We were summoned in to the head wardens office to be informed that the following week Queen of England will be visiting Kalakshetra and we were supposed to stand at the entrance of Kalakshetra and greet her. The enormity of the event did not strike us back then. There was always someone or the other coming to Kalakshetra. I would have probably been more excited to meet Prince William than his grand mother.
Our warden kept reminding us in her 'oh so sweet' voice that we were supposed to be in our Sunday best to greet her majesty. Our Sunday best was no fancy frocks or gowns, we had to wear our washed uniforms, which happened to be an off white and green combo pavadai davani (half saree), thank god they did not make us wear the orange and purple combo! October 16th 1997 was the day, It arrived and so did the queen. Before her arrival there was a swarm of body guards and press. We waited patiently as the security measures were checked and rechecked. Suddenly there was buzz in the air and the officers in charge scrambled around importantly, announcing she is almost here and we craned our necks to the winding roadway in hope of catching a glimpse. The car scuttled on the mud roads sending a puff of brown dust everywhere and her majesty got down just when it cleared. It was like watching one of those Tamil movies where they show the heroine's beautiful face clearing through the mist. She patiently walked around greeting us and occasionally shaking hands. Everyone wanted a handshake and you could definitely sniff the competition in the air for getting a brief hand shake. All of us were eyeing each other and extending hands in the hope of getting one. I was a little dejected that I was not one of the "fortunate one's". When you actually think about it now it just seems so silly! After all that preparation the meeting with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip lasted approximately less than 5 minutes... We had hoped to pull off some more time shaking hands I suppose. There were days when I couldn't brag enough about this incident to my colleagues at the part - time job. They always oohed and aaahed about it, of course the secret being that I included a tiny non- existent detail, the handshake ;)