A game too big to be played by ordinary mortals?

SHARANYA KANVILKAR writes from Bombay: Probably I am making a mountain out of a molehill, probably I am just nitpicking, probably I am just trying to punch holes while celebrating Ambedkar Jayanti.

But after seeing the screenname “Enemy of the Kings” being used by a churumuri reader, I have been wondering: Have we, the people, after 58 years as a Republic, put royalty behind us, or are we still in their awe, pining for those long lost glory days, even subliminally aspiring for their return?

Or don’t we just care, either way?

A small volcano erupted in my republican heart when I saw Jyotiraditya Scindia, son of the erstwhile yuvaraja of Gwalior, the late Madhavrao Scindia, take oath as a Union minister. Seeing him questioned by Barkha Dutt on all fours, I wondered if she hadn’t got the office memo that privy purses were abolished.

But the immediate provocation for this rant is the Indian Premier League, which begins in four days’ time.

Of the eight teams competing for the big bucks, four of them (strike rate: 50) bow before the maharajas in one servile way or the other in their nomenclature. The Bangalore team is called Royal Challengers, Madras is called Super Kings, Rajasthan is Royals, and Punjab is Kings XI.

On their website, the Chennai Super Kings say the name “is to honor the rulers of the golden era of Tamil culture”. Vijay Mallya has said he is doffing his hat to Bangalore’s royal past although, of course, he also has a very convenient whisky brand by that name.

Admittedly, the word king has a semantical meaning, independent of royalty, but surely in the 21st century, our cities have acquired other claims to fame, our team owners and marketeers have other images to invoke and sell, than a nostalgic throwback reeking of undemocratic servility?

Of course, there is always the danger of taking ourselves too seriously in something like this.

If we had no sense of humour, we could be asking if Cox and Kings should be so named. Or if Shah Rukh Khan should be referred to as King Khan. Or if King for a Day is a proper name for a song. Hell, we could ask if Ashwell Prince‘s name should be blacked out of scorecards!

But that’s not the idea. Whether we like it or not, kings, kingdoms, royalty are going to survive, if not in memory at least in our history.

The key difference here is of the kind of images that a popular forward-looking sport like Twenty20 cricket with enormous following seeks to ingrain in impressionable fans and fanatics with images of the past. After all, this is aimed at us, not foreigners who can only relate to maharajas and palaces.

When Geoffrey Boycott used to get poetic of the “Prince of Calcutta” (Saurav Ganguly) I used to squirm uncomfortably in my Lazyboy. When commentators and correspondents now talk of the “Nawab of Najafgarh” (Virender Sehwag), I snigger loudly.

When IPL opens on April 18 and the Kings, Royals, Royal Challengers and Super Kings slug it out for a piece of leather, I am going to go positively ballistic.

But, hey, that’s just me. After all, I had a “Badshah” as boss not long ago.

Then again, any wonder why we roll out the red carpet to “dynastic” politics?

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