warren_allott_oxford001The scholars at the Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development had the privilege of attending a reception hosted by Their Royal Highnesses, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, at their home at Kensington Palace on Wednesday 6th of April.

Dr Siddharth Arora (Applied Mathematics Fellow at Somerville College), Shahana Munazir (2013, Social Anthropology), Vaanathi Sundaresan (2015, Biomedical Imaging), Shivani Malik (2015, Plant Sciences) and Ranu Sinha (2014, Water Science, Policy & Management) each had the opportunity to speak individually with Prince William and Kate.

“The Duchess was eager to know about everyone’s work and how our research would make a contribution towards sustainable development,” recounted scholar Shivani Malik. “When I told her about my work – aiming to make use of biotechnologies on plants that have in-built resistance towards diseases – she told me she found this fascinating and that she had studied biology at A-level. We went on to speak about the broader impact of my research on the state of Indian agriculture.”

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The reception was held ahead of The Duke and Duchess’ first official visit to India and Bhutan to strengthen ties between India and the United Kingdom and brought together both the Indian and Bhutanese communities in England.

The Indian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Mr. Navtej Sarna, and trustees from Prince Charles’ British Asian Trust were amongst other attendees. Guests included a mix of Indian and Bhutanese academics, members of the private sector, charitable trustee members and scholars from prestigious universities around the UK.

“Our trip to Kensington palace was amazing,” said Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Siddharth Arora. “The Duke and Duchess spent a lot of time with us discussing our work and future plans. They were very excited about their trip to India and Bhutan and looked forward to visiting the Taj Mahal and trying some spicy curry. We had a great time, and would definitely love to be invited back!”

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The scholars shared their insights about India to the royal couple and recommended travel tips for the Indian leg of their journey. During the evening the scholars presented gifts from Somerville College, including Somerville teddy bears for the royal babies, Charlotte and George.

“There were some quite funny moments,” said scholar Ranu Sinha. “Shahana informed Prince William that the Oxford Social Anthropology faculty is the best in the UK, far superior to his own Social Anthropology programme at St Andrews. For their forthcoming India visit, I suggested he buy Odomos – the best-in-class mosquito repellent.”

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Shahana Munazir told us more about their visit with the royal couple:

“We all spoke passionately about our studies and experience in the UK and briefed them on the culture and history of India. The Duke and Duchess listened intently and shared their excitement about visiting India for the first time. Prince William humoured us with tales about his own university days.

As I spoke about my work in the field of Social Anthropology, the royal couple spoke assiduously about their experience in the subject area egging laughter among students with a comment about Kate’s languorous attention in the Anthropology classes!

We also met Indians working in the UK and researchers from diverse backgrounds working on various topics related to India in a brief interactive session that lasted an hour. Scholars at the OICSD have had incredible opportunities to meet many influential leaders in the world and the visit to the Royal Highnesses in their London home was one of the rarest. For me – this was epic! I could not have been more thrilled.”

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From left: Shahana Munazir, Ranu Sinha, Dr Siddharth Arora, Vaanathi Sundaresan and Shivani Malik

The Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development was established to provide fully-funded scholarships to top Indian graduate students. It is currently home to a thriving postgraduate and postdoctoral programme for talented Indian graduate students who seek to lead change to address issues of urgent global concern. The OICSD also plays a key role in pioneering research and convening partnerships between academics, practitioners and policymakers to ensure lasting solutions to development concerns.

For more information, please visit the OICSD webpage or contact Sara Kalim at sara.kalim@some.ox.ac.uk

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