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‘Nothing Is Forever...’
Text by Mita Kapur and Photographs by Tarun Vishwa
Published: Volume 15, Issue 12, December, 2007
Succumbing to an eternal fascination with royalty, Mita Kapur meets Yuvrani Chitrangada Singh, daughter of the late Madhavrao Scindia, in her Delhi home, surrounded by her children and pets and discovers a contemporary princess

As royal as royalty can get within a contemporary framework. Politically correct. Well programmed. Chitrangada is sitting on the sofa just across the room. Picture perfect, coiffeured, poised in a buttercup yellow sari. Her kohled eyes flash with toned down spunk. Gwalior married to Kashmir isn’t a game of culture tectonics but a sinuous blending of traditions. “Both of us were brought up in the ‘modern’ world,” says Chitrangada Singh, of herself and her husband, Yuvraj Vikramaditya Singh of Jammu and Kashmir.

She has created her own person, quiet yet fun loving, doing away with what Chitrangada, the warrior princess of Manipur portrayed in the Mahabharata. “Chitrangada, the Warrior Princess, enters her own court and demands the right and power to be an equal in prosperity and adversity if Arjuna still wants to marry her. Arjuna accepts her on her own terms.” The princess of Kashmir does not demand, she goes with the flow and yet lives her life fully. It is apparent that royalty exerts no pressure on her.

Sensitive and guarded, her space matters to her; her home and hearth are where her existence begins and branches out. She paints horses in powerful strokes, in oils and watercolours. Her involvement with polo as a game is an extension of her childhood. Her paintings are action packed, with a lot of movement. Horses in gallop, in conflict with each other in a game of polo, a rocky landscape with tumultuous waves. A person who prefers putting together a small, informal group of friends for a cosy evening, socialises not more than three or four times a month and prefers to party with friends who get along together, the princess is an intensely private person. “I like to give a personal touch, maybe do the flowers myself....”

She enjoys roaming around Khan Market, shopping with her mother-in-law and her 16-year-old daughter, eating gol gappas at Bikanerwala and grappling with teenage pressures: “Mamma, you don’t understand, it’s the style now….” Chitrangada imitates her daughter, with a laugh. Her husband has been playing polo for over 20 years now. He created the Royal Kashmir Polo Team. Her kids have grown up watching polo matches and though not a polo player herself, she is the “trekking, hiking type, not the bungee jumping type”.
Chitrangada is now in her room, her personal space, surrounded with lots of family photographs. Her daughter shows off her mother’s painting of a leopard, so very proudly…. A copy of Ed Luce’s In Spite of The Gods indicates that she enjoys contemporary literature and keeps abreast.
Verve presents the lady who feels that style is “simply how you come across as a person” in a freewheeling chat.

We’ve had a democratic upbringing. My husband is from Modern School, Delhi, on to Singapore and to USC for his university education. I went from Mumbai to Welhams, Dehradun and finally to the Convent of Jesus and Mary. My father was and father-in-law is, very liberal. There are rules, customs, which I followed as a child in my parent’s house and which I still follow. As long as they are adhered to, how you think, how you bring up your children is up to you. It’s a framework you give yourself according to which you live. Luckily for me, it’s been very easy. There are no battles, the way you bring them up, explain things to them, let them make their own choices and they are responsible for the choices made. There are no rules and regulations, how long can you be bound by those? The responsibility lies with the individual, they have to grow up eventually!

Boarding school was an amazing leveller. There is nothing like running back home to a secure environment. You have to deal with everything and this helps in making you a person in your own right. I deal with life – as Chitrangada! The traditional part of my life are my roots, my beliefs. They give me a base from where I live my life. Certain things are important – respect and regard for people in the family, at home and with those in the work arena.
Royalty is a responsibility, your respect is in your hands, you have to hold yourself, the way you behave…. My children (Mriganka Devi and Mian Martanday Singh) are normal about it. Initially there may be a hesitation but once you are friends, it doesn’t matter.
Eventually, it’s the kind of person you are that counts…everyone accepts you the way you are whether you are a businessman, a politician or a princess.

We lived for two years in Kashmir when we got married. That was my first home…it was idyllic. I was fortunate to have lived there, to understand and feel for the place, before militancy set in…it was a difficult time when we came back. But I’ve learnt in life never to say never. You face situations, adapt and go on to make your life. We had Taragarh in Himachal. It belonged to Vikramaditya’s grandmother and had been largely ignored. We had to start from scratch, building it up, creating an awareness about it in the tourism sector. We have discovered so much and there is still a lot to be done. The character of Taragarh has to be preserved and guests have to be provided with all amenities. We took up the challenge to create a hotel out of it. It has 26 rooms now; it’s our baby.