Sunday, 11 September 2022

The Keystone and the Arch


Could you hate the arch yet love just the keystone,

could you love the person but condemn the sin?

All these years – for a lifetime -  it has borne

the stresses of the position it was in.


It’s fallen now, by all means evaluate

if you like the arch enough to build again,

what changes you would want in height and shape,

the designs that suit the present taste of men.


As for those who never travelled that path,

those whose ways diverged long decades ago,

let them not talk about it, nor the arch

and let them not judge what they do not know.


The stone’s fallen, accord it the position

it deserves for a job consummately done.


I'm am not pro- or anti- British monarchy, it's none of my business the systems of government in other countries. I am an admirer of the Queen, for her own personal qualities, nothing to do with the system she represents. India achieved independence a few years before the Queen became the queen. She would have had very little to do with it even if she had been on the throne, given that the British monarch reigns only but does not rule. So I don't quite understand these memes which are circulating. And I certainly don't understand this vilification of the sons for the sins of their fathers. 

No empire was ever built to look after the interests of the subjects. Emperors were ruthless people not teddy bears out to wipe the tears of the hoi polloi. They strategised to expand their territory by fair means and/or foul, mostly foul because no war is fair really. So why should anyone expect an Imperial power to treat its subjects softly softly I can't fathom. Neither can I understand why bash the Queen now, after her death, for what happened prior to 1947. Sure, I would have liked it better if the royal family/UK government had made a formal apology for Jallianwala Bagh. But I don't know how much discretion she had over that decision. At any rate, I don't think this is the right time to air that particular peeve. And all peeves can be aired politely.

If you ask my free and frank, East India Co would never have got the advantage it did without the active collusion of Indians, not just Mir Zafar but also the Hindu mastermind of the whole scheme and the Hindu financiers of it. If the then Indian ruling class were politically astute and a little less greedy and class-ridden, Clive would have most probably lost that battle and likely none of this colonisation business would have happened, who knows? 

Not excusing any of the excesses of the Empire, but personally, I think the Queen has navigated a difficult job with great dignity and a quiet, self-effacing grace, without any drama. Ninety six years old, obviously in frail health but still on her feet, smiling and serving her people till the very last. If a few of our own current politicians were to be a fraction as devoted to duty as she was, India wouldn't be in the mess it is in right now. 

Okay I'm done now, thank you for your patience if you've read this far. :) 


  1. Thank you.
    Like or loathe monarchies, the Queen's service was exemplary. For many, many long years.
    And I agree with you about Empires too.

    1. Can't imagine what kind of determination it must have taken for her to meet with her PMs two days before she died! The lady should be given her due. Empires are nasty, nothing new about that.

  2. Hari OM
    Hear! Hear! I favour republican organisation, but did admire the person of Elizabeth Mountbatten-Windsor. It is hard, having been born in Great Britain, not to have had her in the psyche, a part of the fabric of existence... it is only in her passing that one realises how deeply rooted that presence was. Love your poem. YAM xx

    1. Glad you enjoyed the poem. She has been a part of my psyche too, my mum was a fan, she had gone to see the Queen and the DoE when they'd come to visit India, much taken with the fairy tale, romantic side of things. :) And then there were the stamps...and the magazines were full of Anne's wedding in yeah, she's been a constant.

  3. I respect Queen Elizabeth. What was done beforehand to countries such as yours was wrong.

    1. 100% wrong, but it was done in the Queen's great grandmother and grandfather's time. Can't hold the Queen responsible for that...

  4. As I read your poem I knew you were discussing the monarchy. I like the poem and symbolism
    Then your personal discussion is spot on. The Queen inherited a lot and navigated seventy years with grace, humor, and mistakes. As for India, the US, and the world today- we could use more of the first two. Take care and have a good week

    1. Yeah, takes a lot of patience and dedication to do what she did...and she didn't make a production of it either, just got on with things. You have a great week too.

  5. Hi Nila - apologies ... I would have got here earlier had I realised the content of the post. Everyone has mentioned the right things re the Queen ...

    ... I'm looking at the East India Company from various points of view - as we're about to cover 'it' in our history class and a friend here is very taken with William Dalrymple's book 'Anarchy' ... I thought his epilogue for that (published in 2016) was excellent ... but there's a couple of other aspects I need to look at - a Fulbright scholar's thoughts when she recently visited the museum in Bangalore and Kolkata - she was born in Mumbai. My thoughts then stretch into slavery ... but my thoughts are very superficial ... and I need to get my head-space more organised on these subjects. I'm not academic ... but try to learn as I go ...

    Apologies for being so late here ... I was just not relating 'keystone' to our Queen ... cheers for now - Hilary