Lord Khalid Hameed, who was honoured by India with a Padma Shri in 1992 for his contribution to medicine, was Monday night presented the Asian of the Year award at a glittering ceremony that celebrated the many contributions of Asians to British life.
Lord Hameed, who hails from Lucknow, accepted the award in a soft-spoken speech that reminded many of his city of origin. He said it was a "great honour" and he considered himself "extremely privileged" to be selected the Asian of the Year.
He said: "We British Asians have contributed to British life to the best of our ability. I have worked here for the past 30 years. A lot has changed for us, it is changing. We are progressing well".
The publishers of the Asian Who's Who International Directory -- now in its 32nd year - have instituted the award. It was established in 1975 amidst the negative press associated with the perceived high levels of immigration at the time. Its mission was to highlight the contribution made by Asians to the fabric of Britain.
Monday evening's event in central London was attended by over 400 leading lights of the British Asian community, including celebrities from the worlds of business, politics and the arts. Cherie Blair, wife of former prime minister Tony Blair, Baroness Warsi (Conservative) and Lord Ahmed (Labour) were among those present.
In February this year, it was announced by the House of Lords Appointments Commission that Khalid Hameed will be made a life peer and will sit in the House as a crossbencher (non-party political peer). His peerage was gazetted on March 27 as Baron Hameed of Hampstead in the London Borough of Camden. He is a hospital management expert and leader in the promotion of international understanding and the development of young people.
Lord Hameed has been chairman of the Commonwealth Youth Exchange Council since 1997. He is also the High Sheriff of Greater London and chairman of Alpha Hospitals. Earlier, he was executive director and chief executive of the Cromwell Hospital. He currently heads the London International Hospitals (LIH). Lord Hameed is involved in a number of organisations and charities that help develop harmony between diverse faiths and cultures in Britain. He was given the Sternberg Award for 2005 for his contribution to further Christian-Muslim-Jewish relations.
Educated at Lucknow's La Martiniere Boys College and Colvin Taluqdar College, Lord Hameed retains links with his city of origin. During a recent visit, he said Lucknow held a special place in his heart, and he missed many things about it when he was in Britain. He said: "(I miss) my friends, the culture, the whole atmosphere. This is a special town. I believe people from this part of the world are different which gives them a head start in the world."
Previous Asian of the Year awardees include entrepreneur Karan Bilimoria, Labour MP Keith Vaz, academic Bhikhu Parekh, Indian food chain owner Ghulam Noon and industrialist Swraj Paul.
The first Asian Who's Who International Directory was published in 1975. Since the third edition in 1987, it became an annual publication. It is a directory of the best and brightest Asian talents, and charts the ascent of the community, providing role models for the new generations of British-born Asians.
The first edition contained 200 entries while the current edition contains over 2,000, reflecting the progress made by the Asian community since the time the directory was introduced.