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Since 1st March, 1999
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Camilla waits for the sari moment
- Indians embrace royal couple at Mountbatten auditorium ceremony

London, April 29: Camilla Parker Bowles, or the Duchess of Cornwall as she is now known, received a standing ovation today from senior members of the Indian community when her husband, the Prince of Wales, inaugurated the newly refurbished Mountbatten Auditorium at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in London.

There was loud applause when Maneck Dalal, the chairman of the Bhavan, said: 'We are delighted to see both of you with us this afternoon.'

He emphasised the word 'both'.

There was further sustained applause when Dalal added: 'I am sure all of you will wish me to congratulate their Royal Highnesses on their recent wedding. We wish very sincerely to wish them great happiness which they so richly deserve.'

A section of the British public has been less generous to the couple.

Camilla, who came in a striped grey suit, had a private meeting with some of the well-known figures in the community. Their wives had come in their best saris.

'The women look very beautiful in their saris,' Camilla told The Telegraph during an informal chat.

What about the sari which the dabbawallahs of Mumbai had sent her' Why wasn't she wearing it'

She clearly remembered the gift.

'It is a lovely green sari ' I've got it,' she confirmed.

When would she wear it'

'I will pick my moment,' she replied.

The original auditorium in the Bhavan was opened in 1978 by Lord Mountbatten, who became a patron, a position which Prince Charles holds today.

Among those who turned up for today's opening ' this is Camilla's first Indian function and she apparently asked to come with Charles ' were Lord Swraj Paul, Lord Bagri, Sir Gulam Noon, Lord Navnit Dholakia and the Indian high commissioner Kamalesh Sharma.

Dalal introduced Charles and Camilla to members of the audience who were security vetted by a long line of policemen before they were allowed into the 300-seat hall. It has been done up to a high standard.

'It is very fitting that the Mountbatten Auditorium should be in an Indian Cultural Centre because Lord Mountbatten was not only our first patron-in-chief but he genuinely loved India,' said Dalal. 'He was kind enough to say that to me on more than one occasion. Your Royal Highness, we are a sentimental people and we warmly reciprocated that love. I am particularly glad that Countess Mountbatten and Lady Pamela Hicks are here.'

After watching a performance of Kathak and Bharatnatyam, Charles recalled: 'I remember first visiting in 1981. I have just seen some rather disturbing photographs of myself (upstairs in the Bhavan's new art gallery) which only serves to show what terrible things have occurred since then in terms of what has happened to me.'

He went on: 'It has been a real joy for us both to see some of the lessons that have been taking place. What is so encouraging is that so many young people wish to continue to learn some of these great traditional aspects of the Indian culture, music and dance. One reason why I have developed such a love for India and for Indian people is that it was through my great uncle Lord Mountbatten. He told so many stories about India when I was very small and they were such fascinating stories that they conjured up marvellous images. All I wanted to was visit India and I was lucky enough to get there for the first time in his company. That I shall always treasure as a very special memory.'

He referred to his visit in 2003 to Delhi, Rajasthan and Mumbai. 'And ever since I have been trying to find a way of helping a whole range of organisations and charities which are operating in those parts of India. These are committed to helping preserve the unique architectural and cultural heritage of that great country and also to find new uses for some of the derelict and redundant sites, for instance, some of the great cotton mills in Mumbai ' something I try to do here as well. Also various projects involved with healthcare and youth entrepreneurship and the provision of water for people in rural areas. We have been working very hard in the whole area of water harvesting.'

He thanked workers committed to 'working with the grain of India's unique traditions'.

He added: 'I do feel we have so much to learn from India, much more than we can ever teach it. That development, if it is to be truly sustainable, needs to be in many ways a listening process. It cannot be just the imposition of modern globalised ideas on a deeply rooted ancient society, however rapidly it is changing and despite the desperate poverty of so many underprivileged people within it.'

He was impressed that 900 students come to the Bhavan for classes in dance, drama, music, languages and yoga, 'all carefully designed to reduce the worrying levels of stress which seem to afflict so many of us nowadays'.

He disclosed: 'I understand there are also plans for the introduction of a degree in Indian music next year. The Bhavan has a motto ' the world is one family ' and I have spoken on many occasions before on the richness and diversity, which we celebrate in today's multi-cultural Britain. I can only repeat that the assimilation of other cultures and traditions has been of enormous benefit to the life of this country.'

He wanted to promote 'the precious links with the past'. 'The relationship with India has been very long and profound throwing up in so many people's lives those odd coincidences and connections which so enrich all our lives. One of the great connections was to do with my lovely great uncle Lord Mountbatten.'

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