By Jaideep Sarin
Jalandhar : Monday evening was very special for the residents of Dakoha village on the outskirts of this bustling city as their former village boy Harjit Gill made history by taking over as the 527th mayor of the city of Gloucester in England.
He is the first Asian to be mayor of the historic city – famous for its docks, the 1300-year-old Gloucester Cathedral of Saint Peter's and, lately the locale of the first Harry Potter film.
"I am looking forward to the new responsibility and will do my best to serve the Gloucestershire County. I am proud of all my friends from all parts of the world who have sent me wishes on becoming mayor," Harjit Gill told IANS from his new mayoral office in Gloucester, a two-hour drive from London.
The simple Punjabi boy, who is still a keen hockey player, migrated to England in 1978 to get married to Britain-born Jasminder. They have two children – son Gurkamal and daughter Amrit.
The postmaster and businessman was termed as a 'popular' councillor from Barton and Tredworth in the run up to the Gloucester council elections early May. He won a Labour party ticket at a time when the party did not do well in council elections.
Gill had created history in 2005 when he became the first-ever Asian to be an elected Sheriff in Britain.
He had earlier served as mayor of Barton, an area of Gloucester city that has a unique historic system to elect its own mayor, for two years from 1999.
Friends and relatives of Gill celebrated at his home in the fairly prosperous Dakoha village Monday evening as he took over as mayor thousands of miles away.
"His achievements make us proud of him. But he has not forgotten his roots and simplicity. That is what endears him to everyone," long time friend and sports goods manufacturer Arvind Abrol told IANS.
Gill's brother, Kuldip Singh, who lives in the house here, left for Gloucester last week to take part in the ceremony when he took over as mayor.
"We are proud of him. He loves challenges and has done well in life. We wish him all luck," Kuldip Singh said before leaving.
Village residents said that they will honour him when he visits the village next time as Gloucester mayor.
Though realizing that he comes from an ethic minority – Gloucester has only about 25 Punjabi families – Gill is confident of serving the people in the county. "I don't want to be identified with one community alone," he said.
A keen hockey player, who even donned India colours at international hockey events, had the entire Indian hockey team attending his wedding.
It was Gill's love for hockey that still keeps him connected with the game.
He still plays referee at local hockey events. He took the Gloucester police hockey team to India in 1998 to play matches with Indian police teams.
He moved to Britain the same year he married after completing his masters in political science from Jalandhar. He had not even met Jasminder till he arrived in England to marry her.
The new mayor is now organising a trip of the British police orchestra to India.