Opinion Op Ed 13 May 2019 Of a royal baby call ...
Kishwar Desai, is the chair of the Arts and Cultural Heritage Trust, which is setting up the Partition Museum at Town Hall, Amritsar.

Of a royal baby called Archie, and a tough time finding a Poet Laureate

Published May 13, 2019, 12:19 am IST
Updated May 13, 2019, 12:19 am IST
In this world of Instagram, Meghan has wisely chosen to opt out of the competition and enjoy her time with Archie.
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. (Photo: AP)
 Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. (Photo: AP)

And he is called Archie! Who would have imagined that the latest addition to the royal family would remind us of the lad from Riverdale! (We can only await the Veronicas and Bettys that may follow). Okay, his full name is Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor. So that may make the plebian “Archie” sound a little more regal; but given the amount of conversation around the name — it must have been a shock for the bookies and the royal-obsessed Brits who were expecting a more dignified “Arthur” of perhaps “Alfred”.

There has also been rude speculation over the fact that the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, once had a cat named Archie whom she adored — and could her son have been christened Archie in the memory of the cat? That sounds very bizarre — and a kinder, more probable explanation could be that she wanted an American name, and the comic book character, Archie, is a redhead, just like Harry.

 

So while “Archie” does acknowledge the newborn’s American heritage, his second name “Harrison” not only is British, it points to his lineage, as “Harry’s son”. In any case, since this child is unlikely to inherit the throne, it is fine for the parents to have some fun over his naming. The more interesting thing is that one week later “Archie” had met the Queen, his great grandmother — but still has to be introduced to his grandparents, Prince Charles and Camilla. He has not met the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Kate Middleton (his uncle and aunt) either. It seems the latter are waiting for Archie to “quieten down”. Could the rumour of a rift in paradise be true?  

While the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan, was clear that she was not going to do the traditional “photo op” on the steps of the hospital like her sister-in-law — it was obvious that the comparisons would have been difficult to pull off. Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge and future Queen, has always looked impeccable with a babe in arms, within hours of the birth — and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, looked a little plump, and far too normal in her recent photographs — a big no-no in the current parenting stakes. In this world of Instagram, Meghan has wisely chosen to opt out of the competition and enjoy her time with Archie.

Meanwhile, who would have thought that the post of Poet Laureate, once upon a time a huge honour to be bestowed upon a struggling pen-pusher, has now become a difficult one to fill? Posts like these used to be hugely appreciated by both the recipient as well as the bestower: while poets need patronage, the British rulers also (still) require reams to be written about their great achievements. Preferably in verse.

But is this post now akin to a singing bird being put in a cage? Poets have recognised that it is difficult to write on demand — after all the muse must come when it does. Some past Poet Laureates, such as Andrew Motion, have also pointed out that it might have some negative impact on one’s writing. It is a 10-year post, and carries an annual stipend of £5,750 and comes with a “butt of sack” — around 600 bottles of sherry. But he found it was “very very damaging” to his work. Writing for commissions can never be easy — and he felt that his creativity was drying up.

This is partly why Imtiaz Dharker, the Pakistani-origin writer (now UK-based) who had been chosen this year, declined the honour. She wanted to focus on her own work. It would have been a first for the post, though, — that someone from Asia had been chosen, just as Carol Anne Duffy was the first woman Poet Laureate 10 years ago. Ms Dharker, who is well established and whose poetry is taught in academia — is also someone who is multi-talented. I will never forget the caricature she drew of Meghnad once when she had come over for lunch…

But I can already sense the Indian lobby in the UK will begin to bristle — why is it that no Indian-origin poet has been appointed to the post? Shouldn’t we be a little more prominent — not just in business, but also in other areas in the UK? Meanwhile, a former probation officer, Simon Armitage, has been appointed the country’s 21st Poet Laureate.

Talking about business, that is the one area where Indians are going strong! With his latest acquisition of Hamleys, the 250-year-old toy store, Mukesh Ambani has made his presence really felt on the high street. This is not only an iconic British brand — but I remember that once upon a time, it was de rigueur for all Indian parents who visited London to drop by at Hamleys and pick up something for their young ones. I too, spent hours browsing through the store… as it represented the cleverness with which children’s toys could be created: from wooden to mechanical to electrical. To think that Mukesh Ambani has now bought it over — and is also working with Armani, Burberry, Jimmy Choo and other big brands — the project of the reverse colonisation of UK is well under way!

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