Spice of life | Royal encounters from Ludhiana to London


The year was 1980. Our Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) campus in Ludhiana was spruced up for a special visitor, HRH, the Prince of Wales.

One of the spots selected for his visit was Dr Uppal Museum of Water, Land and Power Resources of North Western India and Adjacent Countries. PAU has always had a well landscaped green campus, but the area around this newly developed museum had yet to be properly landscaped, this task was accomplished at a record speed within days.

On the day of his visit, I was among the people, who in order to catch a glimpse of the Prince had queued up along the route which he was to follow. The excitement was palpable, but we the girls had muffled our excitement, because at that time the Prince was considered the most eligible bachelor and we didn’t want to people to misinterpret this fact to be the reason behind our excitement!

The Prince was visibly impressed with this masterpiece of a museum, which is a three-dimensional, made to scale, physiographic model that gives you a snapshot of the entire geographic landscape of the region. The senior faculty from that era recall how the inquisitive royal wanted to see the Gangotri in that model. His signatures in the visitor’s book in the museum bears testimony to this much cherished visit.

Fast forward to the year 1986. I was a student at Cambridge University in the UK. One fine day, I received a sealed envelope with a royal crest. This was an invitation from the Prince of Wales to some of the students from Commonwealth countries to a reception at Kensington Palace, the residence of the Prince and Princess of Wales. I couldn’t believe my good fortune while recalling the day I had waited for hours on the roadside just to catch a glimpse of HRH.

King Charles III visiting Dr Uppal Museum of water at PAU. (HT File)
King Charles III visiting Dr Uppal Museum of water at PAU. (HT File)

Being a group of naïve students, prior to the visit, we were briefed about the palace etiquettes, the dress code, the right way to stand, speak only when spoken to and to shake hands only if offered. The reception was held in the magnificent Cupola Room, situated in a part of the palace not open to tourists. While we stood there soaking in the splendid décor, partaking of the most delectable hors d’oeuvres, the Prince breezed in on the dot.

Yes, there was a royal aura about him, but his unassuming demeanour made us feel at home. He went to each group of students, talked to and shook hands with every single person. He seemed to be genuinely interested in everyone, even non-entities like us and did not rush through the conversation. When I introduced myself, saying that I was from Punjab, he recalled his visit to the Golden Temple.

The next day, in my department at the university, I was a celebrity for a day, all my fellow students wanted to shake hands with me, because I had shaken hands with Prince Charles. (AP)
The next day, in my department at the university, I was a celebrity for a day, all my fellow students wanted to shake hands with me, because I had shaken hands with Prince Charles. (AP)

The next day, in my department at the university, I was a celebrity for a day, all my fellow students wanted to shake hands with me, because I had shaken hands with Prince Charles. Even after more than three decades, I treasure the memory of being invited to the palace as a guest of HRH.

Long live King Charles III.

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The writer is a professor at PAU, Ludhiana