The Queen was there in the first row with Anna Wintour. The first lady of fashion sat huddled, hiding her expressions behind large opaque glasses. But not the first lady of everywhere else, the Queen.
Her eyes crinkled in genuine interest, engaged and enthused. The doyenne of fashion writing aka Ms Wintour dare not move a muscle in her 5,000-quid dress and sat more still than a mannequin. The Queen’s eyed followed those flawless models up and down the ramp and she loved it.
It was a sight to behold.
The monarch who has seen more history than any other head of state enjoyed every minute of her unusual outing. Not an expression out of place at the designs which, to her mind, would have seemed really unsuitable, if you please. But she gets it! And that’s why her appeal and affection among young and old has been constant, with a few ripples now and then. Even though she could have very little to connect with starving models and six inch heels, she appeared to be clearly in touch even if it was to make her look at home in unusual surroundings at a LFW catwalk (there is a strategy group inside the palace which only thinks about keeping the monarchy viable in the long term and who may have thought that this was a nice move). Well, good for them.
The Queen was there in the first row with Anna Wintour. Photo: Reuters
That really reminded me of a certain Mrs Gandhi – the elder one and not the younger or the middle one... who unleashed Indian culture on the globe through those festivals of India with the mirrorwork stoles, Bankura horses and chaat. She would be there to open each one of them!
With her would be the crème de la crème of Indian design, arts and an occasional socialite. She would rush to valley to see the Chinar in the fall and she would walk through a back path to chat with her best friend. She didn’t hide her small pleasures.
Just look at her snapshots chatting stylishly in French to the president in Paris. Her knee-length long coat over her signature sarees and the white flourish in her hair showed a woman who had power and who didn’t need to overtly wield it just to show that she had steel in her spine.
And she laughed often. I once saw her waving away from the front seat of the cart taking her around Pragati Maidan and I can swear, she looked at me directly in the eye with an indulgent smile as I waved back. She would often go to buy sarees, enjoy music and show people that she, well had a life, and she enjoyed it.
There have been other instances where women politicians have given their support to the arts and culture, especially when treasures from the past, a performance by Zubin Mehta or never before works of renowned contemporary artists, have been on. An earlier president of the Congress party floored the audience at the National Gallery of Modern Art when Anish Kapoor came with his mind-blowing works when she spoke eloquently and with great understanding of his work and the influences. She spoke as if she was merely one of the audience and how lucky she was to see work by a seminal artist. There was no reference to her own power, position or equity, not that it was not intrinsic to that moment or couldn’t be felt or seen. That was beside the point and such gestures made hitherto unreachable people much more accessible.
Even other women leaders have been known to go shopping or watch a movie at PVR with their family and have had no qualms being photographed munching popcorn as she looked indulgently at her grandchild. Small pleasures but they spoke volumes. That politics is important and has its place in widely understood but there is life too and a need to break away from it all and do something one enjoys.Where have those easy days gone? No politician, least of all a woman, would be caught buying anything, especially if it happens to be diamonds! But they don’t laugh much either. They can be seen bowing and scraping at one place of worship or the other or feeding cows, religiously doing the pujas as it were, but never playing a lap game with a baby or popping a gol gappa into their mouths.
When they speak, they only espouse the perfect way of life, in such seriousness that if we see them buying kajal pencils, we would think less of them. So they have to portray this unreal image of self-righteousness and higher living at all times. And such uncultured things as fashion shows: tauba tauba! I mean Hai Ram!
This brings us to the crux of the question and although he belonged in a bad place, the joker did have a point when he said, “Why so serious?”
That doesn’t mean that we use a knife to carve out a smile, but it never hurt anybody to have a good laugh. It make you look human and humble and real. The faux intellectual superiority which people in power seem to demonstrate these days makes it appear that even having a meal or attending a wedding is a sin.
Do let your hair down, let us see your soul, we won’t punish you for having a good time. But we will actually wonder, why don’t you? Not made of stone, are you? If you are, such serious issues of poverty, illiteracy, women’s rights, health and education, jobs and growth will also run down like water on your countenance and disappear into nothing!
Laugh, have some fun. Life is not all about indignant righteousness.