27 September, 2020

Royalty in Flannels

Royalty in Flannels
Recently, I had the chance of an extensive tour of Saurashtra. Raj Kumar College in Rajkot, set up in 1870 as the first of the Prince’s colleges created by the British to educate future maharajas, invited me for their annual day. Jet Air left at 6.10 am sharp. The service perfect; the cabin staff smartly turned out and welcoming. At Ahmedabad, Sukhdevsinhji—son of India’s second commander-in-chief, General Rajindrasinhji—welcomed me. After a quick breakfast, we continued westwards to Kalakankar. I remember it as a well-known state in the British Raj with the maharajas frequently mentioned in the books of the time.

We motored across a dry, dusty landscape, with searing hot winds. There was no water to be seen, no well, handpump or even a pond. Goatherds with their flocks struggled eastward to find some green and a drop of water. At Kalakankar, we drove through a small shabby township with marble statues of maharajas. I thought they could be rescued out of the shoddiness and put in some palace museum.

The palace is on a barren stony hill; cream-coloured with a...



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