I don’t know what is going to happen on the 30th of April. I hear 800,000 people are going to be coming into my neighbourhood. Apparently,the to be king and queen and their three daughters are planning to sail into Amsterdam, smiling and waving at the multitudes.
This is not the first time I feel like I’m having Orange thrust upon me.
Within a few months of my residence in Amsterdam, the to be king got married to the to be queen in my (then) neighbourhood. Streets were shut off and all sorts of regulations came into force. Someone showed me a photo of the princess (then), and I was shocked. She was the latest member of the House of Orange.
‘Where is the gold’? I asked. The answer I got was that kings, queens, princes and princesses here don’t wear gold. Why? I thought. Who is ever going to know they are kings, queens, princes and princesses?
Over the years, I’ve come to know that they ride around on bicycles and look just like you and I. But they aren’t. Because when they got married, or get crowned, the city of Amsterdam (you and I) paid for their wedding and are we are paying for their coronation and for their royal life style.
Orange gets thrust upon me through the towel I use to wipe my private parts. Our bank sends us these towels as gifts.
Orange gets thrust upon me when someone from my family goes to Albert Heijn, spends 15 Euros and get these ‘free’ fuzzy royal creatures with crowns to take home (probably made in sweat shops in China, India or Bangladesh).
It gets thrust upon me through a tin someone gave me with the prince and princess on it, in which I’ve stored sugar.
Orange is the colour of the followers of that leader in Mumbai who sent his goons to drag Muslim families out of their homes and slaughter them in my neighbourhood.
It gets thrust upon me through hate filled speeches and actions. We call it ‘saffron politics’ there. Orange gets thrust upon me through murderers who kill in the name of god.
Orange gets thrust upon me through personalities who have a way of intruding into my world through mesmerized multitudes right outside my doorstep.
Why do people support the House of Orange in Holland? People I love and respect. People who are good and humane and wonderful? When I ask them, I get answers like this:
- Oh, but it’s not so bad as in the UK. We’re not so busy with royalty here.
- Maybe because royalty gives a sense of continuity to this land.
- Oh, but is better to have a king and/or queen than a useless head of state like a president.
I tell them I think it’s like living in the middle ages and it’s hard to understand why a people that are so progressive in so many ways need, support and pay for royals while cutting down on art, culture, education, international relations and social security. I know I come close to hurting their feelings, so I drop the subject, because, like I said, they are good people.
I try to listen with attention to the excited chatter about the song specially written for the to be king, how it was rejected, how it was accepted back, how the to-be king has no comments to make on it.
I guess Orange gets thrust upon me as a way of trying to understand what goes into the definition of nationhood – there, far away in India and here, behind the dykes.