The bland, boring and royal life of Will and Kate

Spare a thought for the media that has to gush about the polite but unremarkable Duke and Duchess of Cambridge

WrittenBy:Sandip Roy
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That a 93-year-old Parsee Anglophile is excited about the visit to India by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge is understandable. After all Boman Kohinoor, proprietor of Britannia & Co., calls himself the “royal family’s fan Number 1” and his legendary restaurant in Bombay (and I am sure it’s always Bombay to Mr Kohinoor) is named after She Who Ruled The Waves. It’s famous as much for its berry pulao and raspberry soda as it is for the portraits of the royals hanging on the walls as well as Kohinoor’s file of letters and pictures from the Queen and her lady-in-waiting.

However, it took a hashtag and an internet video to set up a meeting that could easily have been an Orientalist dream. The royals, who are holding on to India’s Kohinoor in the Tower of London, met the Indian Kohinoor at the Taj Mahal Palace on Sunday. Irony kept a stiff upper lip somewhere.

“I told them: give my love to the Queen, and to [your] children Prince George and Princess Charlotte, too,” Kohinoor told Condé Nast Traveller. The sun clearly has not set on this quaint corner of Britannia and that is cute in its own eccentric way.

What is far less cute is how so much of the rest of Indian high society remains in thrall of its erstwhile colonial masters. ‘WillKat’ sound like a charming couple and they are entitled to get some sun and be the Royal Tanningbums on an Indian summer holiday. However, that the visit of the Queen of England’s grandchildren should even be front-page news, almost 70 years after Independence is somewhat cringe worthy.

A who’s-who of India’s new royalty – Bollywood and sports – showed up for a darshan at the 2016 durbar for Will and Kate. Sachin Tendulkar bowled to the Duchess of Cambridge and praised William’s cricketing skills. He apparently “middled the ball very well.” A beaming Dilip Vengsarkar watched them at Oval Maidan. “I’m sure many others would say the same, but the Duke and Duchess have left me truly floored,” said Vengsarkar. The maiden doth bowl Vengsarkar over. What impressed him even more was that though it “was so humid, neither the Duke nor the Duchess gave the slightest impression that they wanted to get away from it all.”

Come on. These are the descendants of people who braved heat, humidity, gout, thugs, malaria, Quit India, Black Hole, Bhagat Singh and more to rule over India for almost two centuries. Surely WillKat can survive one muggy afternoon in Mumbai?

And they could look forward to the gala evening when every Bollywood star showed up for an event hosted by Shah Rukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai, an exclusive shindig we had been hearing about for weeks and whose gowns will be much discussed for days. The picture of the superstars of Bollywood standing in their tuxes and gowns in a neat respectful line — a guard of honour of sorts — while the royal couple greets them has rightly been sardonically shared by a journalist friend on Facebook with the caption, “Rare picture from Indian museum (Kolkata) archive of King George V meeting Indian peasants at the Dilli Durbar of 1911.”

Even while Shashi Tharoor’s sharp speech at the Oxford Union Society demanding reparations for colonialism went viral in India, we seem perfectly happy to bask in the afterglow of the Empire as well. “We never thought that Prince William and Princess Kate would visit a slum and talk to the children,” said Ashok Rathod, a local football coach, after the Duke and Duchess visited a slum in south Mumbai. “For us this is a big thing. It’s like a dream come true.”

But the dream-come-true is really what the royals are living.  Instead of reparations for colonialism or an apology for Jallianwallah Bagh, they are waking up to gushing headlines like these.

‘WillKat’ wows humble & high.

William, Kate leave Bollywood awestruck.

Kate Middleton and Prince William win over India

Royal couple take guard, Mumbai bowled out

William, Kate play cricket, bowler Sachin says ‘fantastic experience’.

But let’s spare a thought for our poor media. While the Kollam fire raged, they had to work overtime to make these smiling royal visitors seem interesting. There are no mega trade deals being inked, no Kohinoors being returned — just a young couple laying wreaths, playing football with slum children, shaking hands, posing in front of the Taj Mahal. This is not to take anything away from #WillKat. They seem like a perfectly pleasant couple. They make all the culturally appropriate moves – a wreath at Rajghat, an Anita Dongre dress for dinner, Will making a dosa which Kate refused to taste — and they say polite and predictable things. “You are very brave, you saved a lot of lives. Well done,” the Duke told the security manager of the Taj Hotel who lived through the 2008 terrorist attack.

Let’s face it: this isn’t exactly headline-worthy behaviour.

When William’s grandparents visited India in 1961, they went on a royal hunt with Indian princes and princesses and posed with a dead tiger, a la Walter Palmer and Cecil the Lion. The new royals, far more politically correct, will instead visit a sanctuary for the one-horned rhino in Kaziranga.

That’s only right, but it’s all so propah. And let’s face it: it’s just too damn boring.

But the media soldiers on diligently digging for engaging nuggets. Like this:

“A piquant aside: the royals will be staying in New Delhi at the residence of the British high commissioner, Sir Dominic Asquith, whose great-grandfather HH Asquith was the British prime minister when William’s great-great grandfather George V came for the 1911 Delhi Durbar. And the Cambridges will may be amused to note that Sir Dominic’s elder brother is the current Earl of Oxford…”

The latest is describing the Duchess, with her skirt billowing in the wind and stumbling at the steps of India Gate, as having a “Marilyn moment”. Here’s an example from The Times of India:

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Not that making this connection was ToI’s brainchild. Almost every publication, from Vanity Fair to Wirtualna Polska has dubbed Kate our new Marilyn Monroe. But think about this for a moment. Monroe oozed sex appeal and mischievous innocence, wore a plunging neckline and ensured her skirt encountered “a delicious breeze”. Kate did her best to tame her skirt and stumbled, once.

Honestly, one feels for the scribes who have to churn out copy about the royal visit. Prince Phillip with his racist comments was a diplomatic liability but at least made for entertaining headlines. Princess Diana had a tragic glamour, posing alone in front of the Taj Mahal, a forlorn princess in a fairytale gone wrong. The current Duke and Duchess represent the nice new face of Empire: Wholly unremarkable in its relentless pleasantness, wholesome, but as bland and boring as mashed peas.

In fact, all that’s remarkable about #WillKat’s Indian holiday is how excited our media is about it when the only thing remotely exciting that might come out of it is a royal pregnancy as apparently happened in the Solomon Islands (Prince George) and Belgium (Princess Charlotte). In that case may we suggest the name Kohinoor? It sounds unisex, could count as symbolic reparations of sorts and the royal family’s Fan Number 1 in Mumbai will be tickled pink.


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