Friday 2 July 2021 is a date I’ll never forget, because this is when I watched Wimbledon from the royal box.
My father, the ”skipping Sikh”, had a special invitation from the chairman of the All England Lawn Tennis Club. On arrival, we were greeted by a security officer and given a parking space at the front of the car park, as this is for the guests of the royal box.
We walked straight through; a quick bag check took place but no one had a problem with my dad wearing his kirpan (knife) which every baptised Sikh wears as part of their identity. The weather was beautiful, the sun was out and my father and I were dressed in our traditional Indian clothes.
My father wore a lovely white kurta pajama, which is called the bana, and a cream turban. He stood out! I wore a black and pink embroidered Indian suit, the only one I could fit into after putting on a stone in weight due to lockdown!
I just couldn’t believe it as we walked into the royal box. It felt surreal. I had to pinch myself, but my father was so composed, chilled out and not even fazed by this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We were able to have some photos but there were a lot of protocols in place, so no photos could be taken while the tennis was live and also no photos of the royals and others.
Pre-lunch drinks were served from 11am on the balcony, where we could see all across Wimbledon. Then lunch was served at 11.30am. My father and I are Punjabi and I love my Indian food – who doesn’t? We are also vegetarian. The menu came and it was all too upper class for us. I didn’t fancy the one or two things that were for vegetarians compared to the rest which were for non-vegetarian people.
Dad ordered his classic bread and butter with some cheddar cheese and a cup of coffee. I, on the other hand, went for a bread roll and a cup of tea, finished with the famous strawberries and cream. Then the thought occurred to me that I could really do with some samosas and onion bhajis and a nice masala chai; that would have filled us up!
As we walked out toward Centre Court, I saw the Duchess of Cambridge. I went over to say hello and mentioned that my dad was here with his skipping rope and when we got a break he would be skipping. Kate laughed and said that would be nice.
Another guest said to my father that the Duke of Kent had remarked that he looked elegant, and asked what my dad’s medal was for, as he was wearing his MBE. I felt very proud. Being in the royal box was one of the perks of my father’s amazing hard work in keeping the nation fit through skipping!
In the seating area, we were in the second row, sitting right behind the Duke of Kent. The Duchess of Cambridge looked over to my father to congratulate him and my father was really honoured and humbled to be recognised by the royal family. It was a privilege to be there.
A few seats down was Joe Wicks and, further down, Mr Motivator. It was truly amazing to be in the presence of such inspirational personalities who made a big difference during the pandemic.
My favourite moment was seeing Andy Murray and Denis Shapovalov play. I had my hopes on Murray winning, but it was such a shame that the two-time champion lost against the 10th seed.
To see the games from morning to evening, being in the crowd and hearing the ball being hit, the cheering on for Murray from the crowd, the laughter... it all left me feeling elated. Throughout the day, we were offered refreshments. There was an afternoon tea from 3.45pm, where they had sandwiches, scones, cakes and pastries, as well as strawberries and cream.
I really appreciated the All England Lawn Tennis Club bringing together so many of us after a year of lockdown and seeing a lot of diverse people in attendance. This made me so happy, because I felt that change is coming. There was one beautiful moment where my father and I were seen on BBC Two and his fundraising efforts were mentioned.
As a young girl, I always wanted to go to Wimbledon and had never been lucky enough to get tickets. This was a real dream and it’s a memory I will cherish forever. The fact that my father and I stood out in our national dress and garnered positive attention on social media, including a mention from Indian singer Diljit Dosanjh, who said in Punjabi he felt proud and that my father is a role model to all of us, meant that this is a day I will never forget.