The headlines here lately, about India, have been worrying. Many of them are about the Indian Covid crisis, and it is sad to see the terrifying predictions that are doing the rounds. While Boris Johnson thinks about sending respirators to India, many are wondering what happened to the great advantage India had last year. Now all we see are the burning pyres, and an ever-expanding body count. The question everyone asks is how could this have happened when India was doing so well? Yes, there had been a harsh lockdown earlier — but then that was the only way to deal with the enemy, who was unknown at the time. But now the bonds between the two countries are being sealed, ironically, by the “Indian” strain in the UK, and “British” mutant in India. The alarming difference is that while the UK is slowly opening up, India seems to be in the midst of a severe medical tsunami. Could it be also because the UK had vaccinated such a large proportion of its population?
The big event of the past fortnight has, of course, been the Royal funeral. The Monarchy is perfectly adept at staging the most spectacular coronation (not seen, happily, since 1952), weddings (the most recent, of Harry and Meghan, was beautiful but is proving unforgettable for other reasons) and, of course, funerals. There has not been a Royal funeral since Elizabeth the Queen Mother died at the ripe old age of 101 a while ago.
The funeral for the Duke was planned well in advance and indeed he had participated in its arrangements, choosing the carriage specially designed by himself for the occasion. But as luck would have it, the Duke’s funeral became unique because of Covid. And this brought to the fore the discipline maintained by the Royalty as it abides by the laws it is formally responsible for promulgating through it is the civilian government which thinks them up. For example, even through the Second World War, the Royal Family ate only the rations permitted to their subjects.
The sparseness of numbers at the funeral, the lack of street crowds, the location at Windsor rather than London gave the occasion its own special magic. He was after all 99, just one week short of his centenary. The Queen is, more or less, universally respected and much loved by all but a few diehard Republicans. The Duke had to earn the respect given to him. The Press delighted in his more acerbic and “politically incorrect” views. He himself had joked about his “foot in the mouth” problem. But the sheer length of his presence on the public platform, discreetly walking a few steps behind his wife, won people over.
Most watched the ceremony on TV where the BBC yet again turned up trumps as it does on such occasions. It was a sombre but a beautifully staged occasion. Even so, it was the Queen sitting by herself in the chapel, which was the most dramatic sight. She had already placed her own written farewell into the coffin and then she sat quietly, the picture of dignity in grief. While the media wanted to make a fuss about Harry and William, the Palace managed to make them all behave themselves. And the emotion of the moment almost made everyone forget THAT interview.
In a mundane world, politics provides the entertainment. Not a week goes by without another corruption scandal. David Cameron, the former Prime Minister, has been caught lobbying for a company Greensill where he is the director. His text messages to Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, asking for financial help, have been revealed. (When will these “leaders” learn what every teenager knows — that if you use your smartphone, there is no secrecy?) The Prime Minister himself is under attack by his former chosen Special Adviser Dominic Cummings (who had to be let go after he had antagonised everyone including Carrie Symonds, the PM’s fiancée). He has now leaked more ammunition against his old friend alleging that Boris stopped a public inquiry when government rules were broken. Par for the course. But the target, more and more, seems to be the Prime Minister’s fiancée — about whom stories are churned out every week. And now, under media scrutiny, Boris has had to pay 58,000 pounds for the redecoration of his residence at Downing Street, already undertaken by the young Ms Symonds. Yes, the Prime Minister in the UK cannot use taxpayers’ money to re-do the official home in London. Can such a rule ever work in India, hmmm?
But Boris has retained his amazing luck. While he has presided over the shambles of Covid mismanagement, he is doing very well thanks to the widely successful vaccination programme. The UK has become the envy of EU, if not the world, for its vaccination performance. Even Brexit has been forgotten for the while.
Actually, Boris was supposed to be in Delhi today, on April 26. His earlier trip to Delhi for the Republic Day on January 26 had to be postponed due to Covid. But the two Prime Ministers seem to be fated never to meet in India (especially not if the date is the 26th) and the British PM has once again cancelled his trip. Call the astrologer!