Friday, April 29, 2011

the ruins of empire...

Did you watch the royal wedding? Did you? My lovely wife did. It's so nice of you all to take the time to give the British a little global attention for the only thing they have left after they kinda sorta gave up the Empire (hint to commonwealth countries, that's the new name for what's left of the Empire): elaborate pageantry, pomp, circumstance and ritual. When we lived in London, right near the tower of London, there was some sort of ceremony every other week. There is no industry, no manufacturing, the richest man in the UK is the Indian diamond merchant Bharat Shah, the beloved British Jaguar and Land Rover brands are officially 'subsidiary brands' of the Bombay-based Tata Motors Ltd. Even the premiere British brand Rolls-Royce is owned by the German Volkswagen corporation. So all that the Saxe-Coburg and Gotha family, the Germans who rule England, really have left is a bit of pomp. They let a commoner marry into the royal family. The most beautiful diamond they own is the Koh-i-Noor that the Queen of England stole from the Maharajah of Lahore. Was this because she couldn't afford to buy it or because she was too ill-mannered to ask for it politely?

Above is the Imperial Crown of India made for and used by king George V at the 1903 Delhi Durbar where the British tried once again to convince they Indians they ruled India. Below is Shri Tukojirao Sahib Holkar, the Maharaja of Indore, a noted collector of cars, horses, women, swords, and all things suited for a king. He was a Maratha king, a scion of one of the great Maratha houses that ruled the rich state of Indore. His descendant Richard Holkar stills lives there and runs an amazing hotel in their old family castle/palace on the Narmada river. Never heard of Holkar, the Marathas or the Delhi Durbars? It's not too late to learn. It's amusing for me to watch as the royalty of the world, both old and new, so let's include the Vanderbilts, Bushes and Clintons in that list, try to ignore the rise of India and China. Were those red coats stitched in the UK or in China? Were those Arabian horses bred in the UK or in Pune? Will the royal couple be driven in an Indian or a German car? Because there is no truly British car company left anymore. But the ruins of Empire are not all that bad. London is a lovely city to live in, if you can afford it.

Something for us in the US to think about as we lose our hegemonic position in the world in the next few years: once the center of global power is officially in Delhi or Beijing, will we have any ceremony in DC that will attract the world's attention like this? China will become the leading global economy in either 2016 or 2020, so let's start thinking about something cool to get the Hindi and Chinese speaking world's attention once in a while. And let's not fly planes into the Petronas towers either. We're nicer than that.

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