Bringing a touch of Bollywood to Barnet

Bringing a touch of Bollywood to Barnet

BBC Asian Network radio presenter Pablo Sat-Bhambra spoke about his career, family and his school days when he visited QE as a role model for Stonewall, the LGBTQ rights lobbying organisation.

Pablo, who is one half of the broadcasting duo, Raj and Pablo, told a Year 9 assembly that being gay had not held him back at all in his career. “People have been very accepting,” he said.

Sarah Westcott, QE’s Head of Pupil Development, said the talk had been arranged as part of the boys’ PDT (Personal Development Time) studies, in which they are currently covering health and sex education.

“The School holds Stonewall’s bronze status, which reflects our commitment to LGBTQ issues and recognises the work done by students in PDT across the years, as well as our resources on the eQE portal and in The Queen’s Library,” said Dr Westcott.

In addition to his job on the BBC Asian network, Pablo works in entertainment media more widely, covering Bollywood in particular. Asked which Bollywood stars he had interviewed, he replied simply: “All of them”. He was also in a pop band, although their career high was a no.2 record in Belgium.

Following in his family’s footsteps – his father produced films – Pablo has always been involved in the performing arts. He went to school with Naomi Campbell, with whom he remains friends.

He recounted his personal life experiences to the boys, with a recurring theme of his talk being “always love, never hate”. You should always respond to others with love, he urged, even if they are not acting positively towards you.

He said he realised he was gay when he was about 12, because he “fell madly in love” with his best friend. The romantic affection was not reciprocated by his (straight) friend, but they are close to this day.

He “acted straight” for a while, but eventually decided that “there is nothing wrong with being gay – I’m not ashamed.” Although he was bullied at school for being different, he said that after a while, the bullies questioned why they were doing it – with the fact that he was the first to pass his driving test helping this process of acceptance along.

However, things have difficult in the family setting: when he told his parents about his sexuality, his mother said that his father wanted Pablo out of the house within 24 hours. They are still not properly reconciled. His father will only rarely communicate, and even then it is in a business-like manner about factual things. His mother resorts to texting in to his radio show as a way, he said, of saying she is thinking about him.

His parents tried to arrange his marriage on a number of occasions, but he said he “couldn’t do that to another person”: he refused to “ruin someone else’s life” by pretending.

He eventually met Stephen Sherrard Cook, a (white) New Yorker. They have been married for two years. In his professional and social circle, people are more interested in the fact that he married someone who was not Asian, than that his partner is a man. Their wedding was featured in celebrity lifestyle magazines.

He told stories of not being invited to family gatherings and weddings, and of awkwardness and hostility from some when he was there. However, other, more distant, relatives have given him a great deal of support and have invited both Pablo and Stephen to their celebrations: “It was like I’ve gained a new family.”

He continues to text his family to say: “I love you, I miss you.” He said: “Just because they are angry, why should I lie about how I feel about them? I still love my parents.”

Overall, though, he said he is happy with who he is, his relationship and his life.

After his talk, Pablo answered questions from the boys.