Friday, August 31, 2007

A son remembers his mother, I remember an icon

Ten years ago, there was a tremendous outpouring of grief across the world when a vivacious, attractive woman died in a car accident. She was known as the 'The People's Princess', and often used her magnetism to spread the word about the menace of landmines. She was also one of the first high-profile people to be photographed touching a person with AIDS, way back in 1987. As Bill Clinton said "It helped change world's opinion, and gave hope to people with AIDS."

She got married to the heir to the British throne the same year I was born, and as we were in the very country that happened, quite a few of the souvenirs my parents brought back when they returned to India were things that had her face on them. I can't remember where I saw the extensive TV coverage of her wedding years later, but I still remember the long trail of her white veil as she walked down the steps of the church. 25 feet it was, apparently. And she was all of 20. She didn't have a very happy life, but she made sure her two sons never saw much of that. She did what I believe all mothers do. In her son's words,

"She kissed us last thing at night. Her beaming smile greeted us from school. She laughed hysterically and uncontrollably when sharing something silly she might have said or done that day. She encouraged us when we were nervous or unsure."

In 1997, I was still in school. It was a holiday - the weekend, I believe - and I saw the coverage on TV early in the morning, as news flowed in about her accident. Hours later, when her death was confirmed and the bouquets started mounting up outside the gates of Buckingham Palace, I still wasn't sure why I was sad.

As I type this now, ten years later to the day, I think I know why. Despite the intense media scrutiny of almost every movement she made, every haircut she had, every outfit she wore, she was also very normal. Just like you and me. She wanted to be. She was pretty and personable. The people loved her for who she was. They felt they were a bit like her. I felt like I was a bit like her.

May her soul rest in peace.

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