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The Diamond Jalebi

Indrajit Hazra shares his experience of watching the British monarch's diamond jubilee celebrations with a loyal subject of the queen.

columns Updated: Jun 09, 2012 22:33 IST
Indrajit Hazra
Indrajit Hazra
Hindustan Times

Lord Hos Patel

Dear Lord Patel,
Watching the Queen's Park Rangers' Diamond Jalebi celebrations on the bedroom telly, I was struck by how my amygdala -- not to be confused with Princess Leia's mum -- had shrivelled and fallen through a gap in my boxers out of utter boredom. From the 44 degree Celsius heat of our New Delhi home (well, okay, I had the covers on because of the blasted air-conditioner dipping indoor temperatures to that of the Outer Hebrides), the grey sky and the pitter-patter seemed quite pleasant actually.

But the barges, ships.. boats, barges, ships, whatever... that kept on sailing past her travesty was far worse a display of pointless aquatic traffic than when I spotted a rusty tug, two wooden rowboats and a dribble of cruise (sic) steamers on the Hooghly in the early 90s when as a Calcutta lad I went through my Gangetic delta phase.

A part of me -- clearly not the amygdala -- felt a bit sorry for the lady in white flanked on both sides by two gents posing to be Lord Mountbatten. And the Beeb, not known for its support for its republicanism (it has rules that insist on calling Oliver Cromwell a 'militant' rather than a 'terrorist', not even if Simon Schama stomps his feet and holds his breath), had its poor commentators gush about, well, the passing barges, ships.. boats, barges, ships, whatever. All Samuel Beckett had to do was to transcribe what they were saying over hours and give hyper-detailed stage directions to come up with a show-stopper.

That was on day one. The next evening, at the same venue of our bitterly cold summer Delhi bedroom, my wife and I settled down to watch the Jalebi concert. But only after we had finished watching a particularly devious episode of Castle. (It had a tiger in the plot, something, alas, I couldn't say was the case in the whole Diamond Jalebi celebrations.)We caught the ee cummings-loving midway into his set with a woman who simply couldn't sing. But along the way and thanks to the comperes at the concert of Buckingham Palace, I experienced one epiphanic moment when I learnt that the word 'mall'actually rhymed with 'HAL', psychotic homicidal computer of the 9000 series with a British accent manufactured before red-eye reduction pre-flash cameras were invented, and not with 'hall' of Hall & Oates fame. My wife and I looked at each other and screamed, “Shit! It's pronounced 'mall' as in 'Hal' and not as in 'Hall'. Then we quickly corrected ourselves and said "Shite!" the way we learnt to say the word in our younger, more swaggery Oasis years.

Talking about Oasis, the roll-call around the palace roundabout was a mix of Britpop oldies that the 15 remaining Anglo-Indians in Calcutta still keep thinking to be current top of the charts: Cliff Richard prancing about with his mask almost slipping to his knees singing 'Devil Woman' and immediately going one up on the Sex Pistols' attitude to the house of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha 35 years ago when they literally barged in to describe the Lady of the Marmites as being “no human being”; the sinister Tom Jones singing, not 'Sex Bomb', but the totally la-di-dah 'Delilah'; a frumpy short lady in a pink suit and a squirrel on her head came and plonked out ditties on the piano with a gruff voice. Apparently, 'Your Song was being sung in front of our ey'es by Elton John. Yeah, right.

Stevie Wonder mysteriously sang 'Happy Birthday', probably believing that he'd been invited to perform at saxophonist Kenny G's 56th birthday. But my wife and I again looked at each other when the orchestra started playing U2's 'Beautiful Day' to the montage of the queen's life in the background. Er, these boys were stomping to 'Sunday, Bloody Sunday' just a few years ago, no? But could we have mistaken Gerry Adams for the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams? We desi Hindus never can make out the difference between Catholics and Anglicans.

The less said about Paul McCartney (and the more said about the astounding Grace 'Did You See Her Toned Thighs?' Jones) the better. But I did lose 500 rupees -- which I know isn't much for you sterling pounders, but it's the principle that counts! -- when I bet that the non-pork-eating Macca would end the evening with his song from Abbey Road, 'Her Majesty'. I even screamed out the whole of the 27-second song at the television screen. Nope. The proceedings ended with 'Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da', a 'song' that John Lennon once rightly described as “Paul's granny shit”. But thankfully, the incredible display of lights on Buckingham Palace while Madness reigned blanked out any memory of Old McCartney and his onstage farm.

Not having learnt a lesson in the displays from London over the last two evenings, we settled down one last time to watch 'Re-Coronation Street'. The ride of the royals through the streets in an open carriage was helpfully short. “Look, no one helped her to get on it,"

observed my wife about the self-efficient-if-not-sufficient British queen. That was impressive, considering 14 ministers including one prime and a bunch of midgets pretending to be children would have scrambled over each other to open the door, let alone help her on to a carriage, for our reigning queen Sonia I. As we switched the channel to watch the news about Sachin Tendulkar being sworn in to our equivalent of the House of Lords, we figured that the Diamond Jalebi celebrations were quite boring, fit only to be shown on Doordarshan, our national channel that no one watches any more. We also are now convinced that the Commonwealth is really a ponzi scheme, like those dodgy poetry organisations in America that print your poems in their anthology for free and then hope to send you a leather-bound volume for a nominal price. But one thing I must admire about the whole jingbang: they kept that Lord Swraj Paul chap miles away from our TV. Huzzah! God save the Lib Dems,
Yours faithfully,
Indrajit Hazra, Esq,
Mayur Vihar 1
New Delhi

First Published: Jun 09, 2012 22:29 IST