Princess Diana – the imperfect fairy-tale

“I like to be a free spirit. Some don’t like that, but that’s the way I am.”

                                                                                                                                            – Lady Diana

I just finished watching a documentary about Lady Diana, Princess of Wales, on Netflix. After regaining composure (I cried like a baby. Thank God my son is sleeping!) and organising the thoughts in my head, I finally sat down to write this piece.

Lady Diana (or Lady Di) as she was often fondly referred to, was my favourite youth icon in my teenage years. Smart, rich, beautiful, elegant – you name it and she had it. I loved her golden, cropped hair which she jerkily put back in order every now and then and the never-too-old-to-wear string of white pearls she confidently carried with almost every dress she wore. Since I lived in India and she was a British princess, our news channels were almost always full of coverage of the royal family – the Queen’s health, the Buckingham palace, Lady Diana’s issues with her husband, her travels around the globe, and of course more.

As time passed, I aspired to be more and more like her one day – well-dressed, powerful and influential, till one day the news of her tragic road accident in Paris was broadcast. It was a black day for us, for no particualr reason. May be because she died too young, or may be we had begun to associate immortality with royal blood. But her death felt like a personal loss too – someone who smiled like an angel and a woman who had given me goals for the future, had died.

Lady Diana, born Diana Spencer, was born in the English royal family of Althorp on July 1, 1961. She spent a rather turbulent childhood with three other siblings and witnessed her parents’ divorce when she was only 7. Following the divorce, bitter battles of custody between her parents began and the children, including herself, shuttled between the separate residences of the parents, till her father won sole custody for Diana. She recounted incidents of physical abuse from her father to her mother, in the midst of the children’s presence.

Eventually, Diana, who had been home-schooled in the early years of her life, attended formal school (an all-girls’ one) in London and finishing school in Switzerland. She returned to London and began to live with three other young women in an apartment, gifted to her by her mother. She took up odd jobs such as those of a nanny, party hostess, and even a kindergarten teacher. She mentions how she always felt so different than other girls her age. She says “I knew that something profound was coming my way and I was just treading water, waiting for it. I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t know where it was. I didn’t know if it was coming next year or next month. But I knew I was different from my friends in where I was going.”

She met Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, when she was 16. At that time, he was dating her elder sister, Lady Sarah. Gradually Diana began to attract more and more of the Prince’s attention and even received an invitation to visit him and his family at their Scottish holday home in November 1980. There she was well-received by the Queen and other members of his family. She had begun to sense what was coming next.

The Prince proposed marriage to her, and after much deliberation, she agreed. It was a big moment for her family to have an alliance as powerful as the Royalty of Wales and also for Diana, who had never seen the feminine and royal side of herrself. The royal alliance took place on July 29, 1981 and Diana was officially declared ‘next in line to be Queen of England’. She often remarked “I’d like to be a queen in people’s hearts but I don’t see myself being queen of this country.” This was an intuition she could never explain.

She bore two sons to Charles – William and Harry. The rebel that Diana was, she chose the princes’ names, dismissed the idea of a royal nanny, chose one herself, spent time at play with her children and even took them to school, whenever time permitted.

Despite all the glamour and sheen that surrounded the palatial life, Diana’s life was more than dreary. Marital issues with Charles, thirteen years older than her, had set in within the first few years of marriage itself. Charles, sure of himself, was charming, had the gift of the gab and also the knack to handle the intense media attention that being Prince, he always attracted.

On the other hand, Diana, only 19 when she married, was timid, unsure of herself. She kept her gaze low around the cameras and the superficiality of the elite on occasions she ‘had’ to be present in, irrepsective of her own choice. The intrusive media glare pierced her sanity and she was often seen breaking into tears in public.

The documentary reveals that on her honeymoon trip itself, she had come to know of her husband’s relationship with Camilla Parker-Bowles, his married ‘friend’. Despite her jealousy and his dismissal, she was required to attend polo matches and lavish parties in the company of this woman.

Eventually, the much-hyped marriage had begun to show signs of disintegration. Diana attributed this to the birth of her second son Harry, which ended up disappointing Charles, who desperatly hoped for a daughter. For both sons, Diana suffered from severe post-partum depression and attacks of bulimia (compulsive eating, often associated with anxiety). She was judged for her illness, for no one in the royal family had never had these issues before. It was also said that her illnesses came in the way of Charles’ happiness and their more-than-perfect royal marriage.

Finally, after much speculation, the couple parted ways in 1996. By this time, Diana had significantly turned herself around in terms of self-confidence, making herself known for being associated with charitable causes around the globe (without the aid of her former husband) and her ability to connect with her children, ‘without feeling trapped)’.

