Archive | December, 2013

Lady Godiva & Peeping Tom

22 Dec

Some of you no doubt will know the much fabled story about Lady Godiva the wife of the Earl of Mercia an 11th century landlord who rode naked on horseback(NOT the EARL thankGod but his nice lovely looking wife) through the streets of the city of my birth Coventry where I still reside more than half a century later.
The legend or should we say ‘myth’ as it is disputed by many, goes back to the time when her husband imposed harsh taxes upon his tenants for whom Lady Godiva had a soft spot.

Here is the historical version of how, why & what happened in a nutshell as explained in that online encyclopedia:
“According to the typical version of the story,[18][19] Lady Godiva took pity on the people of Coventry, who were suffering grievously under her husband’s oppressive taxation. Lady Godiva appealed again and again to her husband, who obstinately refused to remit the tolls. At last, weary of her entreaties, he said he would grant her request if she would strip naked and ride through the streets of the town. Lady Godiva took him at his word and, after issuing a proclamation that all persons should stay indoors and shut their windows, she rode through the town, clothed only in her long hair. Just one person in the town, a tailor ever afterwards known as Peeping Tom, disobeyed her proclamation in one of the most famous instances of voyeurism.[20] In the story, Tom bores a hole in his shutters so that he might see Godiva pass, and is struck blind.[21] In the end, Godiva’s husband keeps his word and abolishes the onerous taxes.”
peeping tom
Now you might ask what brings me to this story?

Well, as I could not bare to watch India turn what should have been a victory in a test match against South Africa where we (India who else?) were about to concede defeat despite having a 2nd innings lead of 457 runs in a cricket match, I chose to get up and wander off to my local ‘watering hole’ named “The Peeping Tom”. Well I’m relieved to tell you that the match ended in a draw whilst I was nourishing my grey matter with endorphins provided by mother nature from hops and living yeast cells! (Yeah I’m talking about the amber nectar)
lady godiva tweet
It is in this ‘higher level’ of conscientiousness that I remembered an episode that went back 42 years! Hence my tweet earlier:

There I was as on the verge of my teens, listening in to a conversation in India between my mum(who had returned after a decade in UK) & my grandmother (Daaddiji), which went something like this:

(Oh before I jump into my recollection of the conversation, please bare in mind my paternal grandmother had never stepped foot outside India in an age where there was no TV etc, so her perception of the ‘British way of life’ was what imagination had built up from the ‘exemplary’ conduct of memsahibs in the days of the Raj!)

So here’s my recollection whilst I chewed away at a Gunnah (Sugar Cane) sat on a Muda (lovely Punjabi word for a stool):

Mum: “Gorrey (a polite word for fair skinned i.e. British whites) apne asoola de badde pakke aa”(The Brits stick by their principles”)

Daaddiji: “Achaa oh kidda…” (“How come…”)

Mum:”Sadde shehr vich ek rajah di timmi ne usnu janta de khilaaf tax laun toh rokyaa par oh mann da nai si” (“in our city [i.e.Coventry] the wife of a “maharajah”[i.e. Earl] asked him to lift the harsh taxes upon his tenants but he would not agree”)

Daaddiji: “Achaa phir ki hoya” (“Ok so what happened?”)

Mum: “Ohdi timmi kendi je tu awaam te tax hatayaa naa tah meh saare mohalle wich Nangi hoke GoddSawaar galliyaan wich gumoon gi” (“His wife said if you don’t lift the taxes I will ride naked through streets of Coventry on horseback in protest”)

Daaddiji: “Hai hai ni meh marjawaa….ehda kidda ho sakda…rajahe di timmi nu nangi hone toh sharm nai aai….meh ni mann di kidda hoh sakdaa..huh….kaun karda ehda kittey” (“Blow me down Betty….How could that happen…You taken me for a fool or something..”)

Mum: “Nai Mattaji sachi kahaani aa………ehdai hoya si” (“No mum(inLaw) its true..thats how it happened”)

Daaddiji: “Rajey ne nai rokyaa oh Randi nu….” (“Didn’t the Earl stop that “loose Woman”)

Mum: “Raja kehnda …achaa je tu karke dekhaaywe ..tah meh tehnu mann jawaa….pakki shart” (“The Earl said if you do ride naked thru streets of Coventry I will honour my pledge to lift the taxes”)

Daaddiji: “Hai hai ni… kidda de raje raaniyaa si…..oh bilkul nangi si ohne kuch bi nai si paiyaa” (“What sort of ‘Kings’ & ‘Queens’ were they then….to let her ride naked…was she wearing nout”)

Mum: “Sadde shehr de saare lokaan ne apn darwaaze band kar laye si…kisse ne bhi nangi raani walnu jaak ke nahi dekhyaa” (“The residents of Coventry shut their curtains and no one dare to look at their ‘queen’ in her nakedness”)

Daaddiji: “Leh eh kidda ho sakda….kisse ne bhi nai jaak ke dekhyaa…”(“How come no one peeped at her?”)

Mum: ” Haan ek bande ne dekhyaa si ….oh annaa ho geyaa si” (“One person did peep at her…and he went blind”)

Daadiji: ” Ni tu tah menu bewakoof banaundi aa” (“You expect me to belive that?”)

What can I say……….this memory stuck in my mind…one of those rare ‘Mother-in-law vs Daughter-in-law” dialogues that remind us that Kids are never as young and aloof as you think…… careful what you discuss infront of your 12yr old!!

Now, I must bring this up to date and ask you folks… you believe the Lady Godiva Story? I suspect most of you like me could comprehend a noble lady baring her bossom ..but to expect ONLY ONE PEEPING TOM LOOKED THRU THE KEYHOLE….now that defies the law of MANkind! Here is what is more likely to have happened as that famous comedian Benny Hill re-enacts for us in a comical sketch: