A small piece of history from the days of the Raj
Hey guys, this is my first post on PV. I have been an avid reader for years though, enjoying the postings of my fellow bloggers. Here is something about me, I live in NYC, love old Hindi movies and some of the 'Hatke' new Bollywood movies. It is the middle of a work day in NYC, probably not a good idea to start a new post. But here it is anyway.
I have always admired Zeenat Aman and Sharmila Tagore for their exceptional beauty, ground breaking roles, their charm and sense of style. I have been fascinated by the life and style of late Maharani Gayatri Devi. I am tempted to make a post about Zeenat, her fascinating love life, her charm, poise, charisma and of course her bikini appearances. However, I am going to shed some light on how the 1% lived in the days of Raj.
Most of you guys on PV have heard about and researched Maharani Gayatri Devi, I am sure. Some of you probably even read her autobiography 'A Princess Remembers', a highly restrained and edited version of a fabulously privileged life, written by a ghost writer; a book which she came to despise and advised tourists not to purchase from Jaipur City Palace gift shop!
Those of you interested in reading the full article written in the day and age of complete lack of political correct-ness, here is the link
I am going to highlight some of the juicy details.
1. Gayatri Devi's brother Jagaddipendra Narayan was the Maharaja of Cooh Behar during that time. He was a Harrow and Cambridge educated playboy who played hard from Kolkata to Mumbai to all the way to New York City. He even married a small time American Actress from Long Island in the 50's and later divorced her (this part is not in the article, as you know, it was written in 1943).
2. He was very popular with the American Air force lads during the war and let them use the palace to hang out, play poker or simply drop by for lunch.
3. Ever the poker face, Maharani Indira Devi ( Gayatri Devi's mother) was equally popular among the troops.
4. Tiger hunting while riding on elephant back was a HUGE attraction for American officers who could no possibly have done this in the USA, as you know, no tigers.
5. Gandhi was not famous in Cooh Behar. The political climate of princely states were different than those of British occupied territories.
6. Here is the most interesting part; paisa. The article claims that maharaja drew about 110,000 INR (about $35,000) annually from the state treasury plus extra for the keeps of his elephants, horses, palace, gifts etc. That is about half a million dollars in today's inflation adjusted dollars. That money was only for himself, he also drew about $1.5 mil (in today's dollars) for the support of his family members and the household. The whole thing was about 10% of the revenue they received each year from land taxes from poor peasants.
His state of Cooh Behar was about the size of Connecticut, and he got so much tax from such a small state! No wonder the Indian royalty lived such super luxurious life with private jets, shopping expedition in Paris and Milan, ordering fancy pieces of jewelry from Cartier and throwing party after party for their European friends while the mango people toiled in the field and starved often.
If you guys find this interesting, I might post few more details regarding the high fliers of yore.