed his way through the village lending his undivided attention to all that the local administration had showcased before him.

Showing keen interest in the otherwise routine activities of village life, Prince Charles was curious and questioning about everything he saw. He found the handloom at work “wonderful” and was impressed by the way khadi was being spun as a village industry. He interacted freely with those at work gathering tit bits of information.

At the Khadi Gram Udyog outlet being run in the village since 1960 by the Patiala unit of KVIC, Mrs Lakhsmi Mittal was quick to explain to the Prince how Punjab cotton farmers had responded to the introduction of Bt cotton.

Thanking the KVIC Director, Mr Karnail Singh, for the gifts he presented, the Prince quipped: “Is this a khadi jacket?” “Yes, and a natural vegetable oil soap for you” he said as the Prince smelled the soap approvingly.

The day would remain etched in history for farmer Daya Krishan in whose farm the Prince was to sow pulse seeds. “Write to me and let me know when they grow and how they have fared. Then we will see what we do with it,” he told Daya Krishan as Mr Surinder Singla translated the directions.

The Prince spent more than an hour in the village visiting the Panchayat Ghar and planting a neem sapling. He kept his promise with Ram, the village potter, whom he saw at work as he churned out a perfect earthen pot for him. The administration scored full points with the arrangements. 

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Prince gets Maharaja welcome 
Chander Parkash and Ravi Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 27
Highly euphoric. This one expression aptly summed up the mood of spectators and organisers alike at the Yadvindra Public School (YPS) stadium where Prince Charles arrived this evening to formally launch the Bhoomi Vardaan Foundation.

Much before the arrival of the royal guests, excitement was thick in the air even as the ceremonial part of the 90-minute function went off flawlessly and that too with clockwork precision.

The ceremony was planned and executed to a nicety by the North Zone Cultural Centre with the master of ceremonies being National School of Drama (NSD) alumni Bansi Kaul whom locals still remember for the wonderful job he did during the opening and closing ceremonies of the Indo-Pak Punjab Games held at the same stadium in December 2004.

Excitement reached a crescendo when two Mercedes Benz limousines arrived inside the stadium and the first to embark from a white Mercedes were the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, and his wife and Patiala Member Parliament, Mrs Preneet Kaur. Both of them then proceeded to the silver grey Mercedes parked in front of them to accord a warm welcome to Prince Charles and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall Camilla Parker Bowles. Students of YPS accorded a welcome of their own by singing “Sare jahan se achha Hindustan hamara” just when the guests arrived in the stadium.

Prominent among those accompanying the British royal couple were the British High Commissioner to India, Sir Michael Arthur, and his wife, Lady Plaxy Arthur, the Defence Adviser, Brig Ian Rees and the Liaison Officer (Visits), Ms Alice Macaire.

The prince and his wife, after being welcomed by the YPS Principal, Mr R.P. Devgan, and the headboy and headgirl of the school, were escorted to the main dais which was already brimming to capacity with Punjab ministers, MLAs and bureaucrats.

Security was tight and the British royal couple and their Indian hosts were flanked by personal security officers of the Prince of Wales. Inspector Tim Nash, Head of the Personal Protection Team, could be seen guiding and giving instructions to Punjab cops who comprised the outer ring of the security.

The ceremonial part commenced with a shabad “Jo mange Thakur apne se, soi soi deve” sung by a YPS choir followed by the same choir rending a hymn, “Whispering Hope”.

The piece de resistance came when Punjabi singer Hans Raj Hans, conferred with the state singer award by the Punjab Government, sung the famous “Nee aaj koi sade vere aaya”, penned by Prof Mohan Singh, as scores of colourfully-attired artists walked in from all parts of the ground to perform a dance sequence.

Hans Raj Hans commenced his song from the main stage constructed in the middle of the stadium but sung his last lines while kneeling as a mark of respect to the visiting dignitaries.

This was followed by a speech by Mr Avtar Singh Dhindsa, whom the commentator, Col Rupi Brar, described as one of the “most progressive farmers of Punjab”. Mr Dhindsa’s speech, delivered in chaste Punjabi, seemed to be out of sync with the proceedings.

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