By Richa Chaturvedi:
When I was 15, like all other teens of my age, I was beauty conscious and figure-freak. Struggling with a bulky figure and sun tanned features, I often cursed my luck that why wasn’t I as appealing and gorgeous as some other girls. I spent hours and hours, facing the mirror, trying to enhance my complexion using vapid cosmetics. One day when I was finally demoralized and discouraged, my mother advised me, “Beauty doesn’t lie in your face, your appearance or, the outfits that you put on, it is a light that germinates and maturates within your heart”. Being nescient to this thought, I wasted several years, searching for the factual definition of beauty until I came across the inspiring ‘Memoirs of the Maharani of Jaipur’ – Maharani Gayatri Devi, Rajmata of Jaipur.
As a young lady, Gayatri Devi had everything that a vernal damsel desires for- a charmed life, including multiple fans and followers, an influential Indian monarch swooning over beauty, opulent lifestyle in the palaces of Jaipur, lavish upbringing at Cooch Behar and quality education imparted by the legendary poet, Rabindranath Tagore at Gurukul, West Bengal. She often took the Jaipur Dakota Plane to Delhi, just to get her hair done. However, her life was not just restricted to delicate French Chiffon saris, classy pearl necklaces, regal blue diamonds and trendy hairstyles. It was a complete transformation from a pioneer in Indian fashion to a duteous princess, committed lover, doting mother, consecrated politician, dedicated ruler and a struggling prisoner.
The lady was truly cherished by the world for her unparalleled beauty. She had won 1, 27,000 votes in an online opinion poll organized by Beautifulpeople.com. Elected as the “Fourth most beautiful woman of the last century” by Eastern Voice and counted in the “Ten most beautiful queens of the world” by Vogue magazine, Gayatri Devi was the living example of unsoiled, unmatched, classical Indian Beauty. But, inside this stunning frame, she had a golden heart. Her life was an exciting journey including hardships, struggles and downsides as well.
9th May, 1940 -Â the princess married Sawai Man Singh II of Jaipur and surpassed the conventional barriers of arranged marriage. Her love marriage was a cause of sensational gossip for years because princesses were said to married by parental diktat and, the king already had two wives by then.
15th August 1947 – when the entire country was violently suffering the consequences of India-Pakistan partition, her husband- King Man Singh, made a statement “No Muslim shall ever leave Jaipur! They’re like the hair on my chest.” The Maharani kept up with this statement. Since then, she had been treating both Hindus and Muslims as her own kids, her own flesh and blood.
July 1962 – she was the first ever lady to have won the Lok Sabha seat by 1, 92,909 votes out of 2, 46,516 — A milestone in Indian history. And this was not over yet.
In an interview with Femina in 1968, Gayatri Devi quoted “There is no need to be puritanical in our approach to beauty. I find dumpiness inexcusable. I think that every woman owes it to herself to look pretty, and it is fundamental to her self-respect”. She was successful in curbing the Purdah system practiced by women in Rajasthan. This approach introduced several growth opportunities for women in orthodox Indian society.
July 1967 and 1971 – she kept winning her Lok Sabha elections repeatedly thereby, defeating the Indian National Congress in the process. This was a major cause of rivalry between Gayatri and her long-lost friend and schoolmate Indu (Indira Gandhi-the first female Prime Minister of India). Her privy privileges were dismissed by Gandhi in 1972. However, she was always there by Gandhi’s side, especially during the air accident of Sanjay Gandhi in 1980, thus keeping up with her friendship pledges from time to time.
June 1975 – following the Declaration of National Emergency, Gayatri Devi and her stepson were held prisoners in the Tihar Jail, Delhi; under the allegations of breaking Tax Laws.
6th May, 1977 -Â the former Rajmata made an attempt to fight for the rights of prostitutes, murderess, pickpockets and other prisoners who were leading an unhygienic life within the prison.
April 1999 – she humbly refused to participate in the Lok Sabha elections when she was nominated by the Cooch Behar Trinamool Congress; the reason being, she wanted to spend more time, in the company of the poor.
April 2003 -Â the Maharani made a daring attempt to pay for the treatments of Ali Abbas (a kid of 12 years old) and other victims who were brought to London from Iraq, after the US/Britain invasions.
After the death of her husband in 1970 and her only son King Jagat Singh in 1977, the Maharani has been fighting as a loner. Her family issues were never a source of hindrance in fulfilling her duties as a queen and a politician. She had an untamed, immortal flame within her- a desire to uplift her subjects, a dream to make her people outshine in the world and a wish to contribute for the progress of her nation. This persistent flame was finally extinguished in 29th July 2009, with the death of our Indian Heroine.
Her tale is an inspiration for women today, an exemplar of benevolence, fidelity, valor and sacrifice- prime qualities that define an Indian woman in true sense! In the words of Martin Buxbaum,
“Some people no matter how old they get, never lose their beauty- they merely move it from their faces, into their hearts…”
This quote summarizes the entire life of this Iron Lady. Today, I’ve been able to understand the actual meaning of being “beautiful”. And, I have got a new role model to follow!