When being inducted into the British royalty, the American-born Meghan Markle did express apprehensions about being absorbed into a system to which she was alien.

After complications in her marriage ceremony with Queen Elizabeth’s grandson, Prince Harry, she slowly settled into the world of the stiff upper lip, always pulling the stomach in and sticking the chest out, and the several other traditional mannerisms that the Brits deem only “propah” for one of the few families of kings and queens that still deems itself a cut above the commoners. Not that Meghan suddenly took to equine sports, shooting pheasants, breeding Corgis… Yet what flows in the veins cannot be suppressed forever, but when betraying her origins the Duchess of Sussex endeared herself to the masses even as she shocked fellow royals by being “caught” doing something just not done.

Her “crime”? The act ordinary mortals routinely perform on a virtually daily basis ~ shutting the door of a car from which she had just alighted rather than an have a retainer undertake that supposedly-demeaning chore. That her action was widely reported in the British media, and became the talk of the town, only confirms the old saying that scratching even a bloke with a Cockney accent would reveal a diehard royalist.

Some things never change ~ harlequin caps at Lord’s, straw “boaters” at the regatta at Henley, or strawberries and cream at Wimbledon. Or a preference for beer that has not been chilled. Meghan Markle has, unintentionally perhaps, brought the Brits down to earth.

Quaint practices, however, are not a British monopoly. Indira Gandhi may have legislated the de-recognition of the Indian princely order but public adulation of those families remains a living reality ~ no need to “name” the erstwhile royals who have re-invented themselves in the hurly-burly world of politics. The class/caste system remains very much in place: top officers still pressure their menials to help them put on their shoes ~ what in normal course would have been a gesture of kindness raises eyebrows.

Recall the fuss some decades back when the Indian ambassador in the United States was accused of “letting the country down” after he went to the assistance of a woman whose high-heeled shoe had broken. Many of those archaic practices are still in vogue: women have long been permitted to drive or wear trousers ~ but a university has just banned the wearing of jeans and skirts.

When Sushma Swaraj held the I&B portfolio Doordarshan’s women newscasters were not permitted to wear sleeveless clothes. Remember that it was only at the recent Jakarta Asian Games that the uniforms worn by Indian women athletes at the opening march-past favoured a switch to blazers and track pants from saris.