Pussycat, pussycat, where have you been?
I’ve been up to London to visit the Queen!
The Queen’s Garden Party
It was a sunny summer’s day ten years ago, when I went to collect my 7- year old daughter from school. She came out to meet me, face flushed, eyes wide open. “How was school”? I asked her. Very animatedly she informed me that one of her class mates was having tea with the Queen! Her excitement and her anticipation for her friend was so intense, that I could not help but smile all the home.
A few weeks ago, it was my excitement and anticipation that was palpable as I stood in line outside Buckingham Palace to enter to attend the Queen’s Garden Party. I remembered very clearly the exchange with my daughter that I described above, and I thought about the twists and turns of my life, and I silently thanked a very dear friend and mentor for making my attendance to this occasion possible.
It was not an elitist event, as in thousands are invited and there are a very diverse group of guests from “all walks of life”, as our papers like to state. As I waited outside the Palace gate, I soon became immersed in the sheer joy and the thrill the people were feeling at the prospect of seeing the Queen and other members of the monarchy. As I entered, I was excited because for once in my life, I was looking out of the Palace as opposed to decades of looking in.
It was a gorgeous day, and there was a very festive atmosphere in and around the Palace. As per the programme, afternoon tea was served exactly at 3:30pm, and in true British style we had to queue to procure our treats (as we had to queue earlier to enter). And yes, cucumber sandwiches and scones with clotted cream and jam were on the menu. There were also vegetarian and vegan options.
I grew up with the notion that a meal is served and partaken after the chief guest or the very important persons arrive, but at the Palace it was a different style of mehmandari. The Queen and her family members joined the party after a round of tea.
At 4pm (on the dot)Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and her entourage, appeared on the terrace, and began to make their way down to the lawn. Now this was a moment I will never forget. As soon as her presence became known and felt, without any request, each and every person present became silent, and it made me realise the incredible awe and respect that she commands, and then I felt very privileged to be in her presence.
I also felt very lucky, as she stopped and stood right in front of me for several minutes, on her way to the Royal Tent, an elegant and dignified figure in (what appeared to me) a pale jade ensemble, carrying an umbrella. No. No selfies. We were sent a do’s and don’ts list with the invitation, and the rules were very clear.
We were allowed to take photographs from a distance, and that I did. I captured Her Majesty, Prince Andrew, Prince Edward and the Countess of Wessex and though I took many other pictures of the occasion, I am not sure I was able to capture the atmosphere – cheerful and convivial. I was by myself, but I did not feel alone as I walked around laughing and joking with other guests.
It was an all you can eat affair and I did not hold back, and three helpings of tea later, I decided it was time to leave. The dismay that such a delightful afternoon was coming to an end was countered by the amusement of having my picture taken by the tourists as I was walked out of Buckingham Palace. Hah! Been there, done that!
Chintamoni grew up in Dhaka, where she will always belong, but never quite fit in. She is an enthusiastic traveller, a compulsive procrastinator, and a contumelious raconteur.