May 30, 2020
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Blue Princess

Blue Princess
SHE walked, tall and regal like the princess that she is, into the Polo Bar of the Rambagh Palace. In a clinging Jaipur chiffon sari of the kind she has made internationally famous. It was in a vibrant shade of turquoise blue, what the locals call a Feroza colour. What made her different from the others at the famous bar was that she entered only after an ADC, in a formal black prince coat, had peeped round the door to make sure I was there before ushering her in.

It had all started the evening before, when I had just got into bed. My friend rushed in breathlessly: "Gayatri Devi is in the coffee shop. Why don't you get an interview?" That was the last thing to do with a woman with such style and elegance, invade her privacy and interrupt her late night snack like a gauche cub reporter. I decided instead to send her a handwritten note across to her home, the Lily Pool, which is within a stone's throw of the hotel. I reminded her of our conversations in Bengali at diplomatic receptions in Delhi. The response was quick. I got a call first thing in the morning. A male voice announced: "The Rajmata would like to speak to you." And over the phone came that rich, deep alto voice, which I think always matched her beauty. "Kemon achen (how are you)?" I asked in Bengali. "Bhalo, kaal lunch time e meet korebo," she said in that delightful mix of English and Bengali known as Ingo-Bongo, so typical of the Calcutta elite. I did my sightseeing and shopping the whole day to be free for lunch the next day, when I was leaving, and returned at 7.30 to find a note saying: "Rajmata is leaving Jaipur tomorrow and the lunch is cancelled. Please meet her at the Polo Bar at 8 pm." I rang up the Lily Pool to accept and told the ADC I would be there, and delighted.

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