BENGALURU: Jeremy Pilmore-Bedford, the British Deputy High Commissioner for Karnataka and Kerala, remembers eating at a restaurant in Singapore on a banana leaf years ago on his first date with his now wife, Amanda. “We started off learning to eat off a banana leaf with our right hand. And we do eat masala dosaes the right way,” says the outgoing diplomat with a laugh. This, in reference to a recent video by British High Commissioner Alex Ellis whose video of eating a dosae with his hands went viral.
Having lived in Singapore and Malaysia, Pilmore-Bedford and Amanda had a certain degree of familiarity of what India would be like. While nothing can prepare one for the actual experience, the diplomat was ready to soak in the experience when he landed in Chennai in 2018, from the US, where he took charge as Deputy High Commissioner.
A year later when he moved to Bengaluru, he realised the difference between the two cities which, although a ‘six-hour drive’ only, are poles apart. If he found Chennai conservative and a cultural hub with a heavy focus on music, Bengaluru was quite in contrast. “The pandemic has given the life sciences, artificial intelligence, and cyber security a boost with Bengaluru actively involved. Even when it comes to investment, there is so much focus on Bengaluru. More than 50%of the Indian investment into the UK comes from south India,” he says, adding, “In fact, my successor’s role will be double-hatted with the additional charge of Deputy Trade Commissioner. While the Trade Commissioner is based out of Mumbai, this is the second such appointment in the country that happens to be in Bengaluru.”
The challenges were many for Pilmore-Bedford having assumed office in October 2019, soon after which the pandemic hit the country. “Interactions have been formal, so building relationships has been hard,” he says. But on the personal front, the pandemic came as a blessing in a disguise of sorts. Not being able to go back home meant that Pilmore-Bedford and his wife travelled extensively both within the state and country. From the nearby Hampi to Kaziranga in North-East India, he has had quite an adventurous time. In fact, a year ago, the diplomat was in the news when, during travel to Kochi to manage repatriation flights, his vehicle saw a flat tyre in the heart of a tiger territory.
Still in the process of applying, taking tests, and interviewing for his next foreign role as per the system, Pilmore-Bedford is ready for his home posting. This also means he’ll be meeting his children, both in their 20s, one of whom has visited once during his stint here and another who was unable to. “I’ve always been hesitant to come back to the places I’ve lived in. But my son has got a job with a tech company, so I’m sure there’ll be some Bengaluru connection,” says Pilmore-Bedford with a laugh.