“Not many people know about my royal background and I am grooming myself as a commoner."
These were the words of a 16-year-old.
How does one train to be a commoner? And does such training work? Padmanabh Singh happens to have been born into a royal family, a redundancy today. However, Mumbai Mirror carried a full-page interview with “the youngest Maharaja”. Apparently, for this reason:
Maharaja Padmanabh Singh is unlike any other teenager. For instance, polo, and not Instagram, is uppermost on his mind. The youngest Maharaja at 16, Singh presides over royal properties of the erstwhile Jaipur state and the majestic City Palace, where staff members call him 'Darbar' or 'His Highness'. But the young Maharaja remains unaffected by the reverence and is focussed on excelling in polo and grooming himself at Millfield School in the UK.
That’s a lot of grooming, and surely in this case it is not on how to be a commoner.
It is amazing that we continue to be feudal, and this is evident most sharply when we attempt to shun royal frippery. How does this even qualify as an attempt at understanding the common man, forgetting grooming to be one?
In the beginning of the year there were reports about a change in the Air India Maharajah logo:
Air India’s Maharajah, an iconic portly figure in regal garb and hands folded in namaskar, is being offloaded. Passengers are now being welcomed by a new and younger version of the mascot, sans turban with spiky hair, wearing jeans and sneakers. Even the trademark twirling moustache has been cut down to size. In his first meeting with aviation ministry heads on June 21, 2014 PM Narendra Modi had said that the ‘aam aadmi’ must replace the Maharajah as the mascot of Indian aviation. It came on the back of his emphasis that the ministry is formulating policies to make flying within the reach of the common man and not only limited to the rich.
Where was the need to retain the term Maharajah then, although to “live like a king”, or king-size, as another product ad states, would be about luxury, and that would be legitimate if people should have the means. It would not be a fake attempt. In the old logo, the maharajah looked more like a hotel durban; in the new one, he looks like a tout at the railway station.
Air India, as India itself, wanted to capitalise all these years on its regal traditions, pomp and grandeur, and its past. But we are not what the past India was, and the younger generations are even more removed from it. Is there any need to use the superficial aspects to make them understand history? Why do children and grandchildren of the former royals promote their status? If they stopped being called princes and kings, the media would learn to stay away. Actor Saif Ali Khan continues to be referred to as “Nawab”, and his wife Kareena Kapoor Khan seems to have no problem being addressed as “Begum”.
There are young politicians too from former royal families, and while they do not wish to be addressed as royalty the fact is that for many this is their only link with their constituencies.
Worse than their sense of entitlement is the need to make a production of wanting to be like others. This suggests that they are making an effort to downgrade themselves. It is interesting that while one young man will groom himself to be a commoner and an airline tries to reach out to the common man, both choose a limited idea of such commonness.
Will there be any takers for this common man who is far more common than any other?
PS: The Air India site has the old logo, so it appears that they prefer the obsequious as exotica to the tout.