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Srikanta Wadiyar: The Bangalorean Who Would Not Be King

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The first time I encountered a Wadiyar was the former Maharaja, Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar.

He sat in the back of a sleek, black convertible (a Rolls, maybe?) in a convoy down MG Road and next to him stood the queen of England, Elizabeth. I wrote about this earlier. (Read, "I Wonder If Queen Elizabeth Remembers Smelling MG Road", June 21, 2013).

I was almost two at the time.

The successor to the former maharaja was also a kid at the time, older than I—he must have been about eight years old, Srikanta Datta Wadiyar.

He died yesterday.

The first time I saw Mr Wadiyar, the son, (and the new Maharaja of Mysore, if only in title), was sometime in the mid-90s, when our cars passed each other on Mysore Road. I was driving my Maruti 800, coming back from a trip to Jungle Hut and he was in a larger car, heading towards Mysore.

He sat in the front next to his driver and so I could tell he was reading a copy of "Chicken Soup For The Soul".

Briefly, I wondered why.

The abolition of the monarchy in India besides, I thought of Mr Wadiyar’s immense wealth. His father, JC Wadiyar, had been accorded the status of a 21-gun salute king, by the British.

Only three kingdoms in India were given this privilege – Hyderabad, Mysore and Baroda. (Although J&K and Gwalior were included later.)

This was a big deal back then.

Here's what Wiki says about it:

"When the ruler of a princely state arrived at the Indian capital (originally at Calcutta (Kolkata), then at Delhi), he was greeted with a number of gun-firings. The number of these consecutive "gun salutes" changed from time to time, being increased or reduced depending on the degree of honour which the British chose to accord to a given ruler. The number of gun salutes accorded to a ruler was usually a reflection of the state of his relations with the British and/or his perceived degree of political power; a 21-gun salute was considered the highest.

In the month of December 1911, a durbar was held to commemorate the Coronation of King George V with guns firing almost all day. H.E.H. The Nizam of Hyderabad was the highest with 23 gun salutes. At that time there were two Princely States that were given 21 gun salutes. These were: H.H. The Maharaja (Gaekwad) of Baroda State; H.H. The Maharaja of Mysore. Apart from these three, no other Princely State was given 21-gun salutes."

Whew.

My dad was a junior officer in Canara Bank and we stood happily on MG Road and my mother pointed out the queen to me. Srikanta’s dad, meanwhile, was getting 21-gun salutes and with it, the pomp and pageantry of being the king. And if the monarchy had not been abolished three years before he was born, Srikanta would have inherited the 21-gun salute.

So you can tell that I was briefly flummoxed that the first time I set eyes on the man who would have been king, he was reading a pop-philosophy paperback.

I narrowly avoided being swatted off the “highway” by a meandering 10-ton capacity truck carrying a load of rocks that must have weighed about 15 tons. The truck driver was trying to overtake an autorickshaw and had moved into the wrong side of the road, headlong into oncoming traffic. (Nothing unusual. Just saying...)

Nothing wrong with anyone reading "Chicken Soup..." - or any book that imparts Toltec wisdom, or does not impart it—but like many people, I am amazed that those in the upper strata of life would read books, drive cars, express brand preferences or be able to do any of the mundane tasks we regular joes must do - especially, someone who had been gypped out of a kingdom and a 21-gun salute.

Of course, I was just happy to have spotted him and I immediately remembered seeing his father and the q of e.

Over the years, I met Mr Wadiyar at public functions. Once I went up to him in International Departures and he told me he was going to the UK to get treated for an ailment. He told me what the ailment was. I thought it was endearing he would share. (Again, 21-gun salute, yo...)

And then, there was the time he said something nice about us for our 10th Anniversary. We had requested a lot of famous Bangaloreans to talk about this magazine and he wrote to us and said he enjoyed our magazine and gave us permission to quote him.

The last time I met him was at the opening of a luxury goods store - some stupid fru-fru brand, where a wallet cost Rs 35,000. It was a private party at the West End and Sachin Tendulkar was in attendance, looking like he was there only because someone had paid him to be there.

One guest, an oenophile, came up to me and asked me what I was drinking. I replied, "Diet Coke". He berated me for having given up drinking. He told me wine was good for my heart. He irritated me. I looked around for a way to escape.

And nearby, stood Mr Wadiyar. He smirked knowingly, but slightly, at this exchange. (Regal people do everything slightly. When the Nawab of Pataudi captained India, he used the briefest finger gestures to order his men around the field. Unlike non-king captains, who wave their arms like out-of-sync windmills.)

We exchanged smiles and I walked up to greet him.

I noticed that he had on a green jacket and on its breast pocket there was a crest and a designation.

It read, "Secretary, Karnataka State Cricket Association".

Seriously? That’s what he was proud of?

The irony did not escape me.

I would think instead that any Secretary of the KSCA would want to wear a jacket with an insignia that reads, "King".

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Ramjee Chandran is Editor-in-Chief and MD of Explocity.
rc@explocity.com (E-mail).
@ramjeechandran on Twitter.