By Vijayaraje Scindia, Manohar Malgonkar

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Extra info for The last Maharani of Gwalior: an autobiography

Sample text

They were also orthodox Hindus who, for nearly two centuries, had lived among a people who were, for the most part, Buddhists. Inevitably, to their own special stock of superstitions, taboos and prejudices, they had added those of the people of Nepal. My maternal grandmother was, of course, steeped in this culture. And yet she must have possessed a streak of rugged independence because, as soon as she became settled in her new environment, she began to shed some of the more oppressive restraints of the old.

I remember the first time well. When I ventured out in my imitation hair and fancy new clothes to match, I discovered that I caused among my cousins more shock than envy. They ragged me mercilessly for being a mudoli mau, an old lady with a shaven head. On the second occasion I stuck out for an even more outrageous bribe: a shopping expedition to Calcutta, accompanied by my cousin Prem. My grandmother probably had every intention of having my head shaved at least once more but, either because of the tantrums I threw or, more likely, the businesslike reminders from my father that the time had come to send me back to him, she must have dropped the idea.

Maharaja Bir Samsher died, and his place was taken by Khadga's younger brother Deva Samsher. It was a measure of my grandfather's acceptance of his lot that he sent an exuberant message to the new Maharaja, praising him and wishing him well. Deva Samsher, however, was fated not to rule long. Within a couple of months of his accession, Nepal saw something of a repeat performance of my grandfather's coup. Yet another of his numerous younger brothers, Chandra Samsher, forced Deva to abdicate at the point of a gun, and made himself Maharaja.

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