Perhaps Queen Elizabeth II really likes Bollywood songs? Or perhaps she leaves it to Indians to liven up things as only they can.
The 1,000-boat flotilla for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant was moving along London’s Thames river with majestic grace and languor on Sunday. About the only sounds you could hear were bells, mixed with foghorns. The bells pealed gently from a 180-ft floating belfry at the head of the flotilla.
And then came the boisterous Shree Muktajeevan Pipe and Dhol Ensemble — dozens of musicians on Scottish bagpipes and Punjabi dhols — swinging on board a city cruise barge decorated gaily with the flags of Commonwealth nations. They were playing the popular ‘Dhoom Machale Dhoom’.
Quite possibly, Britain’s 86-year-old monarch, celebrating her 60-year reign, isn’t familiar with many Indian tunes. But she hosted a Bollywood party in Buckingham Palace in 2009, which makes me think she may have a familiarity with the genre.
Her nation of 62 million certainly does, and it celebrated the occasion with dhoom on Sunday — one massive party in the midst of a second recession — as six million people joined 10,000 street parties. Another over-one million turned up to watch the pageant along the Thames on a day that grew increasingly grey, wet and chilly.
Also on the royal barge were two Indians — Harbinder Singh Rana, NRI head of the Anglo Sikh Heritage Trail, and commonwealth secretary-general Kamalesh Sharma.
Rain teemed down later, just as it did on Elizabeth II’s coronation day on June 2, 1953. But if you had a clear view of the river, then the serenade of foghorns and bells from slowly passing boats marked a peaceful end, the perfect counterpart to a day that began with Bollywood’s dhoom.