British home secretary Theresa May or she may not. But even the idea that the UK could demand a 3000 pound bond from tourists it deems “overstay” risks has caused Indians to hyperventilate into a righteous uproar. The proposal has been called “racist” and “discriminatory.”
There are threats of retaliatory measures. David Cameron is being threatened with electoral doom if Indian-origin Brits turn their back on him in 2015. We have worked ourselves up into a lather of indignation. Rightly so. It’s not like the Brits paid any bond for overstaying their welcome in India back in the day and as a friend pointed out they certainly didn’t send their “best and brightest”. Poor Narendra Modi! Just as the Brits seem about ready to give him that coveted visa finally, poor Modi might need to follow in Tagore's footsteps and renounce it saying "The time has come when badges of honour make our shame glaring in their incongruous context of humiliation."
But Goodness Gracious Me! All this hullabaloo for the dubious pleasure of visiting London because that's where the tourists mostly go. In fact, if there is a silver lining in all this, it’s that it might finally force Indians to wake up and smell the Earl Grey. With the whole wide world out there, is it really worth shelling out 3000 pounds for a bond for the supposed delights London has to offer?
First of all, the weather sucks. This is the biggest stereotype about England and it’s entirely true. For much of the year, especially say around February, the United Kingdom should be paying people to come visit it. If you like a pall of gray, needle-like drizzle, and umbrellas dripping on your clothes in the subway, London’s a place after your heart. Or go in November when the pallid sun seems ready to give up the ghost around 3 pm.
Then there’s the food. It’s a stereotype too and it’s not untrue either. Having been raised on a steady diet of Enid Blyton books I remember being agog with excitement at the prospect of clotted cream and scones on my first visit to London. The scones tasted like cardboard. The clotted cream – well, really who calls something they want people to eat “clotted”? The strawberries looked pretty but were quite tart. This country gave us steak and kidney pie, spotted dick and Marmite (whose slogan was "Love it or Hate it"). Just the names alone can kill the appetite. However a local hotel in Kolkata was recently happily charging an arm and a leg for a British Food Festival. Hardly a banger for your buck.
Yes, sure, the British Museum has a lot of treasures and we can go to the Tower of London and gawk at the Koh-i-noor. But honestly, why should self-respecting citizens from the former colonies trudge around looking at stuff that belongs to them anyway? Even worse, buy tickets and pay good money to see them? And if it does not exactly belong to us, like say the Buckingham Palace, its wealth and grandeur was created at our expense anyway. Indians would do far better to go to Angkor Wat. It's closer, cheaper and its wonders actually relate to our heritage without being pilfered from it.
The shopping in London is too expensive. It’s the pound sterling. Who in their right minds, other than besotted Indians, would want to go to London to shop? All the Brits I know stock up on clothes and goodies when they go to America. They just make a beeline for the Walmarts and Targets and other superstores in the US. To pay in pound sterling for clothes made in China, or even worse Bangladesh, and bring them back to India is a criminal case of colonial hangover. Anyway a plastic bag from Harrods is NOT a fashion accessory.
But the number one reason to skip Britain, is the British themselves want to leave. The Daily Mail ran a story about the Gordons, a British couple who traded their 18th century five-bedroom cottage in Kent for a far pricier four-bedroom apartment in Mumbai and have no regrets. “We thought the country was going to the dogs and we’d get out while we could,” said Lindsey Gordon.
If you need more persuasion just rent the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel where even crusty seniors are hot-footing it out of Britain because they are sick of retirement parties with “crap cheese, crap wine” and “beige bloody bungalows.” And if that doesn’t convince you, think history. Why do you think the English were so successful as a colonial master? They couldn’t wait to get away from their rainy moldy island and become the governor of Punjab. Even threats of malaria, dysentery and the Black Hole of Calcutta didn’t deter them.
Prince William-bhai is clearly keeping his options open with the new-found Gujarati connection in his bloodline.
Let’s face it, Sherlock’s great but all Britishers are not Benedict Cumberbatch. There is a general pastiness about Britishers ( not surprising for a country that likes to eat something called a Cornish pasty). At least the rudeness of the French come with better looks. And all those British icons we read about in books – the robin, the snowdrop, the Queen - are in reality quite small, plain and unremarkable. Certainly not worth a 3000 pound bond.
Yet as Indians we remain ever attached to our former overlords. Our sentimentality for London knows no bounds. It’s not just restricted to the stuffy confines of our Bengal Clubs and Bangalore Clubs. The sun set on the British Empire a long time ago. But it just never set in our hearts.
Independence did not really set us free. Perhaps this bond might finally liberate us.
Published Date: Jun 25, 2013 05:29 pm | Updated Date: Jun 25, 2013 11:03 pm