In history, the first time the word ‘Bombay’ was used was when the city was being offered as dowry to Charles II by the Portuguese in 1661.
In history, the first time the word ‘Bombay’ was used was when the city was being offered as dowry to Charles II by the Portuguese in 1661. And while the city and the British royal family have had a fascinating association, a new chapter will be added to that today, as The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge land in the country’s financial capital to begin their seven-day tour of India and Bhutan. This is their maiden visit to the country.
From cricket to Bollywood, the royals will savour a few of India’s favourite things. Their itinerary leaves nearly no breathing space. After a ceremonial welcome, Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton will head to the Oval Maidan to meet children from three NGOs — Magic Bus, Doorstep India and Childline. From there, they will head to the Malabar Hills to visit the ancient Banganga water tank, where they will meet representatives of a charity called SMILE that focuses on skills and opportunities for young people and their parents. Finally, they will be rounding up the day with a grand gala fundraiser that will be attended by superstars Shah Rukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan besides business honchos. And according to reports, the royal couple will be put up at the Taj Mahal Palace’s Presidential Suite during their stay in Mumbai.
However, it’s the time with the underprivileged children, that is the mainstay of the royal visit. Here’s a peek into what the NGOs have in store for the royal couple.
Magic Bus: As one of the three NGOs that have been part of planning the royal visit, Magic Bus’ affair with the royal couple will also see a ‘few surprises’, reveals Matthew Spacie, founder, Magic Bus. He says, “The royal couple had specifically requested to meet with the children. The 26 children have been told about the Duke and Duchess’ visit and they are happy to be part of the group of Mumbaikars meeting them and with Magic Bus, an activity-based session has been planned. The children will demonstrate our education-to-livelihood approach using an activity-based session.”
Telling us more about the Oval Maidan event, Matthew adds, “The royal couple will watch a children’s cricket match and also meet with the representatives and beneficiaries of the three charities here – Magic Bus, Doorstep, and India’s Childline. They will also have a game with children from the city’s slums. There may be a couple of surprises at this event as well.
The key attraction of the royal couple’s visit to Mumbai will be a regal red carpet do that has been planned as a fund-raiser for the Duke and Duchess’ charity efforts. Set to take place this evening at the Taj Palace Hotel’s grand ballroom, the event will be hosted by the British High Commissioner and the British Asian Trust. The event’s schedule will include red-carpet arrivals, pre-dinner reception and a grand Bollywood-themed cultural evening. Among those expected to grace the event are some of the biggest names from Mumbai’s entertainment, sports and business circles including Sachin Tendulkar, Shah Rukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, Ranveer Singh and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan to name a few.
Speaking to our entertainment correspondent earlier, Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan gave a sneak peak to the event and said, “It is an extremely formal event. I think there are some cultural performances, but it’s not by me. I am hardly cultural. We just attend the dinner and then there are a few performances. There is also a speech, I am told. I don’t know about the other actors, but I am not performing.”
Door Step India: While Magic Bus has been a part of the programme ever since the visit was conceived, city-based NGO Door Step’s excitement for the visit is still fresh as they were included in the programme just ten days ago. Founder and Director, Bina Seth Lashkari tells us how excited the NGO and the children are and says, “We were actually shocked to know that we have been chosen and were not expecting this at all. About 25 children from the age group 8 to 12 years from our Cuffe Parade branch will be meeting the Duke and the Duchess. They will be playing cricket with them and the kids are very excited. We have been conducting orientation programmes for them. When we told them their biggest wonder was whether the prince and the princess were from a fairytale book. The kids will wear special T-shirts and they will be our ambassadors that day.”
Childline: Unlike the other NGOs , Childline’s pool of children will include rehabilitated children from slums and railway stations. Telling us about their association with the royal event, Nishit Kumar, the head of communications and strategies for Childline India says, “We have had a history of association with the British Asian Trust founded by Prince Charles and they also held the London Marathon once in support of Childline India. So we were naturally on their radar. We are an emergency response service and don’t have a shelter home, so this time we are bringing street and special children who we have rescued and rehabilitated from railway platforms and who are now ambassadors for Childline. About 20 children between 9 to 15 years of age will be part of the event from our side. The children have set up a puppet show with recycled material to entertain the royal couple. They will be demonstrating Childline’s outreach programme and show the Duke and the Duchess the scale and the kind of work we do.”