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Home > India > News > PTI > Report

Meet Britain's first Asian woman Lord Mayor

Prasun Sonwalkar in London | May 13, 2008 18:49 IST

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All set on becoming Britain's first Asian woman Lord Mayor in Leicester on May 15, Manjula Sood on Tuesday said that she is proud of her Indian identity and values.

Speaking to PTI, Sood, who was born and raised in Ludhiana, said that it was a great honour for her to be selected for the position and would do her best to serve the multicultural city that has a large number of people of Indian origin.

She said that she will wear a sari for the historic occasion.

"I came here in 1970 and since then as a teacher and in other roles, I have always taught people the Indian values of respect and understanding towards fellow human beings. I will be Lord Mayor for the whole city and will always respect all faiths," she said.

As Leicester's first citizen, the Lord Mayor has a high-profile role in maintaining and promoting the interests of Leicester and its people.

Her term in office at the Leicester City Council will be for one year. This year will mark the 800th anniversary of the Lord Mayor's office in Leicester. Sood has also been Britain's first Asian female High Bailiff.

There have been Asian Lord Mayors in British towns, but this is the first time that a woman of Indian origin will hold the post anywhere in the United Kingdom.

The only other Indian-origin Lord Mayor currently in office is Harjit Gill in Gloucester.

She has appointed a Hindu and a Christian as her spiritual advisers for her role in the council. They are Ramanbhai Barber and Rev Jackson.

Leicester's experience of dealing with multi-culturalism has been hailed and followed by several European towns.

It is one of the two British towns that is expected to have a non-white majorities by 2011, the other being Birmingham.

"Today, Leicester is a very different place from what it was when I arrived on December 18, 1970. It was snowing, dark and cold and I didn't really want to stay here. But I stayed on and today I am equally proud of my Indian roots and values and my adopted country, Britain," she said.

A teacher for several decades, Sood entered local politics after her husband, councillor Paul Sood died in 1996.

She contested the by-election and won an impressive victory to become Leicester's first Hindu woman councillor.

A devotee of Sai Baba, Sood said that she and her sons carried her husband's ashes to Hardwar. Sood maintains close links with India -- as a representative of Leicester as well as on the personal front.

As a councillor, Sood has earned several accolades and has worked with leading ministers and politicians such as Labour MP Keith Vaz, former minister Patricia Hewitt and Jim Marshall.

In 2004, she was given the Labour Party Merit Award for her contribution to the party. At the high profile event, she received the award wearing a sari from former prime minister Tony Blair [Images].

A mother of two sons, Sood has been actively involved in projects involving the Asian and Afro-Caribbean communities.

One of her sons, Manish, 33, is a councillor from the Fosse ward and works closely with his mother.

She was one of the first Asian women to be appointed as a primary schoolteacher in Leicester in 1973.

In the 1970s, Sood said that she faced considerable racism and helped the thousands of Indians ousted from Idi Amin's Uganda to settle in the town.

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