A personal, genteel friend who endeared all with humility

A personal, genteel friend who endeared all with humility

The mischievous grin, the hearty laughter, the childlike innocence, utter simplicity and humility, are all part of one’s memory now. The news of the sudden passing away of the last scion of Mysore royal family Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar (60) came as bolt out of the blue Tuesday afternoon plunging the entire State of Karnataka into gloom and mourning.

It was equally shocking for one who had moved among the charmed circles with the 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 Maharaja’s College Cricket Grounds. The crowd would come in large numbers to watch their “Prince” as he was addressed by the commoners. He would surprise all with his ability to play the game like a true professional in spite of his girth. He was an opening batsman, as also a medium-pacer, and according to a few who faced him, he was surprisingly nippy. Of course, he would be fielding in the slips and there was lot of mirth doing the rounds about his inability to move to pick the ball in any other position.

It was years later that I came to know him very personally when one day he summoned 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 Amba Vilas Palace was a great privilege and honour and sitting in the big drawing room overlooking the Eastern Gate, as one passed the famous Palace library with its 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 Bangalore Palace 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 elephantine 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 sarees designed by him and his wife Pramoda Devi Wadiyar.

Speaking once to this newspaper about the Curse of Talakad, he had said that 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 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 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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