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  Opinion   Oped  11 Dec 2017  Of X’mas & Meghan’s ‘humble cottage’

Of X’mas & Meghan’s ‘humble cottage’

Kishwar Desai, is the chair of the Arts and Cultural Heritage Trust, which is setting up the Partition Museum at Town Hall, Amritsar.
Published : Dec 11, 2017, 1:15 am IST
Updated : Dec 11, 2017, 1:15 am IST

We have already got a glimpse of the “humble cottage” where Ms Markle once lived — with three “plush” bedrooms and a cinema room.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
 Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

Ten inches of snow! This is going to be a picture perfect, blitzed-out white weekend as dire predictions of snow are making us shiver. It’s already very cold — but temperatures threaten to fall to minus nine degrees. Bring out the woollies and the eggnogs. Personally, I love a white Christmas, but undoubtedly this year might be a little extreme. So a good time to catch up on your reading by the fireside. Am piling up the books.

Even if it is going to be cold — Londoners never desist from going out. Nor are they worried about (ever) spending too much on theatre tickets. The latest theatrical production to zoom beyond £200 per head is the hit musical, Hamilton: An American Musical, which is surprisingly about the person whose face you find on the US $10 notes. Hmmm — it would be difficult to think of a hip-hop/rap production on someone who should be put on a pedestal and left there — but the foot-tapping musical about an “immigrant… son of a whore and Scotsman” as the title number puts it (I am paraphrasing, since the language used to describe him is a little more risqué) has taken America by storm, and has just arrived to rave reviews in the UK. And so it should, because Alexander Hamilton is the founder of the US banking system, and even wrote a large part of the American Constitution. It was his hard work that made him into a high achiever — till his unfortunate assassination by a political rival.


What makes the production even more special is the fact that the lead role is played by 25-year-old Jamael Westman, the British grandson of a black immigrant. There has been a deliberate use of actors of “colour” — which of course will also fly in the face of the official pronouncements both in the UK and the US about immigration. To see a mixed cast on stage — not just singing, but also enacting how an immigrant was one of the founding fathers of the United States of America, sends a very strong message indeed.

The writer of this unique production, Lin-Manuel Miranda, has already won the Pulitzer Prize for drama, and the production won 11 Tony awards. Obviously, there would have been ripples in the Trump administration as in an earlier show in the US one of the actors spoke up about the anti-immigrant policy, when vice-president Mike Pence was spotted in the audience. The actor stated that there were anxieties that diversity was under threat.


US President Donald Trump could not resist a retaliatory tweet, calling the show “overrated”.

The show is a slice of history, but also very contemporary. At least now all of us will know why Hamilton is on that $10 bill!

One remarkable quality of the British press is that they track everything down — specially if you are a royal — or, in Meghan Markle’s case, a royal-to-be. Unsurprisingly therefore, amongst the mine of information being published about her — we find details and photographs of the house in Canada where Prince Harry possibly met the actress, who was working on a prime time TV show.

We have already got a glimpse of the “humble cottage” where Ms Markle once lived — with three “plush” bedrooms and a cinema room. The latter is obviously a must-have. It was also home to Ms Markle’s reportedly very large shoe collection. Fortunately, Ms Markle would be familiar with this media scrutiny and if anyone is looking for a piece of royal memorabilia, now is the time to snap up this home going for just £800,000!


Meanwhile, the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, came to India — and learnt about one of the legacies of Partition, when a BBC reporter asked him what it felt like to be “home” as he crossed the Wagah border into Pakistan. Mr Khan, who is of Pakistani origin, quickly retorted that his “home” was in South London. And he quickly added that “It’s good to be in Pakistan. It’s good to come from India — home of my parents and grandparents.”

It was a tough question to answer, because after Partition, many issues of identity have become confused, haven’t they? So is he Indian, Pakistani or British? At this point, fortunately, he can claim to be all three, so he plays into a larger vote bank.


More poignantly, he had just been to Jallianwala Bagh, where he, like other politicians, requested for an apology from the British government for the massacre. But when the BBC Asia network called me up to ask for my response, I found myself a little annoyed. After all, Mr Khan is also part of the British government, and represents London, and he could have apologised too, at least, as mayor… And in any case, if an apology is asked for, we must make a longer list. How about apologising for the Bengal famine, and partitioning India in five weeks? Please do send me your list.

Tags: christmas, donald trump, prince harry