Andrew Ayre, the outgoing British deputy high commissioner in Chandigarh, believes India-UK ties are set to grow deeper with the focus on information technology and manufacturing in business and partnership in health, education and climate change.
“The past is important, but our future is more important. We have close ties, particularly in this region, comprising Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. Whether it’s business delegation visits or the trade flow or the growing number of students and health care professionals opting for further studies and jobs in the United Kingdom, they are all an indicator of our success in the region,” Ayre said, reflecting on his four-year tenure at the deputy high commission in Chandigarh that draws to a close on Wednesday.
“I’d urge youngsters not to overlook my country. Rather, they should make the most of the opportunities there, particularly now that the UK has left the European Union and has its own visa and immigration policy,” he said, highlighting the strong diaspora connect.
Caroline Rowett first British woman deputy high commissioner in India
His successor, Caroline Rowett, was the UK’s charge d’affairs in Haiti before being appointed the first British woman deputy high commissioner in India. “She is looking forward to meeting you all as soon as she has completed her self-isolation,” Ayre said during an interview on the eve of his departure.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on everyone, including the operations of the deputy high commission. My only regret is that I’ve been unable to host a farewell event due to the restrictions. I leave with a heavy heart but a part of me will always be here,” he said on an emotional note.
Besides expressing gratitude to the governors and chief ministers of Punjab and Haryana and their ministerial teams and officials, Ayre said, “I want to thank the citizens of Chandigarh, too numerous to mention individually, who have guided my wife Bettina and I, hosted us and shown us nothing but kindness since we arrived in 2017. I’m grateful to my staff and family without whom much less would have been achieved. Chandigarh, the City Beautiful, stay kind, be kind. Cherish the way you are. It’s people who make this place special. ”
Finds India diverse, complex
Reminiscing his trips to Rajasthan, Goa and Agra apart from the region, the deputy high commissioner, who learnt Hindi for four months before taking up his Indian mission, said, “India is complex, there’s so much diversity that honestly no foreigner can claim to have understood it entirely.”
As for Punjabi, he admitted he has picked up more of it during his stay in Chandigarh and has a weakness for butter chicken, naan and kulfi. “I’ll miss walking in Kansal forest adjoining Sukhna Lake; it’s been a sanctuary for me, too,” he said in his inimitable style.
A passionate biker, he recalled trips on his Royal Enfield Classic around the region and the camaraderie among fellow bikers. Reading non-fiction is another area of interest with Daniel Silva and Tony Parsons being favourite authors at present. Signing off with his life lessons, he said, “Don’t take life too seriously, accept you can’t control everything and put family and friends first.”