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HindustanTimes Tue,02 Sep 2014
Welcome King Freddy
Karan Thapar
March 31, 2012
First Published: 19:59 IST(31/3/2012)
Last Updated: 12:01 IST(1/4/2012)

This morning I want to introduce an old and dear friend. We first met almost 40 years ago. Then he was a tubby smiling school boy. Today he will be received as an honoured State guest and loyal friend of India. Senior ministers, the massed bands of the defence services and a 21-gun salute will welcome him.

Frederick Charles Uhuru Lullum-buwesi, named after the Kaiser and the Prince of Wales, is the Bagato of Burungundi and, as his 17 titles proclaim, 'The Face of the Sun', 'The Lord of the Mountains', and 'The Chief with fire in his eyes'. His friends simply call him King Freddy!

The shorter name dates back to Stowe. When he arrived at the school, he was accompanied by a retinue of Burungundian warriors with painted faces and ivory-handled fly whisks in their hands. "Who are they?" he was asked by the incredulous third-formers. “Don't worry about that lot,” he nonchalantly answered, waving the warriors away. "They think I'm god!"

King Freddy used to be the most intelligent but also the laziest person I've met. He'd spend all day lounging on a rickety sofa in his study. But his essays were always alpha plus. Incidentally, his English was as flawless as the Queen's. His accent far better.

Alas, King Freddy's life has been less perfect. While he was at Cambridge, his father, the then Bagato, was overthrown and savagely killed by the awful General Moses Ullumbawayo. For the next 30 years King Freddy languished in his Cadogan Gardens flat in London, occasionally dining at the Drones and frequently at The Wolseley, while the usurper ruled in Burungundi.

“He's done unspeakable things to the Palace,” King Freddy would lament. And indeed, Lullachi, the capital, once famous for it colonial villas with their manicured lawns and fancy topiary, was reduced to potholed roads and crumbling government buildings.

However, in 2003 everything changed. General Ullumbawayo died, suddenly and mysteriously. Perhaps it was an assassination or just an unexplained heart attack. As ambitious tribal leaders competed to succeed him, Burungundi succumbed to civil war. Lullachi was devastated although, miraculously, King Freddy's Palace of the Purple Flower survived intact. A ravaged and exhausted nation looked to its ancient but still loved royal family for succour and King Freddy was asked to come home.

Next year King Freddy will mark his 10th anniversary on the Golden Bee Throne. Pictures of him sitting on it in a dark double-breasted suit adorn the capital's streets. In the last decade Burungundi, a country locked within the borders of South Africa, has achieved one of the continent's highest growth rates, the lowest child mortality rate and an inexplicably huge consumption of pink champagne.

The restored Bagato has lived up to all the ancient Burungundian customs. He has six wives although the only one accompanying him today is the one they call 'The Mother of the Eldest Son'. Little Georgie is, of course, following his father's footsteps at Stowe, where he's already captain of the rugger team and the school marathon record-holder.

When we meet this evening at the Rashtrapati Bhawan banquet it will be after a gap of 15 years. But I can bet King Freddy will be wearing his trademark Saville Row doubled-breasted suit with a kerchief in his pocket. And when he rises to toast the president he'll grimace as he discovers its only nimboo pani.

Welcome to Delhi, King Freddy — and happy April Fool's Day to the rest of you!

The views expressed by the author are personal.


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