“I’m here in my status as a groupie,” said the seasoned African diplomat as she stood in the long queue of people waiting to greet Prince William and his wife Catherine Middleton.
And that summed up the tone of the reception organised at the British high commissioner’s official residence on Monday evening for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
The invitation letter stated “No photographs please” but that didn’t deter the people in the queue from whipping out their smartphones as the royal couple emerged from high commissioner-designate Dominic Asquith’s residence.
There were few complaints from the men and women, attired in heavy saris and dark suits, even though they had waited from almost an hour-and-a-half to get a glimpse of the couple.
Prince William, second in line to succeed his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, and a pilot in the Royal Air Force, stopped at the head of the queue to speak to an aviator from the Indian Navy. What he was most interested in knowing was what sort of aircraft did the officer fly.
The Duchess politely shook hands with people as she moved along the queue on the manicured lawns of the high commissioner’s residence, saying how much she was enjoying her first visit to India.
The soundtrack for the evening was a curious amalgam of folk music by a troupe from Rajasthan and brass-laden tunes from the James Bond movies by the Royal Air Force band. Many tapped their feet as the music shifted from “Dama Dam Mast Qalandar” to the theme from “You Only Live Twice”.
Prince William endeared himself to the audience when he made a brief speech at the event, which also was a celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th birthday next week.
“It’s important that everyone here tonight understands that I’m here as the Queen’s representative. She may be my grandmother but she’s also very much the boss,” he said, drawing peals of laughter.
After reading out a message from the Queen and King of England that spoke of the “enduring friendship between our two countries, our shared culture and the business opportunities we can create together”, the Prince quipped: “Now I can report back to granny I’ve done my duty.”
Minister of state for information and broadcasting Rajyavardhan Rathore and the other guests cheered as the royal couple used a sword to cut a huge cake.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge began their tour of India and Bhutan on Sunday. In Mumbai, they played cricket with legend of the game Sachin Tendulkar in Oval Maidan and laid wreaths for the victims of the Mumbai attacks at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.