The Royal Challenge

No more 'Raja', 'Rani', 'Kunwar', 'Begum'. India will finally do away with the vestiges of royal titles. This is the official stand of the Congress party. Will it stop its usage among those who still fancy a bit of pomp and splendour?

At a fashion show

Even our fashion designers have their regal collections and manage to rope in the scions of such families to tog themselves up in their heirloom jewels while they are dressed up in recreated tradition. One would think that tradition is the preserve of royalty alone. What about the traditions of those who create magic weaves and those wonderful palaces and artefacts?

Vasundhara Raje Scindia

Even today a Vasundhara Raje Scindia is referred to as ‘Maharani’ and poses like she is in some fancy dress competition while campaigning for elections! Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi continues to be referred to as Nawab although he was arrested for poaching. Worse, his son who is a yuppie Bollywood actor is referred to as Chhote Nawab.

The pink 'prince'

And then there is the pink prince, Manvendra Singh Gohil of the erstwhile Rajpipla state, who has become the global face of the Indian gay movement.

We see many of these royals being flaunted in society pages even if they have transformed into hoteliers.

Hotel Rambagh Palace

Gayatri Devi modelled for diamonds and who cares if they were limited edition?

I am not terribly taken up with her so-called dignity. I have had two ‘encounters’ with her and both left me unimpressed. The first time was at the Polo Bar of her palace-turned-hotel in Jaipur. She walked in wearing a paisley print chiffon saree and sat on the sofa across from where we were. She lit a cigarette and everything, from her deportment to her way of talking, seemed like that of any socialite in the elite metros. It was only when the high-turbaned stewards started addressing her as “Hukum" that I took a closer look.

The other time was on a hopping flight, from Udaipur to Jaipur. There were no class barriers on this small aircraft. I was squeezed in the middle. I turned to my left as the plane took off to see the clouds as I always do. The lady seated near the window did not seem to like it; I could not see her face and was not interested.

Later, the gentleman on my right leaned forward and addressed her, “I have read your book. Really liked it.”

I pushed myself back so that they could converse.

A heavy voice on my left replied, “Oh, just leave me alone.”

Gayatri Devi with her memories

That was Maharani Gayatri Devi.

When the service started, they handed over packets of sandwich and soft drinks. The attendant addressed the ‘princess’. Not only she did not deign to look up, but she just waved a dismissive hand.

Despite the fact that I was not hungry, I took the packet, opened it and started eating. No royalty was going to act pricey. If she did not like the smell of cheese, then tough luck.

At Jaipur, she disembarked. I saw her retreating back from the window, a woman in a saree that suddenly looked synthetic. There was a lone ‘khaadim’ in white waiting for her.

I almost felt sorry.

Sorrier was the public battle she fought for property with her grandchildren. Is this becoming of one who is touted as the epitome of all that is regal and classy, not to speak of beautiful?

True greatness can shine by the way you beam your light on those less fortunate than you. And it does not matter what honorific you are born with or is bestowed upon you.


  1. You are correct this will only be on paper,people will still use raja,rani.Does Gayatri Devi live in the hotel??

  2. Yes, she does live on the premises, but it is in another section of the palace; it is not in the hotel building.

  3. Ya but the Hotel is a damn nice place, having stayed there a few times, I have always commented "why the F do you need 30*45 bedrooom to F ' ...it seriously has a different kick, you feel like you are having it an airport lounge ...Bugger Royals , I envy them ...

  4. Manish:

    Could you only think of an airport lounge?! I won;t be able to look at them with a straight face anymore....

    I agree the hotel is good. Lake Palace, Udaipur is interesting, but I felt rather trumped up, and Umaid Bhavan does give the feeling of ghosts coming out of everywhere in a rather nice way...


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