Welcome, Royal Baby. Now Can We All Please Get Over Our Colonial Hangover?

Social Commentary

Welcome, Royal Baby. Now Can We All Please Get Over Our Colonial Hangover?

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

It’s been 72 long years since the British said “Cheerio!” to us, and yet here we are, Googling the announcement of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s baby like it is your tauji’s grandchild. And I speak for a majority of the English-speaking urban population, when I say we are embarrassingly obsessed with Great Britain (oops, I mean the United Kingdom) and its royal family.

Deny it all you like, I have TV viewership figures from Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding in 2011. Indians were glued to their TV screens on April 29, 2011, with 42.1 million Indian people tuning in to both Hindi and English news and entertainment channels, like BBC and TLC, just to watch the royal spectacle. This, and the latest media frenzy over the birth of the royal baby is simply proof that we’re all *still* suffering from a collective case of Raj Hangover.

Anyone who’s experienced a hangover will tell you how terrible it is. The consumption of alcohol is over, but the after-effects linger on, making your stomach churn and giving you a headache, just like the one Almeida gave Dadi in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. Remember Almeida (played by Johnny Lever)? The Union Jack-hoisting, Queen-worshipping manager of Camp Sunshine who asked the kids, “Who is Bharat?”. He is an out-and-out Anglophile and a classic example of that phrase that all of us have used in our lives at least once, “Angrez chale gaye, isko chhod gaye.” You can trace this Anglophilia even in the classic film, Sholay, where Asrani’s comical “Hum Angrezon ke zamaane ke jailer hain,” is supposed to put him on some sort of a pedestal. Because British = Better.

There are people suffering from this hangover in the literary world too, Arundhati Roy’s Pappachi in her book, God of Small Things is a fine example. “Ammu said that Pappachi was an incurable British-CCP, which was short for chhi-chhi poach and in Hindi meant shit-wiper. Chako said that the correct word for people like Pappachi was Anglophile. He made Rahel and Estha look up Anglophile in the Reader’s Digest Great Encyclopaedic Dictionary. It said: Person well disposed to the English.”

We’ll likely never admit to our Anglophilia and yes, our “Raj” encounter was a traumatic period in Indian history, but we *are* reverential toward several colonial elements: for starters, the English language. And nowhere is this more notable than in English newsrooms where the usage of a simple Z instead of a simple S is looked down upon so vehemently, you’d want to take cover under the London Bridge, even if it were falling down. That we can identify Shakespeare’s works more readily than those of Munshi Premchand’s says something.

All hail the Queen. Psst, what do you think they will name the baby?

Their “stiff upper lip” is our “khadoos”, and yet we are convinced that Yardley talcum is better than Cuticura, that M&S lingerie (when it wasn’t available in India) is the best in the world, and that everything that comes stamped with the words “By Appointment to HM The Queen” is a collector’s item.

Undeniably, the Parsis calling the Queen of England “aapri rani” are the best (or worst) of the lot. And though we’re no longer living under the rule of prudish Victorians, I’d like you to try to get into one of the Gymkhana’s formal dining rooms in shorts and chappals. Khushwant Singh tried once and was chucked out of the Madras Club even though he was wearing “respectable looking” chappals.

Generations after the British packed up and left, we continue to swoon over a British accent, dream of watching a cricket match at Lord’s, and consider Colin Firth a legit avatar of Mr Darcy. Downton Abbey and The Crown are on our most-watched lists and the rumours of Prince William cheating on Kate are a bigger scandal than any on your social circuit. It’s that pesky colonial hangover that makes us bond with everything British, despite the dark days of the Raj.

The Brits might think they taught us to be polite, otherwise there was nothing stopping us from taking back our chutney, curry, Tatas, and Kohinoor (in that order). All hail the Queen. Psst, what do you think they will name the baby?