Vignettes of a royal visit

Three black-and-white photographs bring alive Queen Elizabeth II’s trip to Bangalore

June 14, 2016 05:37 pm | Updated October 18, 2016 12:50 pm IST

Chennai: 14/06/2016: The Hindu: Metro Plus: H M Queen Elizabeth II of England departure from the Airport.

Chennai: 14/06/2016: The Hindu: Metro Plus: H M Queen Elizabeth II of England departure from the Airport.

Monochromatic memories tumble out of torn photo albums at Honorary Flight Lieutenant M.R.S. Pillai (retd.)’s home in Old Perungalathur, a quiet town on the fringes of Chennai. For a long time, he had been holding on to these black-and-white photos, in the hope that they would someday illustrate his autobiography, and offer vignettes of life in the Indian Air Force from the Fifties to the Eighties.

“I gave up on the dream of writing my autobiography, following advice from those around me that no publisher, much less readers, would be interested in my story. They told me I could have a book self-published, so that I could tell the world that I also wrote. I dropped the project,” explains Flt Lt Pillai, gently turning the pages of the album. The photos trace his career in the IAF and the friendships forged on the job, except for a few that hold a larger appeal. There are four images that have frozen in time, Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to what was then an aerodrome (which later came under Hindustan Aeronautics Limited) in Bangalore in 1961. “I was in my 20s and working in the Air Force Technical College, Jalahalli, Bangalore, as a ground training instructor. I was detailed to select 150 airmen and train them to present a Guard of Honour to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II,” recalls Flt Lt Pillai.

“I wanted photos from the event and I ensured I had them,” he adds. Now 82 years old, Flt Lt Pillai wants these photos to be maintained as part of historical records that bind together India and British royalty. And, he sent these four photos to The Hindu , donating them to its photo library.

“These photos have been in my album for the last 55 years and they deserve a wider viewership now, especially in the year when Queen Elizabeth II is celebrating her 90th birth anniversary,” he says.

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