Inside and outside Nepal’s devastated royal family, the speculation is that love
drove Crown Prince Dipendra to kill his parents. Contrary to newspaper and television
reports, no one confirms the argument the prince is supposed to have had with his parents
about his love life and marriage plans. But as one embittered and bereaved Shah clan
member said during the travails of the past week, "If only he hadn’t met
‘That girl’ is Devyani Rana, possibly one of the saddest and most devastated
young ladies in the world now. But how was she to know when she met the suave young Crown
Prince Dipendra in London a few years ago that she’d be blamed for, or at least be
associated with, the worst catastrophe ever to hit her country’s royal family.
Those who know Devyani say she isn’t the archetype femme fatale. Not
overwhelmingly beautiful or alluring, she is nonetheless quite popular and well thought of
among her friends in Kathmandu’s fast set. The mobile phone that she always took with
her to parties used to frequently ring with calls from the prince, say friends. They also
say she was discreet about her relationship.
Devyani didn’t need to work, but she answered phones and helped a proud father in the
office of his political party, the Rashtriya Prajatantra Party. Her father, Pashupati
Shamsher Rana, is a suave Anglophile who leads one of the country’s many political
parties. A cabinet minister, he’s admired for his sophisticated political skills and
his ability to make money. But Rana is a broken man at the moment, a scion of an
establishment that may never get its place back in Nepalese society. (The Ranas, till
1951, controlled the state apparatus.)
Queen Aishwarya, it is said, was opposed to Devyani because of her mother, Usharaje
Scindia, whose Gwalior royal lineage wasn’t considered impressive. For one, it made
Devyani half-Indian—and the royal family was perhaps reluctant to foster an Indian
connection. Also, since the Scindias had attained Kshatriya status through the so-called
process of sanskritisation, the Gwalior family wasn’t considered in the same league
as the status-conscious Shahs.
Queen Aishwarya was supposed to have mastered the ancient art of forging political
alliances through marriages. And Devyani didn’t quite fit into her scheme. Supriya
Shah did. The 22-year-old woman was a very distant relative of the prince, and they had
dated and seen each other on a number of occasions. Supriya had Queen Aishwarya’s
approval largely because a marriage between her and Prince Dipendra would have ensured
that the Shah dynasty didn’t have to share its power with the Ranas.
There were other problems, too. It’s said the prince was more than a little fond
of Supriya. But she had reportedly told mutual friends that the man she may have ended up
marrying was occasionally prone to murderous rage while drunk or highly stressed,
something the royal family learnt so tragically last week.
The story that Prince Dipendra had married Devyani secretly in the week before the
killings fits perfectly with the astrological prophecy—but is little else otherwise.
A few months ago, Nepali newspapers carried the chilling prediction by a soothsayer that
both the king and queen would die if the Crown Prince married before he reached the age of
35. Though royal family insiders pooh-poohed this at the time, newspaper readers took the
news seriously and in their grief last week found enough latitude to gossip about the
prince’s love life.
The logic is impeccable, even if false. One highly improbable story says the prince
married Devyani in secret, perhaps at a Hindu temple in India. It was why the prediction
came chillingly true, courtesy the prince. In the palpable inability to explain the
massacre of the royal family rationally, it isn’t surprising to find people turning
to superstitions and the extra-mundane for their answers.