Soon after began, her expedition to find herself and find love in a man who could ‘love her like a father’. Names of Dukes, a British cardiologist and subsequently, Dodi Al Fayed popped up, and so did rather private images of Diana on boats and beaches.

Her life came to a tragic and untimely end on August 31, 1997 in a car crash in a tunnel in Paris, while she was  with her boyfriend Dodi Fayed.

Some things about Diana’s life that really strike me as amazing and inpsiring are:

1. How she had to deal with being a ‘to-be Queen’ even before she had turned a woman. Married at the age of 19 to the ‘most eligible bachelor’ in London was clearly not the easiest responsibility to shoulder. It seems to be like a golden cross on which she ended up crucifying herself.

2. The judgement she had to face for not acting ‘queen-like’ where all she was probably doing was acting like a 20-something woman. From selection of clothes to spending time with her children, she did not seem to fit the royal standards. In one of her interviews, she clearly mentions how she was rebuked for not doing things well at the palace, but there never came any appreciation, of things well-accomplished. She admits that she had made it the mission of her life to please the Royal family, albeit at her own expense.

3. The repurcussions of marital discord she had witnessed as a child, between her own parents, never really left her mind. She mentions how she had been ‘numbed’ by those experiences and how she could best describe her childhood as ‘unhappy’. The only pleasant childhood memory she could recall was the smell of her stroller, which smelt of hot plastic in the sun. She also mentions that her brother Charles, spoke to her about how the results of the marital tensions between their parents had become evident to him only after he himself got married.

4. Lady Diana’s story clearly brings out the importance of healthy attention that we can expect to get only from family and close friends, versus that which is unhealthy, superficial, and unreal. While the former boosts our self-esteem and keeps us going, the latter comes from glorifying the lives of others, forgetting rather naively, that their problems and challenges are no different from our own. They too rejoice at accomplishments and don’t sleep when stressed. Diana’s recorded sessions with her psychotherapist reveal how she resorted to having her  husband’s attention by mutilating her arms and legs and once, even by deliberately throwing herself down the stairs while pregnant with William.

Diana’s story to me is a story of courage and incredible strength. It is the story of a woman who lived, who loved and who refused to give up. It is an epiphany of a common woman with a crown, who laughed, cried, made mistakes and each time, pulled herself up.

It is now only a question of imagination and creativity, as to how this woman could have changed the Monarchy and the definition of humanitarianism, had she lived longer.

Rest in peace Diana! You were more loved than you ever knew!

Image taken from Google images

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diana,_Princess_of_Wales

https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/2859627.Diana_Princess_of_Wales

Diana: In her own words (Netflix, 2017)

 

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It’s all in your eyes my dear

Look at me with love and compassion,

And unlock the angel that lives within me.

That bright soul that lights up the world around her.

Look at me with perpetual disdain,

And unleash the turmoil that hides beneath my surface.

And then complain not at the horrendous sight of your own creation.

It’s all in your eyes my dear.

Image taken from Google images

Beauty versus certainty

The choice between the beauty of life and the certainty it offers is always hard – one often can’t have both.

However, if I were to choose, I’d rather go for a beautiful future which is risky and uncertain, than an ugly, certain one.

Of what certainty can I even talk about, when I, as all living beings, may not even wake up to see the next sunrise!

But yes, to have a joyous, rewarding life is something I deserve. To Hope is my right, and why shouldn’t it be, if it keeps me going?

Image taken from Google images

The day I snapped

You played with me as you liked,

Pulled me and stretched as you pleased.

You felt strong and powerful,

much more of a man,

As I groaned in excruciating pain.

I tried my best until I snapped,

Between your fingers, limp as a fish.

And you still remain upset – this time that I caused you pain.

And that I gave in too early.

I think some people like me, always cause pain,

And some like you, who must always complain.

Image taken from Google images

The clock on the wall

We never intended to be friends,

You know it just happened.

Each time you were with me,

I looked at him again and again,

My eyes wet in supplication – asking him to slow down and prevent you from leaving.

Each time you left,

I stared at him again – this time with blame and anger.

He had not heeded my request.

Each time I waited for you,

My heart beating like a drum,

I pleaded to him, asking him to hasten, move forward quickly.. before I died of anxiety.

As I waited for you, or lay in your arms, or saw you leave – my eyes always met his.

And that’s how we became best friends – me and the clock on the wall.

Image taken from Google images

My safe place

Come, give me your hand,

Let me take you to my safe place.

It’s my little corner in this massive world,

Where I take my mask off.

Come, let me show you who I really am,

Talkative, silly and child-like.

