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Captain Amarinder Singh: The People’s Maharaja - An Authorized Biography Hardcover – 22 Feb 2017
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I have seen Khushwant grow in his writings. He has come of age, for sure. Capt. Amarinder Singh THE PEOPLE'S MAHARAJA A very well written book. The flow is gripping. The factuals are presented in an interesting, candid and lucid dialogue. This is one of the few very well written books, that I have read. A must read for all those interested in developing a perspective on the contemporary history of Indian Punjab State. A referral on Punjab for future generations, for sure. --By Amazon Customer on 1 March 2017
About the Author
Khushwant Singh is the author of three books: the bestselling Sikhs Unlimited (2007), a travelogue featuring extraordinary Sikhs; the gripping Turbaned Tornado: The Oldest Marathon Runner Fauja Singh (2011) and the widely acclaimed novel Maharaja in Denims (2014), a story set in Chandigarh. Khushwant Singh’s works on the Punjabi, especially Sikh, diaspora are used extensively as research material by Western universities. His column, ‘Punjabi by Nature’ in the Hindustan Times (Chandigarh), has a huge readership, earning him the title of ‘a chronicler of stories of contemporary Punjab’. He lives in Chandigarh with his family.
From the Publisher
Life in the Public Eye
Amarinder in the summer of 1943.
Amarinder Singh (left) and Malvinder Singh(right) at Sanawar, 1951-52.
Amarinder Singh signing the oath form the same day as the chief minister of Punjab after being sworn in. Lt General Jacob is sitting next to Amarinder Singh.
Wedding of Captain Amarinder Singh and Preneet Kaur, Sector 5, Chadigarh, 31 October 1964.
Amarinder Singh, along with his three siblings (including his brother Malvinder Singh, born two years after and crowned Maharaj Kumar), was raised in a secure environment. They were not encouraged to mingle with kids from outside the palace. This was not an attempt to keep the royal children aloof, as that was never the intention of the maharaja and maharani. In fact, this step was rather a compulsion, given the fast changing political circumstances in India. The country was on the verge of being partitioned and communal clashes and riots – with Hindus and Sikhs on one side and the Muslims on the other – had become the order of the day; Patiala was no exception.
The idea of the four children being differently privileged was underscored more by the staff members of the palace rather than by their parents. In fact, they were keen on as normal an upbringing for their children as possible. Sister Welsh, at times by drawing constant comparisons between Heminder and Rupinder and the British princesses, Elizabeth (who later became the queen in 1952) and Margaret, affirmed the girls’ attitude of being different. As for the yuvraj, the staff members were always out to please him and make him feel special since they wanted to curry favour with him in the long run. When the choicest of fruits were about to be served, the attendant would make it a point to offer the first lot to the yuvraj. Amarinder, who was otherwise the shyest and the most reserved amongst the children, did not mind at all the attention bestowed upon him. He latched on quickly to any opportunity to play maharaja, a trait that perhaps has lingered on. This such favouritism by the staff came to an end after Hede Dayal put her foot down and ordered fruit be served first to the child who had performed the best in the day’s classes. Hede Dayal was a tough woman in her own right and brooked no argument. She had escaped from the Nazi regime in Germany and reached India. She was not the one to be cowed down by palace politics, marked by intrigues and scheming. She had been hired precisely to keep the children away from such politics and to educate and groom them in a manner that would make them fine human beings, global citizens and open to challenges in the wake of World War II. ‘Absolutely a remarkable character in our lives,’ recalls Amarinder, his tone reflective of the significance of her role in shaping his life and that of his siblings.
