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The Maharajah Chooses a Queen
The Officers Mess Party
This is an old story that took place during the days of the Raj. As we all know the Raj was omnipotent and the Viceroy along with the British Indian Army, in particular, the office cadre ruled the roost in India. As brought out by Charles Deveroux in his book 'Venus in India' the British had a string of cantonments spread over India. The cantonments were military garrisons that housed the British and Indian troops. There were separate enclosures for both classes of soldiers. Such cantonments had opulent Messes for officers replete with golf courses and horse riding grounds.
In one such Cantonment, an officer's mess party was on. The officers and their ladies were doing the foxtrot, oblivious to Gandhi and his crowd. Here the Raj held sway. A small native band played English tunes and the officers and their ladies danced. The officer's mess was lit up. The Officer Commanding was looking at his watch. He told a junior officer, a captain, "any time, the maharaja of Nabha will be coming. He’s a young man and still a bachelor. I would like you to look after the maharajah, as he is an important man and has been on our side for many years. He is also a personal friend of the C-in- C, India."
Outside a Rolls-Royce hit the dusty road as maharajah Hari Singh popularly called Eddie Harry drove towards the officer's mess. The maharajah looked around and told the driver, "don’t drive too fast because I don’t want to be early at the officer's mess party."
"Yes, sir," the driver replied.
The opulent car drove to the officer's mess. It stopped under the porch. Colonel Victor Grant, the OC came out to welcome the maharajah. He was a tall man touching almost 6 feet and had a regal bearing and mien. He was fair and handsome and hours and hours of horse riding and lessons in fencing made him look fit. He was wearing the traditional dress of the maharaja, the long achkan( coat) embroidered with gold. Colonel Grant shook his hand and escorted the Maharajah to his wife and daughter. He introduced the royal personage.
It was a memorable introduction and the daughter Sally was simply entranced as she shook hands with the Maharajah. His firm handshake showed the character of the man. Just then, Captain Patrick, a YO came up and requested Sally for a dance. She didn't want to dance with him and secretly had hoped that the Maharajah would have asked her for a dance.
The Rescue and Love
Harry watched the girl go away. He liked her very much and her backless gown accentuated her beauty. After some time he observed that both Captain Patrick and the girl were not on the floor. He wondered where they had gone and sauntered out towards the washroom.
As he reached the washroom, he heard a gasp and a shriek. He heard a voice, " You bloody captain, take your hands off me." Maharajah Harry moved fast and entered the corridor and he saw Patrick holding Sally and trying to kiss her. He was shouting, "You bloody bitch, I known what you want.."
The Maharajah moved fast like a feline cat and yanked Patrick away from the girl.
"You bloody Indian, I shall kill you..."He aimed a blow at the maharajah. He was confident he would lay the maharajah low, as he was after all the regimental boxing champion. He was shocked when his blow sailed in the air and two mighty blows knocked the daylights out of him. He crumpled to the floor.
Patrick lay on the ground, inert and lifeless.
“Come, lady,” The Maharajah said, “don’t let this bother you. He will be Ok by the mom and perhaps then he will realize his mistake, once he is sober.”
Then he bent down and picked up her up and steadied her.
“Thanks” she murmured.
He caught her hand and swiftly led her towards the ballroom. She followed him in a daze. At the door, Harry paused for a moment and said softly “Go and dance, for I am leaving.”
She looked at him with a mixture of awe and reverence “Thanks a lot, but I don’t think I shall stay here now and would like to go home. However, I want to thank you for all you have done.”
“Don’t think about it.”
“I wonder how I can thank you for this and we have just met. I must tell my dad about this. I wonder if we will meet again.”
“In good time, if the Guru wills it.”
Harry waved to her, turned and walked briskly away. She saw his receding figure disappear in the darkness. What a man she thought, a real man. What an imposing gentleman.
The next day the Grants gathered for lunch. All of them had slept late after night dance. The Colonel sat at the head of the table. He cleared his throat and said grandly “You know what happened yesterday?”
All kept quiet waiting for Colonel Grant to continue. He spread his hands grandly on the table and continued “Well, an Officer of our regiment was assaulted at the Institute yesterday.”
“What happened, Daddy?” she asked.
“Captain Patrick got badly assaulted by a native. His face is cut up. Needed a stitch from the medical orderly in the MI Room last night itself.”
“It’s awful to hear such news,” commented Grant.
The Colonel continued, "I have come to know that Maharaja Hari Singh had to intervene and rescue a girl from the clutches of this man. In the bargain, Captain Patrick was knocked out. Perhaps he deserved it."
There was a moment’s silence as Sally said a little softly but firmly “Sir, all that you say is true. The girl was me.”
"I know, the Maharajah told me, but why didn't you tell me ?"
“Daddy,” she began in a low voice, “ I was shocked and just slept off. Patrick danced with me yesterday. He was drunk and it began to affect him. I knew that if I tarried with him a little longer, the result would not be good for him or me. So I excused myself and escaped to the toilet. Patrick, however, followed me and when I came out from the washroom he gathered me in his arms and tried to get fresh with me,
Muttering obscenities all the time. When I resisted, he hit me. As I fell, he climbed on me and began to paw me. I was really frightened. That’s when I saw the Maharajah come out of the shadows and lift Patrick off me. For me, it was a great relief, but Patrick didn’t like it and he hit the man. The Maharajah was however too strong for Patrick and soon laid him low.”
She got up and went to her room.
Her father entered the room and looked at his daughter and said, " I have spoken to the maharajah again and thanked him for all he has done but now he has a request and I have agreed for it. He would like to take you out for a ride in the mountains and I hope you will not say no."
Her heart was aflutter. She wanted to go. Going with a Maharajah for a horse ride? This is what everyone dreams. She liked him and secretly wondered whether he liked her. Did she captivate him?
The next day the maharajas Rolls-Royce picked up the young girl and took her to the opulent Palace. The maharajah came out of his palace and took her to the stables to select a horse.
It's a Happy Ending
The Maharaja asked Sally to select a horse. She selected a white horse while he selected a black stallion. He helped her mount the horse. She was struck by his prodigious strength as he lifted her up and positioned her in the saddle.. He jumped on to the black stallion with alacrity and they both rode out into the mountains. It was an exhilarating ride and towards the end, they reached a lovely waterfall.
The maharajah looked at the girl and in his regal way asked, "how do you like this place?"
"Yes," he said, "it is and I am now going to propose to you."
"What is this proposal?"
"I request you to be my queen and rule the state of Nabha along with me"
Somehow this did not surprise her and she looked at the maharaja with clear blue eyes.
"I’m not sure," she replied mechanically, though she wanted to say," Yes, Yes".
He held out his hand and she grasped it. He smiled, "I will telephone the colonel. It may surprise you. I have already taken the approval of your mother and the Colonel." The maharaja got down from the horse and in one movement he lifted her from the saddle and cradled her in his arms.
May I kiss the future Queen of Nabha?" he asked. He kissed her and Sally responded with ardor. That is the end of the story readers. I will write later as to how the marriage took place, the festivities involved and the joy of the mother that her daughter was going to marry a maharajah. Colonel Grant? He was happy as the Cin C, India rang him and congratulated him. The C-in-C continued, " maharajah Hari Singh is a fine man! and I will be attending the marriage."