By Alex Dowdalls

IT was an extra special start to 2018 for Shyamal Kanti Sengupta as he was named in the New Year Honours List.

Shyamal, 74, has been made a Member of the British Empire (MBE) for his services to interfaith relations.

And royal honours run in the family – as his wife Pratima was awarded the same distinction three years ago.

Shyamal told the Barrhead News: “It came as a great surprise to me to be given this great honour.

“I thought someone had made a mistake when I received the phone call.”

Shyamal and 70-year-old Pratima, from Giffnock, launched the Glasgow Bangiya Sanskrit Parishad and Puja Committee in the 1970s, having moved to the United Kingdom in 1963.

As a director of the Glasgow Hindu Mandir in the 1980s and 1990s, Shyamal shepherded the relocation of that place of worship from a small and dilapidated building to a much larger and more accessible former church in La Belle Place.

He continued this commitment to community integration as a director of the Scottish Asian Arts Association in the 1990s.

Shyamal also founded the multi-faith drop-in centre at Fairweather Hall, in Newton Mearns, and was its chairman for many years.

He is dad to son Soumen, who lives in Bearsden, and daughter Dr Shiuli Russell, who lives in Bishopton.

Shyamal, who also has five grandchildren, admits keeping news of his MBE under wraps was difficult.

He said: “I was told a month ago and only my immediate family were told about it before the official announcement.”

Also named in the New Year Honours List was former Barrhead teacher Moira Monaghan, 60, who has been awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to education.

The honour comes just months after she retired as headteacher at Bushes Primary, in Paisley, having spent 25 years at the school.

Previously, Moira was a popular member of staff at Carlibar Primary and has also taught at Maxwellton Primary and Ferguslie Primary, both in Paisley, as well as Bridge of Weir Primary.

Councillor Jim Paterson, Renfrewshire’s convener of education and children’s services, said: “It is an award that Moira truly deserves for everything she did for the children and the wider school community in her 25 years as headteacher.”

Having achieved a degree as an architect and worked for a year in that profession, Moira turned to teaching.

Moira is married to Peter and the couple have three children – Shaw, Crawford and Innes.

The Honours List also brought joy to East Renfrewshire businesswoman Summera Naheed Shaheen.

She was awarded the MBE for services to business and the community after setting up a bespoke jewellery service called The Diamond Studio.

Summera, 53, who lives in Newton Mearns, is also a former director of anti-poverty organisation Faith In Community (Scotland).

The Diamond Studio, based in Wellington Street, Glasgow, specialises in “highly personal” jewellery.