“Victoria was Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until her death in 1901. Her reign of 63 years and 216 days is known as the Victorian era and was longer than any of her predecessors. In 1876, the British Parliament voted to grant her the additional title of Empress of India.”
– From the Wikipedia article on Queen Victoria
We had gone walking to Cubbon park in Bangalore and my wife noticed the statue of the fat queen with an inscription saying that she was the empress of India. The statue standing half-hidden and unnoticed just outside Cubbon park in the middle of a crowd of vehicles and people was looking neglected and not very empress-like. And I thought about how the mighty British empire (or what the current history textbooks call the mighty empire) had fallen so low. I also got thinking about the hubris of the fat queen from a small part of Europe who called herself the empress of a landmass some twenty times the size of her Kingdom.
Well, maybe she was reincarnated here and got sorted out. 🙂
My wife and I have also been doing a lot of train journeys across the length and breadth of India. Bangalore to Delhi, Delhi to Visakhapatnam, Visakhapatnam to Calicut, Calicut to Bangalore, Bangalore to Mumbai etc. And all our recent trips have been in sleeper class where the heat and rain and cold gets into your compartment. The great privilege you get, of course, is that you can look out of the window and experience the changing colour and texture and character of the landscape.
What I have been noticing for some time now is the hugeness of India. When the train passes through unending forests or through softly undulating green countryside or kilometers of fields or over rivers like the Godavari, I know that no human being has ever been an emperor or empress of India. Perhaps no human being has been an empress of England either but that is not my concern. To me it looks like kings and emperors with their power and pomp and marble statues have been stories we have told ourselves to forget that the land holds us and we do not hold the land.
I am also beginning to extend this logic to politicians and bureaucrats. They may continue on whatever delusional paths of imagined power they are on, but I am more certain now that I want no part of their story. I know where I have to bow my head and I know what I have to pray to!