The Queen invited me to Buckingham Palace this week. Me,from the slums of Birmingham to Buckingham Palace. I could hardly contain myself. I entered the Queen’s Ballroom to find 400 other Asian people. I heard one businessman saying, “These aren’t any old Asians, they’re high-achieving Asians.” It was the cream of British brown.
We all had to wear badges with our names on. The lights dimmed, then someone said, “Take your seats, there’s a bhangra dance about to begin.” Some woman whispered, “Haven’t we moved on yet?” Grabbing my arm, she added, “They should have got you to do some stand-up comedy.” It was explained that the reason I had been invited to the palace was to celebrate the impending state visit by the president of India.
The dance began. Three Indian women started moving flamboyantly, only to be joined by two muscly men, one black and one white, wearing revealing salwar kameezes and dancing provocatively. Then all of a sudden the men ripped off their trousers to reveal a white codpiece covering their crown jewels. There was a gasp of horror from the audience. The person next to me whispered, “Our parents would never believe it!”
We then had to queue up to meet the Queen and Prince Philip. As our names were called out, one by one we walked forward. I became increasingly nervous, suddenly realising I didn’t know what to do when I did get to meet Her Majesty. So I just copied the man in front of me. My name was called out with great difficulty, a young man said, “Ms Saaarzia Miiiirza.” I walked forward, put two feet together, shook her hand, nodded and said, “How do you do?” (Not sure if this was the right thing to say, I muffled it.) Her Majesty gave me a huge smile; I didn’t know if she found what I’d done to be a disaster or endearing. She has a beautiful, warm smile and made me feel as if I’d done the right thing.
Then I moved forward to meet Prince Philip – he shook my hand and stared at me. It was quite a good first meeting, not least as the man behind me, one Atul Patel, had a slightly different experience. Prince Philip looked at his badge and said, “There’s a lot of your family in tonight.” Mr Patel didn’t know if he meant lots of Patels or just that we’re all one big brown happy family – as a lot of us do consider ourselves to be. I heard their conversation end with polite laughter.
Later on, I stood in a group of six people and waited to meet the Queen again. She approached us andsaid, “You all look so familiar.”
I thought, “Does she recognise me from the programme F**k Off I’m A Hairy Woman?” She looked intensely at our faces, then said, “You know, it’s like when I’m in the country, people look at me and say, ‘I know you from somewhere!’ And I think, ‘Where do you know me from? You don’t know me!'” She then asked, “What is your name and what do you do?”
I said, “My name is Shazia Mirza and I’m a comedian.” She stepped back, took a deep breath, raised hereyebrows and said, “How interesting!” Everyone around me burst out laughing. “A comedian? What a fascinating way to describe yourself! Where do you do that?”
“I do it live most nights in comedy clubs, and on TV and radio.”
“What channel, and what kind of comedy do you do?” she inquired.
“I’ve done comedy on the BBC.”
She said, “I must be watching thewrong channel. I don’t get to watch much TV, I’m too busy.”
It was like having a laugh with a friendly old lady at a bus stop. Her Majesty was friendly and funny. She is the national mum; she’s how you’d want your mum tobe when she’s old.
I then met Prince Philip, who alsoturned out to be a lot of fun. He said to my friend Shobna, “So, are you in India full-time now?”
“No, I’m from Manchester.
He said, “What part’s that, then?”
I behaved impeccably until the temptation for a souvenir overpowered me. I took home a roll of toilet paper. My friends will each be getting a sheet for Christmas.