After being selected following an interview with the maharani and her close friend, Prakash Kaur Malik, wife of the prime minister of Patiala, Hede Dayal was given a free hand to frame her own syllabi and system of instruction. She describes her experiences vividly in her (unpublished) memoirs:
I was told by a friend that the Maharaja and Maharani of Patiala were looking for a teacher to start a private school in Patiala which their children would attend with few other children to prevent them from growing up in the seclusion of a palace. I applied for the job and was called for an interview with Her Highness the Maharani of Patiala who thought me suitable for the job. While driving from the state guest house through the Baradari Gardens and along the broad avenue that led to the Moti Bagh Palace, past the sentries who presented arms and further along the vast façade of the palace, I felt quite unreal. We were received by an ADC and led through immense marble corridors past a long series of rooms splendidly furnished in Western style into a smaller sitting where we were asked to wait for Her Highness. When the Maharani appeared, I was most surprised. I do not know what to expect in the way of Maharanis but certainly not the young, slight, unpretentious young lady to whom I was introduced. She was wrapped in a simple shawl. She seemed shy, uncertain and most reserved, certainly not a person with whom it would be easy to develop a relationship. She barely spoke a word, most of the talking was done by a friend of hers with whom she seemed quite at ease, but I recall the large beautiful eyes of Her Highness, scrutinising me very carefully while I told her of my background and circumstances. Later I was told that Her Highness would be pleased to engage me as a tutor to her four children.
Hede Dayal joined within two months of her meeting the maharani in January 1946. She was accorded full freedom to obtain any teaching aids that she thought were essential. She was also given the go-ahead to assert herself whenever she deemed it fit and necessary. She was handed over a newly built stadium near the Moti Bagh Palace to run her school for all of twelve students. Four were, of course, the princely siblings while seven were children of high officials of the state. The twelfth student was her own son, Mickey Dayal, who would become quite the chum of Amarinder. Mickey recollects how Amarinder would unnerve him in his studies and make him cry even though he (Mickey) was far better in studies than the prince. ‘Yuvraj, had more athletic prowess than academic,’ claims Mickey, who presently resides in Chandigarh (the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana) and adds: ‘All that the yuvraj had to do to upset me was to declare a race on who finished the sums first. I invaraiably forgot that two plus two equalled four and would start crying.’ Mickey also recollects how disappointed he was to see that the princes and princesses were not wearing crowns on their heads when he reached the palace with his mother. He states: ‘They looked like normal children.’ Till date, he trembles at the bossy streak in Heminder or Hem, who, according to him was one hell of a bully as a child. Incidentally, her bullying was not confined to Mickey alone; she was involved in constant clashes with her younger siblings, trying to terrorize them into submitting to her supremacy. In one such clash with Amarinder, he, irritated with her bossiness, told her bluntly: ‘You wait and see when I am the maharaja. The first thing I shall do is put you in jail and keep you there forever.’ Not the kind to take lying down such arrogance from her younger brother, she punched him vigorously and dug her nails deep into his flesh.
Amarinder was the slowest learner among the siblings as far as academics was concerned. His greatest difficulty was concentrating on lessons because he was perpetually distracted by what might be going on outside the classroom, judging from different sounds that reached his ears. ‘There – that was papa’s Dakota taking off. Now the soldiers are doing the drill; now two gunshots. Who could have fired them?’ Such were the thoughts and queries that kept him distracted from studying. Incidentally, the earliest memories of childhood etched in Amarinder’s mind are those of the Patiala troops returning home after World War II. This was an early indicator of his love for all that has got to do with the army and outdoors, which only kept growing in the ensuing years. He vividly remembers standing on a dais in front of the Moti Bagh Palace as a four-year-old, getting ready to take the salute from the Patiala troops since his father was away. The troops had just returned from an operation in Java, Indonesia. All state military parades were customarily led by the Guru Granth Sahib, placed in a takht (literally meaning a throne) atop an elephant. The elephant would halt in front of the dais and kneel down to enable the ruler to bow to the holy book and garland it Amarinder loved nature, wildlife and gardening, something which he is passionate about till date. Even as a child his mornings began with a visit to his vegetable patch since he was fascinated to see how things grew. He remembers how he regularly watered a flowerpot in which nothing seemed to grow despite all the care given. When asked what he was up to, he is said to have replied that he was watering his money plant! It emerged that he had placed a hundred rupee note at the bottom of the flowerpot in the fond belief that his money plant would bear him, well, many rupee notes. He was greately disappointed to see the soiled the note when he dug it out and howled and howled, cursing everyone for misleading him. He yelled: ‘Why do you all talk about money plants when it is all lies? I hate all of you, liars, liars!’
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The book has definitely found its spot in my library.
Very crisply describes about the rise of Capt. Amarinder Singh as an individual and as a politician.
However, friend Aroosa Alam's role in Captain's life is missing in this book.
The author writes well and straight forward.
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