Opinion Op Ed 19 Aug 2019 As pound sinks furth ...
Kishwar Desai, is the chair of the Arts and Cultural Heritage Trust, which is setting up the Partition Museum at Town Hall, Amritsar.

As pound sinks further, grey skies over UK reflect the circling gloom

Published Aug 19, 2019, 12:23 am IST
Updated Aug 19, 2019, 12:23 am IST
It sure does — as bets are being laid on how long the Boris Johnson government will last, and when the next election takes place.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Photo: AFP)
 British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Photo: AFP)

This was a very soggy weekend — with the Met department calculating that some parts of the UK may have got the same amount of rainfall as they would in an entire month!

Floods and strong winds have meant that many who chose a “staycation” during the school summer break may have been rueing their decision not to escape to a warmer, sunnier climate. Not that it was any easier to leave, because just last week the strike at Heathrow forced many holidaymakers to cancel plans.

 

So does this grey and blustery weather reflect our politics and the uncertainty around us?

It sure does — as bets are being laid on how long the Boris Johnson government will last, and when the next election takes place. As the pound sinks further, the grey skies only reflect the circling gloom.

While many feel that Mr Johnson will survive, a new coalition is being dreamt up by the 39-year-old leader of the Liberal Democrats, the cheerful Jo Swinson, who has already managed to attract some high-level politicos from the left and the right. While she is no Amit Shah, at least now the battle between high-powered women is coming into the open. Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) is also trying to form a coalition with Jeremy Corbyn, Labour leader, and the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas. But Ms Swinson has only very reluctantly agreed to meet Mr Corbyn as she feels he cannot get the numbers required to defeat a vote of no confidence against Mr Johnson. She would prefer that Mr Corbyn quits as leader and others, such as Ken Clark (remember him?) and Harriet Harman (remember her?) are chosen to replace Mr Corbyn.

Perhaps all this infighting will mean that Mr Johnson can stroll towards a no-deal Brexit and remain Prime Minister. To be honest, Mr Corbyn has already said that he will refuse a no-deal Brexit and rush to the Queen, asking her to anoint him PM. And so he needs all Opposition support. He has even, it appears, offered a second referendum on Scottish independence in return for Ms Sturgeon’s support.

So the question is that if Brexit happens, will we see the Partition taking place in the UK... shorn not only of Europe, but also Scotland?

Well, as we are all going towards mindfulness, and wellness therapies and personal happiness, yoga is high on the list of activities. But, surprise, surprise, so is astrology! And now it is the Astro apps which are becoming the latest trend, offering an opportunity to start-ups, and for investment. Remember a time when astrology was considered just a lot of mumbo jumbo? Now star struck followers will be happy to learn that many in the West don’t take a step before checking their astrology app — where they get a chance to chat with an astrologer as well. I have always maintained that good astrologers provide psychotherapy, and tell you things you would love to hear. Plus they are good listeners, so you get a chance to speak to someone who appears to hold the key to your future... so Mystic Meg and others are moving up the ladder — the apps also provide planet and birth charts. Who would have thought the “scientific” minded West that scoffed at this kind of knowledge from the East will now take it so seriously?
One estimate puts the astrology app market as worth over 2 billion dollars in the US, and it is rapidly gaining ground in the UK as well. Soon we should start a Vaastu app here too.

But the UK is also catching up with India on wedding costs. Everything is becoming more and more elaborate. Where once these used to be fairly simple, now an average wedding costs around £31,000 according to one survey, and the spend and stress is rising steadily. This is mostly thanks to the pressure of the social media and so-called “rituals” imported from the US. It seems that most of the weddings are planned around the photographs, as apparently those, at least, will last forever. And so it is Instagram which decides the wedding venue and the honeymoon locale — the two most expensive items. Hen and stag parties make the pre-wedding costs go up further. The downside is that these “rituals” are leading to stressful relationships — and friendships are breaking up — as not all the invited friends of the bride and groom can afford to go to fancy locations. Guests have even had to take loans to buy tickets and hotel stays as well as spruce up their wardrobe, and so many then simply opt out!

All of this makes me wonder why everything revolves around the social media and what others will see on Facebook, Twitter, etc — what happened to old fashioned romance?

Why can’t there be simple weddings with a few close friends? Will be cheaper too!

And this week (while India celebrated Independence Day), at the Partition Museum in Amritsar on August 17, Partition Remembrance Day was commemorated, with a special focus on Sindh, the lost homeland. We are fortunate that many joined us to remember those who had lost so much 72 years ago.

And here, in the UK, thousands of miles away, slowly an awareness of how Partition had ravaged India is finally spreading.

Inspired by the Partition Museum, a commemoration of the Partition was also held in Manchester, on August 17, by an energetic group which hopes that, as in India, it will become a regular event. I also spoke in Manchester on the occasion, about the pain of Partition, and on my book on Jallianwala Bagh. By the way, for those who have not seen it as yet, please do visit the Manchester Museum, where an exhibition on the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, set up jointly with the Partition Museum, is still ongoing. It will be on till October 2, Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary.

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