It’s been quite a journey for this expatriate with roots in Gujarat. From being the only Asian family for miles on end in the Kent to today representing the British Government as the Deputy British High Commissioner of South India, life seems to have come full circle for Bharat Joshi.
Cottingley, the official residence of the Deputy British High Commissioner, takes you back to an era of long ago. A sprawling colonial-style house, lush gardens, a coat of arms above the great big green front door and an 8-foot terracotta elephant, the only thing linking all things English to the city, is nothing short of luxuriant.
Bharat Joshi, the man behind the title, isn’t as bureaucratic as one would imagine. Dressed in a shirt and jeans early on a Saturday morning, the man exudes a certain charm that would put any tense individual at ease. The 46-year-old, who has been a diplomat for 20 years now, is the first ever British ambassador of Indian origin. “I have the best job in the world. Being the deputy high commissioner allows me to better people’s lives. More than anything I feel humbled to do what I do,” beams Joshi.
As the saying goes, if you haven’t failed at something, you have never fully lived. “I applied for a post in the foreign affairs after I graduated, but did not make the cut. I was a revenue controller in a hotel for two years, before making it into service,” he says. It often takes a mother to let you know that you can do more in life and in Bharat Joshi’s case things were no different. “My mother saw I was not satisfied with my job. After much ‘nagging’, I decided to re-apply for the post. I was one of the eight people selected from the 13,000 who had applied!”
Being of Indian origin himself, Bharat Joshi believes that the diaspora plays a major role in India-UK relationships. “Diaspora is a key element to our relationship. India and Britain are joined at the hip. It is imperative to acknowledge our shared history, if we hope to make progress together.”
Despite being a man of influence and power, Bharat Joshi insists that life at Cottingley is like that of every other middle-class family. “Every morning is about waking the kids and Bhakti up. I am an early-riser, so once I am done with my morning jog I am on wake up duty,” he smiles.
A highly sought-after face at important city events, Bharat Joshi is involved in furthering British and Indian trade and investment relationships on one hand and Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Pondicherry on the other. “On a professional level I look forward to bringing in more UK companies to Tamil Nadu and Kerala. This is the land of opportunity, but the nature of Chennai is to be rather conservative and because of that we risk missing out on good things,” Mr Joshi reveals. The deputy high commissioner also hopes to push for greater Indian investments in Britain. “We have managed to attract Indian companies in the UK. Today, TVS Logistics has a large interest in the UK.”
However, with the restrictions on the post-study work visas ties with the UK seem to be strained. Taking it upon himself to debunk myths Bharat Joshi sums up the situation in five words – “Quality education provides quality jobs.” He adds, “We want students to put their grad skills to use. Not work at a fast food joint after spending huge amounts on their education.”
Besides being the deputy high commissioner, Bharat Joshi, the man certainly has a few culinary skills up his sleeve. His wife, Bhakti Joshi, is all praise for his Mexican cuisine and swears he makes the best pizzas. “I’m baking Garlic butter bread today,” Joshi adds.
Take a peek at a man’s music collection and it reveals his soul. Bharat Joshi is a definite romantic with Jazz classics adorning his collection. The list goes on from Ray Charles, to Nat King Cole to Frank Sinatra. It certainly is no wonder that the couple’s first dance was to Unchained Melody by The Righteous Brothers.
Being loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. “It’s been 19 years since we’ve been married and have two lovely girls. I wouldn’t have reached this level of success without Bhakti. It’s her hard work…”, “Our hard work,” she suggests. “…Our hard work,” agrees Joshi. This deputy high commissioner certainly has no qualms in flaunting how in love the couple are.
A self-confessed Marvel comic buff, Bharat Joshi is as excited as any other fan-boy about the the string of superhero movies set to hit the big screen in 2016. “I love the way that the movies have stayed true to the comics. The portrayal of characters has been impeccable,” he gushes.
Joking about his retirement plan he says, “I’ve told the kids to make more money than me, so we can afford a jet or yacht to travel the world.” Bharat Joshi has close to 16,000 followers on Twitter and is one of the most active foreign ambassadors on the micro blogging site.
His year-end goal for 2016 is to make a speech in Tamil, even if it is a very small one, that goes beyond ‘Konjam, Konjam Tamil theriyum.’