Kings, Royals and Scoundrels

Headline news about the suspension of Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals from the Indian Premier League attracted much attention and lots of online and offline conversations. Not surprising in a country where cricket is daily fodder for millions and millions for the cricket stars. Skipping the discussion on the cricket business and administration in India this post is about our deep fascination for kings and royals. To start with, out of the eight IPL teams five of them have names to do with kings or royals! Besides the Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals, we have Kings XI Punjab, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kolkata Knight Riders with a tinge of royalty as knighthood is conferred by the king or the queen.

Is that sheer coincidence or smart branding that appeal to the millions of cricket fans, marketers and punters? There seems to be some reflection of the average mind’s aspirations.

In dynastic monarchies people don’t have a choice to go for a different system without a public rebellion. But what do people in democracies do? They too create their royalties. There are many countries that retained the institution of monarchy even after they adopted parliamentary democracy with popularly elected governments. UK, Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands, Spain, Japan, Australia are all such examples. India has done away with the institution of monarchy. But we still carry too many royal symbols and a monarchic mindset, even when we are anarchic in our daily lives. It may sound quite illogical to have a popularly elected government also having a monarch as constitutional or titular head of the nation. But who claims to be logical when all of us are mostly instinctual, habitual and superstitious when it comes to personal choices and social rituals?

It is commonplace young parents calling their new-born babies ‘little prince’ or ‘princess’ even when they know that they don’t belong to any royal family. There seems to be an aspirational fantasy in the royal reference. Parents of these ‘little princes’ or ‘princesses’ are, by logical extension, elevating themselves as kings and queens. Not a bad deal! Who doesn’t have a sub-conscious desire for domination? Who doesn’t want to be law maker than law abiding? Who doesn’t like to be privileged, flattered and protected by ‘black cat commandos’ and bullet proof cars? When you are king you tend to feel above the law. The cricket royals created their own kingdoms, their own rules and flouted the nation’s laws while millions cheered them along with the paid cheerleaders. They fulfilled our primordial desires.

Are the royals and self styled royals just another power form like any other scoundrel? Much of available evidence in history including the recent events tends to give yes for an answer. In fact, we use royalty in our daily lingo in association equally with the good and the bad. When we get some special privileges we feel ‘royally treated’ and when we get cheated or misappropriated we feel ‘royally cheated’ too. Yes, the royals do cheat. That may be one reason why we all want to be royals! If not as capable of cheating others as the royals might do, at the very least we want to cheat our minds to a fantasy world of the royals.

Now look at the plight of a real prince born into a reining royal family. Charles, the Prince of Wales has been eternally waiting for the throne. Well, not really eternal; he is only 66 years old- not old enough to inherit the crown from his young mother! He says, ‘all the time I feel I must justify my existence’. Prince Charles wasn’t born when William Shakespeare said ‘uneasy lies the head that wears a crown’. My two cents to Shakespeare: uneasy lies the head that aspires a crown!

If you still aspire for the throne, remember what Napoleon Bonaparte had said.

‘A throne is only a bench covered with velvet.’