April 25, 2011 2:44:23 am
Many people arrive at the doorstep of Hasmukh Shingadias grocery store in this leafy,prosperous English village. A fine young girl used to come here with her mum and dad,or sometimes alone,to pick up daily needs and an odd bag of candy. That went on for years as Kate went to school and university. And one day she arrived with a tall and very polite man named William.
Many envelopes arrive at the doorstep of Chandrika Shingadias Peaches Store. She lives right above the shop,so some are for business and some personal. On the morning of February 17,a bunch came again; but one stood out for its simple elegance and seal. And then she screamed,running to husband Hasmukh,waving a white card with their names on it in cursive font.
That the two routine arrivals would converge into a royal invitation for the Indian couple has touched them and the community here.
Chan could not believe it,even after reading our names and seeing clearly that it was from the Queen, says Hasmukh,Hash to all. It was a complete surprise.
Hash and Chan have known the Middletons for 13 years. Carole and Michael and their two daughters,Kate and Pippa,are among their regular customers. William too has dropped by in recent years.
The Middletons are a tight family and there has been friendship between us,but we never expected to be at the Westminster Abbey this Friday, says Hash,who was born in Kenya of Indian parents from Porbandar in Gujarat but has lived most of his life in the south of England.
The Prince and Kate were last at the shop around late November,says Hash,52,and father of two girls,21-year-old Meera and Maya,11. They have been busy of late,have they not? he adds with a smile.
How does he remember Kate? Oh,the beautiful thing about her is how gentle she is.
And the future King? He even remembers my girls and how the younger one is getting on at school… He is just like us. Hash says he is enjoying his brush with fame,a lot. There have been busloads of tourists coming to Bucklebury. Its been great for everyones business.
What they are looking forward to is the grand party here on Friday,with 20,000 expected to attend,he says,as he greets Steve,one of his many multi-millionaire customers. I will be away but my business is open.
The large Asian community in Britain has greeted the news of the Shingadias royal invitation with zest. And Hash says this is a moment of great pride for him and the community.
But its not about me. Its about Catherine and about the Middleton family, says the grocer. They,like all villagers here,are the most decent and humble people. It did not matter if I were Black or from Poland. I am on the guest list because they make friends with people not their colour or class, says Hash.
Asked if the Asian people here will see the Royal family in a more positive light now,Hash nods a vigorous yes. The White people here respect and support our Hindu culture more than many Indians do with the different cultures of their country. There is deep tolerance here and a lot of curiosity about our customs and way of life.
An example,says Hash,is Chandrikas wedding day dress. One day,Michael Middleton came here and I asked him if Chan could wear a sari,and he said,Absolutely,nothing better for an Indian woman.
Hash says his ties with India remain deep,even after his parents death. I go back often,mainly to Gujarat to meet family.
Just then a busy Chan appears from the kitchen,announcing lunch. But she has time to answer one query: her sari for the wedding day. I went to Junagarh in March to buy saris, she says cheerfully. Bought many.
Which one for this Friday? Cant tell you that, she baulks. Ask Hash. Even he has not seen it. Rearranging the curls on her forehead,she adds with a glint: It has spring colours,beautiful spring colours.
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