It never rains but it pours. London has had a very crowded week but more due to events on a global scale than anything local. First, we had Donald Trump and his extended family coming on a state visit, only the third US President to get such honour. It started at the Buckingham Palace where the Queen gave him a state banquet. It was so grand that it took three days to set the tables for the dinner guests with seven different glasses for the drinks. The Queen remains amazing at 93 — elegant and intimidating, which made Mr Trump behave himself as he nervously read out a written speech, but with no Trumpisms.
That had already happened just before he landed. Sadiq Khan, the London mayor, had called him a fascist. (The republic of London strikes back!) So, Mr Trump returned the insult in a tweet prior to setting foot in London. Then Mr Trump gave a return match when Prince Charles tried to educate him about the reality of climate change. He did not convince his host.
There were demonstrations in London against Mr Trump’s presence. On Monday as well as Tuesday, traffic came to a complete standstill in Central London. No buses could go through a large area from Piccadilly and Trafalgar Square to Parliament Square and up to Lambeth Bridge. From the Embankment to Victoria, there were milling crowds shouting slogans and waving placards. It was hard to reach anywhere using cabs or cars either. While protestors were enjoying themselves, commuters and people going about their business had to walk from one end of the blocked traffic to the other end.
Looking around, one thought that Britain is now really celebrating the spirit of isolationism. Having opted out of the EU, people are hard at work to show the US that they don’t like their democratically elected leader. What if he returns again — will Britain continue to protest?
A huge balloon shaped like Mr Trump — but as an overgrown baby — floated in the sky. (I believe a museum has already bid a large amount of money for this memorable tribute.)
Jeremy Corbyn addressed the protestors. He had refused to go to the Queen’s banquet but still wanted to see Mr Trump one on one. But Mr Trump preferred Boris Johnson and called Mr Corbyn a negative force.
Mr Trump’s other British favourite — Nigel Farage — is back in fashion. His newly started Brexit Party has just won the largest number of seats in the European Parliament elections. Even so, he is not liked and someone upended a milkshake on him.
There was more pageantry with the 75th anniversary of D Day, which was the excuse for Mr Trump’s visit. Veterans still around were a sight to behold with their old uniforms strung with medals and their children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren. When most young people don’t even remember Margaret Thatcher, this lesson in history was colourful and memorable. Everyone loves a good war — especially if the narrative is in your favour.
The departure of Theresa May as the party leader was overshadowed by all these events. The race to succeed her as leader and therefore, as Prime Minister, was getting overcrowded with 13 contestants and more scrambling to get on the bandwagon.
So, they changed the rules. It now takes eight supporters rather than two to get on the prime ministerial contenders parade. We have two women and 11 men including two children of immigrants. The contest was set alight when one candidate said he was not a feminist, whereupon all else suddenly became feminists.
We have more feminists now than ever before among the Tories. Then someone confessed he had once smoked pot and now confessions of drug taking in the past are tumbling out. The latest is Michael Gove — whose baby face belies these confessions of having used cocaine. Shocking stuff. Boris Johnson may come out as a teetotaller and ruin his chances.
But of course, for South Asians, these issues have paled into insignificance. All they want to talk about is cricket, and whether there will be an Indo-Pak face off at the end. With so many teams from the sub-continent — from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and so on — it was only natural that the republic of London should be flooded with their supporters. In this spirit, the Indian high commissioner Ruchi Ghanshyam graciously laid out the red carpet for the Indian cricketers and all those diehard fans who ever wanted to rub shoulders with Virat or Dhoni found themselves queuing up for the honour.
But I must say that this whole debate over an emblem on Dhoni’s gloves was completely missed by the British media. It was only the Indian media which was trying to create a frenzy around it.
What could have been better for those interested in the emblem? Perhaps, would have been to just talk about the spirit of sacrifice it engenders, of “balidan” and encouraged others to understand and commemorate it.