I’m not as sensible and mature as you think.

Don’t let the mask fool you.

Come, remove those tinted glasses,

And peep into my paradise,

And mock me not,

For I know you are not what you appear to be too!

That’s our little secret.

Come, see for yourself, the carefree butterfly with fluorescent wings,

That cocoons itself again, as it steps out of its safe place.

Don’t judge it – it’s not bad, just scared.

Come – let’s share this safe place – you and me!

Image taken from Google images

How love was lost (Short story)

Over time, a lot of things she had lost – reliance, enthusiasm, hope, dysfunctional relationships and occasionally, old fears.

Losses were never easy to handle emotionally, not to mention the public questioning that came with them.

“What do you mean you don’t love him anymore? Is this a bloody joke?” Asked her father, his lower lip trembling in anger. “First you girls rebel against family norms to marry these men of your choice, and then fight again to leave them.”

She remained silent, her head hung low. Her silence only made her father more impatient, as her mother looked on. “Love is over you say! How is that even possible?” He continued.

“Dad, you don’t understand what really happened and how. But I don’t blame you, I never told you and Mom.”

“What is it that we don’t understand? We’ve been married for more than 30 years now. We know how things work. Being single is not as easy as you think.” This time it was her mother.

“What you don’t understand that it’s never love that is lost first. For love to be lost, there must be other losses that precede.

You think I lost love and you find it bizarre, don’t you?

For you to understand better, I first lost my dignity, and a good chunk of my self-esteem.

Then came the loss of respect for those who caused the first loss.

Soon after I lost love. And now I feel the loss of tolerance from every cell of my body.”

The parents stayed silent, as they looked at each other.

She continued “What you don’t see is that even when love is very quick to happen – and yes it made me a bigger rebel than I was – it takes a long long time to recede.

And yes, it’s never the first thing to go.”

Image taken from Google images

Bringing her smile back (Short story)

She lay in bed, her head resting on his soft, yet sturdy arm. Her eyes remained tightly closed, the only sign of her being awake being the warm tears that trickled on his arm.

‘What happened?’, he kept asking repeatedly, only to be replied in silence.

‘Have I done something?’ his tone getting more desperate with each repetition of the question.

She merely moved her head to the side, to answer in the negative.

He had not done anything, nor said anything that had caused her pain. It was her own past that haunted her, her own sense of worthlessness that had been rekindled by something he had mentioned casually in a conversation.

It wasn’t him, but her own memories. What could she tell him? How could she explain? Even if she tried, would he understand the whirligig of emotions that brewed in her head, her own ugly past? She preferred to remain silent instead, facing her destiny alone.

His restlessness kept rising with every subsequent tear that fell on his arm, and he assumed the role of a clown from an interrogator. All his attempts to make her smile or forget her pain were in vain again.

Nothing seemed to work.

Tired and defeated, he caressed her hair. In what sounded like a whisper, he said ‘My dear, I don’t know what has happened, you won’t tell me. But I want you to think about this – do you think we have adequate amount of time in this life to waste on staying silent? In what seems like a short and clearly-not-enough lifetime to be together, there is already so much to say, do and experience with one another. Can we really afford this waste of time in remaining silent?’

As his words seeped into her understanding, her eyes, red by now, finally opened. She looked into his eyes, that were just beginning to form their first pair of tears.

‘You are right’, she said, as her head gradually occupied the cavity of his chest.

Nothing but his simplicity had been successful in moving her from her womanly obstinacy.

Image taken from Google images

The Black magic of love

Tell me how you do that,

These wonderful ripples you create.

Is it just your physical body,

Or a deeper, invisible part of you?

Your mere presence stirs sensations,

That I barely knew before.

Do feelings have colours too?

Then why do I see a rainbow each time my brain processes a thought of you?

With even the slightest touch of you,

Waves of sinful pleasure rise in my spine.

And like shooting stars,

Dart to corners I barely knew existed in my body.

Let me guess what gives you that power over me- you gentle sorcerer I adore!

Is it the rustiness of you hair that tickles me everywhere?

No, it’s something else.

Is it the perfume of your exhalation, the most intoxicating fragrance that ever teased my nostrils?

No, there’s more.

Is it the black magic you cast with your deep brown eyes, rendering me incapable of movement?

No, this doesn’t explain too.

Or is it the bittersweet journey of your long nails all over me? How could pain ever be so delicious?

But I think I know now.. I have my answer.

It’s all of these things and yet none of these.

The answer lies not in the magic but in the magician.

It’s you, in all your colours.

It’s you, the whole of you- my delicious sorcerer!

Image taken from Google images