Meenakshi Shedde: To London, to see the Queen

Illustration/Uday Mohite
Illustration/Uday Mohite

The Master of the Household has received Her Majesty's command to invite Ms Meenakshi Shedde to a reception to be given at Buckingham Palace by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, to mark the official start of the UK-India Year of Culture, on Monday, February 27, 2017 at 6pm," read the invite. I was absolutely gobsmacked. It seemed rather early for April Fool's Day, so I conceded it might be true.

As soon as my brain processed this information (you could hear the machinery), my first instinct was to thank the angels who had made this invitation possible. The next moment was one of panic: What do I wear? Something simple and elegant, of course. When I shared the news with family and friends, their responses fell in three broad categories:

1. What are you going to wear?
2. Send us your photos with the Queen!
3. Why is the Queen inviting you to her palace?

I will answer these in reverse.
To the last, I have a ready response: chalti gadi ka bonnet nahin kholneka (when the car is running fine, don't open the bonnet).

The British Film Institute (BFI) has commissioned me to be Guest Curator, UK-India 2017, to program various packages of Indian and South Asian films that will be shown at BFI Southbank, London, throughout 2017 as part of the UK-India Year of Culture. The above-mentioned angels include Robin Baker and Conrad Bodman at the BFI, and more angels in the British Council.

Point 2: Cameras are not allowed during the reception, said the reverse of the invite, leaving assorted whatsapp groups apoplectic.

But I see some 'point pe aaja' glares: What will I wear? My sister Sarayu lent me a stunning, simple, raw silk sari in black and beige, for the reception. She took me to Vishakha Patil, her friend and stylist. "I will teach you how to wear a sari properly and do make-up," Vishakha said. Now, I have enjoyed wearing saris, mostly handloom ones, since college days. Yet, what Vishakha taught me about dressing up was a revelation. "Always wear your make-up only while in your bra," was her first commandment (if you put on make-up after you dress up, you can get nasty smudges of powder/cream on your dress/blouse, it seems). She taught me to tuck a length of sari near the pleats across my waist, such that it highlighted the shape of my waist (but what if that's just what I want to hide? Or you're wearing jeans under your sari in the bitter cold?). Your sari is riding too high; it should always touch the ground, she insisted (it's a bit hard for me to allow my saris to sweep the snotty streets of Bombay, but...). She lent me stunning silver jewellery for the occasion. She taught me in which direction the blush-on brush must be turned, on the cheeks, forehead and chin. Meenakshi 2.0 is now ready for the Queen. Emails are already asking me about 'Buck Pal'. Keep you posted.

Meenakshi Shedde is South Asia Consultant to the Berlin Film Festival, award-winning critic, curator to festivals worldwide and journalist. Reach her at meenakshishedde

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