(Note: Some portions of this article, specially those that reproduce conversations and ruminations of some of the persons featured in the report are in a language called Bongleesh. Readers who are not familiar with this language (never to be referred to as a dialect or argot) may find it advisable to consult their Bongo friends).
The Honourable Mukkho Montri of Poshchim Bongo (aka West Bengal, hereafter WB) was in an almighty huff. Begum Mawmota, the erstwhile Mawmota Banerjee, liked her numerous followers to call her Didi in public, since it did wonders for her popularity among the great unwashed Bongoland population. However, in private, anybody who did not call her Mohamanno Mukkho Montri, Begum Mawmota, was instantly ejected from her office or her chambers, as she had decided to label it.
If the offender was one of her party members, the unfortunate serf was expelled from the organization and all his/ her ill-gotten gains confiscated. If it was a civil servant, the person was immediately transferred to the Sunderbans, the Bongo equivalent of Stalin’s Siberia. The babus in the central civil services deputed from Delhi were relatively untouchable, but she could always devise small and painful pinpricks for them.
However, sitting almost alone in the First Class section of the aircraft that had ferried her from Kolkata to Lawndon, BM was livid. Her Finance Minister, Amal Mitter, an American-trained economist and one of her major PR assets, had done a Houdini act and disappeared from the plane as soon as it locked with the aerobridge. Her other trip advisor, David O’Brain, was also AWOL. One of the cabin crew confirmed that he had rushed out to keep an appointment with Cliff Richard (Sir Cliff, as BM noted reverentially, and partly pardoned David’s shenanigans) whose songs were etched in David’s memory from his teenage days in Kolkata’s Bowbazar.
Worse, the flight commander had not come to pay his regards to her and had disembarked along with his co-pilot. Forget the adaab, the two aviators had not even looked at her. And to cap it all, there were no British Protocol officials to welcome her to Old Blighty. She had been categorically assured by the External Affairs Ministry in South Block that there would be a grand welcome ceremony for her at Heathrow, including a Guard of Honour from the resident British Air Force Regiment.
When the aircraft did not proceed to the ceremonial area of the airport after landing, she voiced her concern to the cabin crew, who promptly poured cold water on her dreams and said that there was no such event scheduled and the plane had been told by the tower to proceed directly to the terminal. (Background Note: Lt. General Adrian Muir-Smith, commander of the Household Cavalry of Her Britannic Majesty, when politely requested a few weeks earlier by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, FCO, the British Foreign Ministry, to consider a full-Monty ceremony for BM, reportedly threw out the file and spoke to the civilian mandarins for two excruciating minutes that the white babus would remember for a long time).
To make matters worse for the great lady, the visiting business delegation from Kolkata, mainly descended from the old migrants to Bongoland from the desert areas in north-western India, had absconded from the rear exit without even a token greeting to her. However, since these tycoons were paying for all their expenses, she could do precious little about their bad manners at this stage. However, she made a careful note about asking her faithful cadre members to pay a visit to the factories and offices of these ill-mannered boors as soon as she returned to her fiefdom.
After a tense period of waiting, BM finally decided to deplane with her immediate entourage of five. This was because the cabin crew was getting restive and the wretched sahibs manning the aerobridge were threatening to lock the gates. The following report on the major events and contretemps during BM’s sojourn in the UK (Eengland, as she persisted in saying) is based on reliable eye-witness accounts and other trustworthy feedback. The author, who is a mere observer from far, cannot be held responsible for any errors of omission and commission in this historical reportage.
Day 1: Morning (Heathrow Airport)
More surprise for the Lider Supremo of Bongoland. The gora Immigration official (dressed in civvies, if you please) was far from deferential. He persisted in asking BM about the purpose of her visit to the sceptered isle, the duration of her stay and the amount of funds she was carrying to meet her expenses during the visit. BM, forgetting that she was no longer in Kolkata or Bongoland flew into a tantrum:
“Yoo aar phorgetting who am eye. How dair you speek to me like thees ? Eye weel cawmplane to Haar Majestee, the Kween oph Eengland, hwayn eye meet haar.”
British Immigration Officer: “Madam, if you cannot understand a few simple questions, I will have to ask you to wait till my senior comes.”
A few minutes later, the senior came. He looked at the travel document BM had presented and pointed out the Holy Republic of Bongoland was not a legally-accepted international entity. BM reluctantly brought out her Indian passport that carried her UK visa and was told that she would be allowed entry into the UK for 6 days, since the Indian High Commission had confirmed her identity and assured the host government that she would duly return home after her visit.
The airport saga was far from over. The authorities detained one of her associates, an MP from her party no less, on the grounds that Bangladesh had issued an international arrest warrant against him for his involvement with groups which had committed war crimes during the 1971 liberation war.
Day 1: Afternoon (Luxury Hotel Near Hyde Park)
Although the suite allotted to BM was very nice and indeed exceeded her expectations, she was livid that the room did not have a prayer mat and the directions to the Holy City were not marked out appropriately. The senior hotel staff was summoned and they told her clearly that their establishment does not cater to such demands. BM decided to send out one of her flunkeys to the nearest place the hotel staff could think of (Brick Lane) to procure the necessary mat and a chart showing how the mat should be placed in the room.
Day 2: Morning (Visit To The Finsbury Mosque In North London)
BM had been advised that a visit to this place was de rigeur, according to O’Brain, who fancied obscure French and Latin phrases that impressed BM immensely. Prince Charles, a self-confessed admirer of Islamic civilization, was present at the mosque’s inauguration ceremony in 1994. The earlier imam of the place, a certain worthy by the name of Abu Hamza al-Masri, had been arrested by the British authorities at the behest of the great Satan, Uncle Sam, and had eventually been sentenced to life imprisonment in the US. This was one of the reasons why BM was keen on marking her presence here; it would certainly go down well with the imams and their faithful followers back home.
