‘A Princess Remembers’ is the memoir of the famous Gayatri Devi, who was the Queen of Jaipur, a princely state in India until it became a unified democratic nation.
The copy I read belongs to my mother, a lot of women from her generation were quite enamored by the personality of the ‘Maharani of Jaipur’. It’s easy to see why – despite the exceedingly opulent & privileged life she led, she was way ahead of her time. While most of her royal peers were anonymous behind the ‘purdah system’, the beautiful Gayatri Devi didn’t hide behind a veil and drove around town in fancy cars.
Unfortunately, her memoir isn’t as exciting as one might expect it to be; on the contrary, it’s quite dull in all its pedantic details of a decadent royal lifestyle. Gayatri Devi was an accidental trailblazer, she was incredibly fortunate to have been born into a more liberal/modern royal family of Cooch Behar and was married into the more prominent Jaipur royal line. If anybody, it was her mother princess Indira Raje, who had been much more bolder for her time and had made the Jaipur King promise he wouldn’t chain her daughter Gayatri to the claustrophobic customs of his more traditional land. Even her political career was a bit of a fluke, caused due to a series of casual events, with the Queen herself having no intentions of ever fighting an actual election.
Much of the first part of the book is filled with details of Gayatri Devi’s life before her wedding and can really bore the reader to sleep. She describes their lavish lives, their retinue of ‘servants’, their pets, their hunting expeditions and what not. And at points she is almost defensive of that ridiculously rich and luxurious life. For example, if she talked of killing a tiger, the reader would be informed that it was a man-eating beast terrorizing villagers. It’s like she strives to be diplomatic, cautious in her story, making most of her life sound pretty picture-perfect. The only major setback in Gayatri Devi’s life was her imprisonment during the emergency imposed in the 1970s by the then PM Indira Gandhi. By then Gayatri Devi was on the heavier side of 50s and had lived a dream-like easy life.
It’s because of her political career that the second-half is a little more interesting; we finally get some interesting insights into her life as a parliamentarian and the political-scape of the time. Pick the book up only if royal memoirs interest you.
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