Royal Encounter: Charming Prince Charles at endearing British Council Colombo

Prince Charles talks with Dr Ajith C S Perera, activist for mobility access, at the opening of British Council new building in Colombo, 16 Nov 2013 - Photo courtesy British Council Sri Lanka

Prince Charles talks with Dr Ajith C S Perera, activist for mobility access, at the opening of British Council new building in Colombo, 16 Nov 2013 – Photo courtesy British Council Sri Lanka

Charlie is a charmer: he can be engaging, a good listener and smiles a lot.

At least these are my impressions of having watched Prince Charles at close range at a reception hosted by the Colombo British Council this evening – coupled with the opening of their new building.

The future king was ushered in without much fanfare (even his security was light touch and courteous). He spent around 40 minutes talking his way through the crowded room.

He chatted with many of the 250 or so guests — friends and partners of the British Council. It included a number of students and youth activists, as well as teachers, writers and scholars.

The Prince listened to short speeches by the British Council Sri Lanka Director and their global CEO. He then made the shortest speech of the evening: less than a minute, in which he made us laugh.

He basically thanked everyone, and expressed relief that the building he’d inaugurated on his last visit (1998) hadn’t been demolished.

Shortly afterwards, he left as quietly as he arrived. The party continued.

It was a brief encounter, but devoid of hype and pomposity that have characterised the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) taking place in Colombo this week — the main reason why Prince Charles was in town.

I was quite tempted to take a quick photo with my mobile phone (cameras were not allowed). But our hosts had earnestly requested that we don’t take any photos. For once, I played by the rules.

In a more officious setting, I would quite likely have defied the restriction (after all, no one was watching our good conduct, as usually happens at Lanka government functions these days).

Yet the British Council has a special place in our hearts and minds. It’s a friendly oasis for artistes, learners, performers and activists. While they pursue their mission of promoting British cultural interests abroad, British Councils truly engage the community. Violating their request for taking a murky crowd photo would have been too unkind…

Part of that brand loyalty for British Council is explained in this short essay by Eranda Ginige of British Council Sri Lanka. In it, he reflects on their library in Colombo, which remains a community hub even as most readers trade paperbacks for portable devices.

Charlie produced unexpected gains, too. When I finally reached home, I had a rousing welcome from the two adorable females – a teenager and Labrador – who raise me:

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