State­ment by Un­der­state­ment

When over em­bel­lished Mum­bai di­vas be­came a per­fect foil for the Duchess’s re­strained adorn­ment

The Economic Times - - Saturday Feature -

chal­lenged- ac­cord­ing to “gun salutes” in de­scend­ing or­der. The dex­ter­ity with which the Bri­tish pre­served this un­equal sta­tus quo by pan­der­ing to the egos of the erst­while rulers must be ap­pre­ci­ated, at least in hind­sight.

Al­most all those ma­hara­jas also took ad­van­tage of the lat­est in­ven­tion of the time - pho­tog­ra­phy - to have them­selves clicked for pos­ter­ity in all their fin­ery. Which is why keen eyes can also spot in many photos a Bri­tish per­son, con­spic­u­ous by his lack of span­gles and baubles. The dis­con­nect be­tween glitz and power can­not be more elo­quently por­trayed.

Of course, that was also the time when the Bri­tish monar­chs wore much more jewellery. Iron­i­cally, most of pre­cious stones - in­clud­ing the Ko­hi­noor, of course - also came from the Em­pire, some­times will­ingly or un­will­ingly do­nated by the “princes” or their vas­sals. But times have changed, es­pe­cially since the Bri­tish Em­pire has been re­duced to a se­ries of is­lands in the Atlantic and Pa­cific Oceans. Even the cur­rent Bri­tish Queen wore more in the early days of her reign than she does now, re­serv­ing her cor­us­ca­tions for of­fi­cial ban­quets for vis­it­ing heads of state or the open­ing of Par­lia­ment. Ditto other Euro­pean roy­als. The Asian roy­als, with the no­table ex­cep­tion of the Ja­panese, of course, still pre­fer to be­daz­zle. Her grand­daugh­ter in law is also not known for wear­ing much jewellery, which is why she caused a flut­ter when she wore a tiara for the first time since her wed­ding at a diplo­matic re­cep­tion in 2013 and wore an elab­o­rate diamond neck­lace for the first time in 2014, bor­rowed from Granny-in-law but (aptly) pre­sented by the Nizam of Hy­der­abad. So were the over em­bel­lished Mum­bai di­vas lat­ter day vic­tims of the same old Bri­tish gam­bit of state­ment-by-un­der­state­ment? For by trot­ting out their multi strand polkis and un­cut emer­alds, not to men­tion gems in all their faceted glory, they be­came a foil for the Duchess’s cal­cu­lated (or per­haps even un­wit­ting) re­strained adorn­ment.

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