BM’s visit went off quite well, although she was not allowed to pray in the main hall and the current chairperson of the institution muttered something uncharitable about her Arabic pronunciation. She decided to sack her Urdu-Arabic teacher in Kolkata on the phone itself, after she emerged from the mosque. The principal imam of the Nakhoda mosque in Kolkata was contacted and was tasked with getting a suitable replacement pronto.
Day 2: Afternoon (Meeting With Anjem Chowdhury, Renowned Civil Rights Exponent And Eminent Lawyer Specialising In The Sharia)
For BM, this was not only a PR occasion but also a serious dialogue on how to introduce the Sharia in Bongoland and possibly later on in the rest of India (or residual India, as she dreamt sometimes). She also wanted to invite the scholar-lawyer and eminent humanist to Bongoland so that he could devise and implement a timebound programme for a Sharia regime in her bailiwick. Some of the Bongos still harboured ridiculous notions of humanism and universal values/ rights for individuals. BM blamed the cultural legacy of Bongoland, going back to more than 2,500 years, for all these outdated values. With Chowdhury’s help and his ruthless agenda, BM was very hopeful that all the mental kinks of the people of Bongoland would be ironed out. Her parting words to the messiah :
“Eye am bhery hopephool yoo weel be ayble to breeng the gloriaas Sharia to my kaantree. Eet weel bee the baarth of a notun Bangla.”
Anjem, who prided himself on his clipped semi-BBC accent could barely understand what BM said. But he pretended all was hunky dory and BM left Anjem’s office in high spirits.
Day 2: Early Evening (Visit To Madame Tussauds For Preparing Her Wax Statue)
One of the senior businesspersons had assured BM that the Tussauds management had agreed to make her statue and a personal visit was therefore scheduled for the staff to get an eye-view of the leader, so that the final statue would be very much like her. However, when her cavalcade of limousines arrived in the museum on Marylebone Road, there was a major kerfuffle.
The Museum authorities flatly denied that there was any agreement on their part to make a statue of MB. The senior officer on duty said that he had no idea of who BM was; indeed his knowledge of Bongoland, itself, was most cursory, although he was reasonably au fait with India. BM called it a day and retreated to her bunkers—the luxury hotel overlooking Hyde Park.
The errant businessman was seen making his way to Heathrow to take a flight back to Kolkata. Some other money bags in the group told Amal Mitter and David O’Brain that the fellow had already planned to move out to Gujarat or Rajasthan or points even further west. BM’s brains trust conveyed this to her and this partly placated her.
Day 3: First Half (Business Conference With Senior Businesspersons At The Confederation Of British Industry, CBI)
BM was well prepared for this. Supplied with a number of PowerPoint presentations about the comparative advantages of Bongoland over economic powerhouses like Bengaluru, Mumbai, Singapore, Korea et al, she even exchanged the old gag that Mitter and O’Brain had shared with her on the flight. About getting the better of the angrezi version of CBI. Her PR machinery had built up many stories about how BM had combated and defeated the sleuths of the CBI in Delhi for decades.
The audience in the conference hall was spilling over into the corridors of the majestic building and gave her a rousing applause after she concluded her sales spiel. What BM forgot to notice, since the room’s lights were focused on her, is that the audience overwhelmingly comprised Bongos from Bradford, East London and similar areas. They had been told very strictly by the CBI that they must be dressed appropriately and should applaud enthusiastically, even if they found BM’s English accent impenetrably difficult. Generous lunch and transport vouchers had been promised. BM’s vote of thanks was generous:
“Eye aixtaind my haartphelt thanks to Lawrd Chaamley and Saar Timothee Raice-Dabhis phor theyar warm wailkam to me and my teem.”
(Note : both these worthies were away in different parts of the globe but BM’s cup of joy was full to the brim. No one dared tell her the ground reality)
Day 3: Afternoon (Audience With British Royalty At Buckingham Palace—The High Point Of The Entire Visit)
This was when the bubble started to burst. BM’s cavalcade was asked to use the palace’s rear entrance, also referred to as the tradesmen’s gate. BM was ushered in to meet an also-ran in the British royal family. Not only was the old biddy, Elizabeth, not around, but even her septuagenarian son Charles had done the proverbial vanishing trick.
This is because the Master of the Household in the Palace, a crusty naval war-dog, Vice-Admiral Nigel Blackburn-Walker had thrown a fit a few weeks earlier about this unknown woman from the backwoods of “Bengawl”, as he growled, having the audacity to demand an audience with British royalty. The younger brother of Charles was asked to fill in, since he never had any work to do. BM and her senior team now realised that the Angrez were fobbing them off with factory rejects. A dejected BM went back to her deluxe hotel.
Day 4: Morning : When The Sky Fell
Whatever was left of BM’s reverie was abruptly shattered when she was informed that a British court had issued summons against her and her senior ministers for major violations of human rights in Bongoland by her trigger-happy police and her criminal street gangs.
Mitter and O’Brain tried to contact Delhi for a charter aircraft to pick up the entire delegation and ferry them out of British territory. All the phones in Raisina Hill kept ringing without any response. However, the 23rd cousin of one of the West Asian rulers who had been given a large piece of land by BM for his business enterprise had a 100-seater jet available on standby near London. The delegation trooped miserably to the private airport from where their plane winged its way back to old Bharat.
Since the West Asian-registered aircraft did not have permission to fly over Russia, it took a route perilously close to Israeli airspace and was briefly tailed by an F-16 with the Star of David emblem on its fuselage. That is another saga altogether that BM’s memoirs might disclose in the distant future.