The Reluctant Maharajah
Message came from a neighbour- her brother, Maharajah of a nearby princely state wished to have his new house built. After much swooning, and mooning over what to wear for the epoch-making meeting, the young architect boarded a state bus which drudged slowly towards the palace of the ruler. Three dusty hours later, she found herself standing at the bus stop surrounded by heat, dust and flies. I am on my way, a man called Chaman claiming to be the Maharajah’s manager said. He arrived quickly- not in a stately Rolls Royce, but in a bullet motorcycle.
Do you think you can sit behind me?
The grand place looked more like a school surrounded by ancient trees. There were cobwebs in the high ceilings- termite-eaten rafters showed signs of withering paint some hundred years ago. The carpet- worn out was Persian, sofas were seemingly real silver.
His Highness was an old man as dilapidated as the palace. I am tired of maintaining this house, he said. I need a new modern one with good bathrooms and a terrace garden. He had a file of newspaper cuttings of sustainable living that promoted terrace gardens. You can take a tour of my estate with Chaman. After a long pause, he got up and went. For the next half an hour nothing happened, then Chaman came and inquired about lunch. A forgettable lunch was served on a table meant for a dozen. She ate alone. The washroom was a mile away larger than a four-bedroom apartment. Dusty with broken mosaic glass, but clean.
Upon her return, the neighbour asked-how did it go? Did u meet his consort? Did he join you for lunch? Upon hearing a negative answer, nodded her head. There was never any news about the maharaja except that a year later he died in his sleep.
In peace, hopefully?
From Concrete Dreams
Illustration Badru nisha