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A Princess Remembers: Memoirs of the Maharani of Jaipur Paperback – 31 January 1998
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She is the daughter of the Maharaja of Cooch Behar and the widow of the Maharaja of Jaipur. She was raised in a sumptuous palace and shot her first panther at the age of twelve. She became one of the first women to win a seat in the Indian Parliament, John F. Kennedy once introduced her as ?the woman with the most staggering majority that anyone has ever earned in an election.? She was also considered one of the world's most beautiful women.
In this compelling memoir, Gayatri Devi describes her carefree, hoyden childhood with her brothers and sisters in the palace of Cooch Behar and their adventurous trips to London and the continent, her secret six-year courtship with the dashing, internationally renowned polo player, Jai, the Maharaja of Jaipur, her marriage and entry into the glittering life of the 'pink city' of Jaipur and her struggles to adapt to unfamiliar customs and her husband's two other wives.
A Princess Remembers is the fascinating life story of one of India's most elegant women and one of its most powerful.
- ASIN : 8171673074
- Language : English
- Paperback : 408 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9788171673070
- ISBN-13 : 978-8171673070
- Best Sellers Rank: 118,160 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Part 1 begins with Ayesha's (Maharani Gayatri Devi's pet name) childhood and the delights and duties of royalty. It's how she was raised by her elegant mother with her four siblings, her extensive travels including her life in London, her infatuation and later affair with Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II fondly known as Jai. She had to try hard convincing her family as she wanted to be his third wife.
Part 2 is about her lavish wedding, life in the palace of Jaipur with extensive pardah system which was alien to her, wartime (WW-II) where her husband served too being a Rajput and then about independence of India.
Part 3 is about how things changed with independence, how their life changed slowly with giving up many of their lavishness n lifestyle and her unexpected career in politics. She won her first election by the largest margin anyone had ever achieved in the world.
Part 4 is the downfall, loosing her brother, her childhood ideal and her husband, her greatest support within a span of few months, the vengeance of Congress by arresting her during emergency and living in Tihar for almost a year.
She almost lost everything but her family and the love of people of Jaipur, her constituency, her home.
She died in 2009 from a lung aiment.
I recommend this memoir for its courageous woman on woman battle in India - the largest democracy on earth - with discomfiting examples of the ‘diplomatic’ tool of choice – the cut – the slight.
We are riding elephants chasing tigers led by a young girl who shot her first panther aged 12.
Driving a magnificent wedding gift of a black Bentley this daughter of Cooch Behar and Baroda royalty will embrace ‘purdah’ and need to command all the religious devotions of orthodox Hindu’s as third wife of the Maharajah of Jaipur. Not for her the Zenada as ‘third her highness,’ the young Gayatri emerges from the long shadow of her husband’s polo fame and her mother’s irresistible social dynamic to wrestle with Indira Gandhi over every Indian prince’s privy purse.
In her 400 page autobiography; dealing with the years up to 1995 with a 6 page index, Ayesha – Gayatri Devi born May 23, 1919 provides us with a key to her accommodation first in Cooch – Behar and then at the Rambagh Palace in Jaipur interrupted with a brief stay (156 nights) in prison before she tackles Indira Gandhi and arrives at her final residence at Lilypool in Jaipur. A tragedy unfolds, nearly everything will be lost in her struggle against injustice - we learn about the slights, the cuts: George V 1911 Durbar in Delhi, the Abbey pillar at the 12 May 1937 George VI coronation in London obstructing the view for two of the most beautiful women in the world, the Duke of Edinburgh’s 1970 letter of condolence, the Michael Foot 1975 support of Indira Gandhi’s lawlessness.
My arc of sympathy for the author peaked with her hunting and sporting prowess, her love for the elephants and the pilkhanna, her time in Europe with the ‘Monkey Club,’ then plummeted as evidence of her youthful inexperience mounted; her early dependence on her mother’s fashion sense and her own forgetfulness towards ‘Mickey’ – how do you forget a sister in laws wedding gift? And then she appears to be just a straw politician following the international polo season instead of facing challenges at home with her constituents. The injustices of the Indira Gandhi regime brought me back on side as did her rekindled awareness of pressing social issues and her recourse to founding and promoting benevolent and educational charities in Jaipur.
RATING: Prose 7, Research value 10, Humour 6, Essential Photos 9.
Great cultural changes take place during the decades the book covers. One thing mentioned is the custom of segregating men and women, which the author has a unique and sometimes even positive viewpoint on, although she doesn't entirely agree with the custom. She also writes about her polygamous marriage and the other wives, with a viewpoint that is entirely foreign to westerners and thus interesting to read about.