MUMBAI: Britain’s Prince William and wife Kate landed in Mumbai on Sunday for a tour of India that will see them play with slum children and mingle with Bollywood celebrities.
The royal couple will receive a warm reception on their first official visit to the subcontinent from an Indian population long fascinated with the monarchy of its former colonial masters.
William’s mother Princess Diana caused a sensation when she was photographed looking forlorn in front of Agra’s Taj Mahal in 1992, and his imminent visit to the marble mausoleum with Kate has India’s media abuzz.
Other highlights of their week-long trip include a visit to Kaziranga National Park in Assam state and a two-day spell in Bhutan, where they will meet the Himalayan nation’s king and queen and take on a six-hour hike.
“The Duke and Duchess have just touched down in #Mumbai! #RoyalVisitIndia is underway!” Kensington Palace tweeted shortly after 11:00 am (0530 GMT) Sunday, including an image of India’s tricolour flag.
William and Kate will kick off their engagements in the western Indian city by laying a wreath at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel in honour of victims of the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
They will then watch youngsters play cricket on Mumbai’s famous Oval Maidan, where they will meet representatives from three charities before interacting with kids who live in slums around India’s financial capital.
Boman Kohinoor, 93, has a strong claim to being India’s biggest fan of the British royal family and plans to head to the maidan to catch a glimpse of the couple.
“Hopefully I will see them there,” said Kohinoor, who would like William and Kate to visit his famous Parsi cafe, called Britannia & Company restaurant, which opened in 1923.
“I would be very happy and I would be honoured if they would visit me,” he told AFP.
“I would treat them to the best of my signature dishes like berry pulao and sali boti mutton, lamb and fish and all that.”
Lunch with Modi
After the cricket, William and Kate will visit the ancient Banganga Tank, part of a temple complex and a hugely significant site in Hindu mythology, where makeshift homes sit beneath luxury skyscrapers in the plush Malabar Hill district.
In the evening they will schmooze with Bollywood film stars and leading lights from the Indian business community at a glittering red-carpet event at the luxury Taj Mahal Palace hotel.
“The Duke and Duchess are very much looking forward to the tour,” Kensington Palace, the official residence of the royal couple, tweeted on Friday.
William, 33, who is second in line to the throne behind his father Prince Charles, and Kate, 34, will wrap up their Mumbai stay on Monday morning by meeting young entrepreneurs.
They then head to Delhi where they will have lunch with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, among other events, before heading to Assam and Bhutan and finishing their trip in Agra.
“This will be the one of the most ambitious tours their Royal Highnesses have ever undertaken and promises to be the most colourful tour to date,” British High Commissioner to India Dominic Asquith said in a statement Friday.