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A nippy bowler, perfectionist, and the common man's maharaja

December 11, 2013 10:59 IST

A nippy bowler, perfectionist, and the common man's maharaja

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N Niranjan Nikam

Senior journalist N Niranjan Nikam recalls his childhood friend Srikanta Datta Narasimharaja Wadiyar, the maharaja of Mysore who passed into the ages on Tuesday.

The mischievous smile, the hearty laughter, the childlike innocence, the utter simplicity and humility, are all gone now. All that is left are the memories.

The shocking news of the sudden passing away of the last scion of the Mysore royal family, Srikanta Datta Narasimharaja Wadiyar (60), came as a shock this Tuesday afternoon for the entire state of Karnataka. It was equally shocking for me as I had moved very closely with Wadiyar and the innocent face is what comes in front of me. He was literally larger than life but also like a true maharaja a very private person.

Growing up in Mysore as contemporaries, the first image of Srikant, as he was fondly called by his father Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar and his immediate family members and friends, is that of him playing on the Maharaja’s College Cricket grounds. The crowd would come in large numbers to watch the “Prince”, as he was addressed by the common people. He would surprise everyone with his ability to play the game in spite of his girth. He was an opening batsman and also a medium pace bowler, and according to a few who faced him he was surprisingly nippy. Of course, he would be fielding in the slips all the time and there was lot of mirth doing the rounds about his inability to move to pick the ball in any other position.

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A nippy bowler, perfectionist, and the common man's maharaja

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N Niranjan Nikam

It was years later that I came to know him very closely, when he one day called me to talk about the politics and the way people were thinking about him. By then of course he had won a few elections and also lost. Entering into the world-famous AmbaVilasPalace was a great privilege and honour, and sitting in the big drawing room that overlooks the Eastern Gate even as I passed the famous palace library with a great collection of books was an unforgettable experience.

Years later, he shifted to Bangalore, disappointed with the way things were happening in politics. He settled down comfortably in the BangalorePalace and the first thing he did was renovate the office. He had an artistic eye and his knowledge about history and politics was remarkable.

Wadiyar’s memory was also truly phenomenal. He shared the reason about this unique trait with me. “As a child my memory was not very good. My father understood this and when I was nearing 10, one day he administered the ‘Shakti Mantra Beeja’ in my ears. From that day on my memory power improved vastly,” he recalled.

Asked why he always kept his finger close to his eyes all the time, he told me, “My eyes are very powerful. It can even turn people to ashes if they try to misbehave with me. I always keep it half closed to see that they are not harmed unwittingly.”

He was a perfectionist in everything he did and this was in evidence every time he threw a party. He celebrated his 50th birthday in the Mysore palace in the year 2003 in a grand way. That was the first time his interest in fashion became public. Thereafter every year he used to hold the fashion shows where he would display the saris designed by him and his wife Pramoda Devi Wadiyar.

Speaking once to me about the Curse of Talakad, he had said he was in constant communion with the soul of Alamellamma and the effect of the curse had worn off. A strong believer in astrology, he himself had studied it quite closely.

But it is very sad that his death was so unexpected that it has plunged everyone into deep grief even as the cute face of Wadiyar sitting in the golden howdah on the elephant’s back during the world famous Dasara procession as a boy along with his father in the front and his uncle by his side lingers hauntingly.

 




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