The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Apr 2, 2009

Subject of HM QE II

In a stately home in London, yours truly yesterday became a subject of Her Majesty the Queen. There was a moment, fifteen minutes after the appointed time when the registrar still had not appeared, that I thought it was a particularly British way to play a Fool's Day joke on me. But she turned up shortly thereafter, all apologies, bronzed tan and heaving cleavage. I had to affirm my allegiance to the monarch, pledge my fidelity to the kingdom, sign a document, receive a naturalisation certificate, and walk out of that ancient pile with a tra-la on my lips and immediate plans (like all Brits) to emigrate to a sunny clime. Spain, perhaps? The Costa de Sol beckons.

Of course, it didn't turn out all that smoothly. In keeping with the age-old tradition of the bureaucracy to screw things up, my certificate had my date and place of birth entered wrongly. I have to send it back to the UK Border Agency with a copy of my passport (which, of course, they already have) to point out where they went wrong. Two weeks hence, assuming they get a breather from the recent avalanche of naturalisation applications (people trying to get in before the regulations and fees change in the new financial year), I should hopefully have the correct certificate, which I can then use to get myself a shiny new red biometric passport, wielding which I can pursue that old British dream - move to Benidorm, and park myself in a pub to watch endless reruns of Only Fools and Horses.

I would have liked to attend the citizenship ceremony in a cohort with other freshly minted subjects. Unfortunately, the earliest available date was more than a month away. It would have been fun to see eager and joyous immigrants in the same room, looking forward to full civil rights and participation in this old democracy. Like good Borg, we'd have all chanted the oath enthusiastically, in unison, and gratefully received benediction from the officiating dignitary. But I was in a hurry to be done with the process, a nifty £50 exchanged hands, and I was given the option for a private ceremony.

A rather tatty photograph of the Queen was perched on a table, bedecked with the Union Jack. A little stereo system played classical music that I didn't recognise. The hall is used for wedding ceremonies more often than citizenship rituals, and the collection of CDs available to set the mood reflected this fact: most were love songs.

The ceremony took barely five minutes. I read out the affirmation. I shook hands with the registrar (I could have refused to, had my religious or cultural upbringing prevented me from touching a woman. In Britain, all viewpoints are valid.) She gave me my certificate and welcomed me to the community. The national anthem blared. Thankfully, we weren't expected to join in. I don't know the words. The registrar then showed us out. It was a warm, pleasant day.

Even though there is the notional "overseas citizenship" available from India, I am guilty about having to abandon my lovely blue twenty-year desi passport. It has brought me much joy and angst in equal measure (see episode at Estonian immigration, for example). I don't even look like the picture of me affixed in it. It could belong to a completely different person, a different life. Once I get the OCI, I needn't apply for a visa to visit the heartland. But much is lost to me now: even leaving aside the usual rights of a citizen, it's more difficult to visit the inner-line states, it's costlier to enter Bhutan, and the chances of adopting a kid from India now are vanishingly small. I was eligible for UK citizenship over three years ago. Finally I've taken the plunge. It is a bittersweet step.


Space Bar said...

So they allowed you to become a citizen even without a correct buth certificate?

oh, and congrats. i suppose!

wv: billu.

Fëanor said...

Well, they don't really ask for the birth certificate: they match against my passport. But some nut was at the job that day, made some mistakes, and voila.

What's a wv:billu?

V Ramesh said...

well, have an interesting experience to share, was with my family at village hall,my daughter was trying to show me something, she goes by the national flag, and I was promptly looking for tri-coloured flag, then with further directions I saw the image, then I go, it is right next to US flag, my daughter responds, "remember I said by the national flag..."

after all said and done, thoughts still remain indian for most part atleast for me

??! said...

Congratulations...and commiserations?

Fëanor said...

Ramesh: you forgot there are 3 colours on the US flag as well?

??!: Thanks. 50-50, I think?

V Ramesh said...

saint, you know what tri-color I meant not the red/white/blue !!

Fëanor said...

Ramesh: actually, the desi flag has four colours (why does everyone forget the chakra?)

Shefaly said...

I know how you feel. You will have known the wastage of time it is to stand in queues for Schengen visas - mostly with people to whom queues mean nothing so you start at no. 6 and end as number 49 if lucky! That did it for me. This is, of course, before Schengen countries (UK is one too but for border controls) set up sordid sounding 090 phone lines for taking appointments - and your first-born, where applicable - so there was no semblance of order.

At least, the Indian visa thing is better managed. I do not particularly like the Victoria area (prefer the High Commission but it is all outsourced now) but they are efficient. I am still working out the subtle differences between the PIO and OCI.

So will you soon be falling out of pubs into drains, drunk? And hating the Aussies? Oh and reading Daily Mail (which someone recently told me was a posh version of the Sun; which another English friend clarified meant 'more words, less pictures'? Fish and chips for dinner? Are you going to be a U or a non-U Brit then? Oh the choices!

Fëanor said...

Shefaly: yup, the Schengen comment is validish because I did have the advantage of jumping queues and not having to dial 0900 numbers because the wife is a Brit.

Not sure about the U vs Non-U Brit. What manner of animals are these?

As for fish-chips, I've been gingerly attempting these for the past several years. Not yet an aficionado.

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