Thursday, July 30, 2009

Gayatri Devi fades away... so does beauty....

The Curse of Beauty

The world will never know what the legendary beauty Gayatri Devi felt when she saw herself in the mirror – sixty years ago, when she had the world swooning at her feet…. and a few months ago, when she still had the world swooning at… at…. the memory. Gayatri Devi spent her adult life frozen in a single frame – that one defining image which was imprinted in our imagination. Like a lot of Living Legends, she too may have been tragically trapped in a construct she could never ever shed - “ The Most Beautiful Woman in the World.” This label became her claim to fame – regardless of what else she may have achieved in her rich and varied public life. Gayatri Devi was the Ultimate Maharani – the lady who personified ‘Royalty’. It was her special burden. Maybe it was also her secret joke. Every chhota-mota ‘princess’, whether from ‘Kadkanagar’ or some other rival ‘State’, strenuously tried to imitate the elegance of Gayatri Devi’s trademark chiffon sarees combined with a string of pearls. But nobody matched up. Nobody!
It must have been pretty tiring for her to live up to people’s expectations of her – but if the whole Beauty Talk bored her to tears, she didn’t reveal it, choosing to laugh it off, instead. The people of Jaipur adored her - most of them, at any rate. Given the complex politics of the Pink City, Gayatri Devi negotiated her way past those deadly landmines with admirable dexterity. She had her enemies, within and outside her family. But unlike other warring Royals, she handled her life with supreme dignity and grace. Palace politics were cleverly contained, her personal griefs (several!) rarely revealed, and her private misgivings, shared with but a few close confidantes.
I had met Gayatri Devi a few times over the years, and found her unbelievably down to earth, far from aloof and disarmingly ‘real’. Most people were awestruck, even dumbstruck in her presence. If she noticed their discomfort, she instantly reached out and put them at ease without patronizing anybody. She showed her true class and impeccable upbringing dealing with ‘her people’ – simple villagers who continued to flock to their Rajmata, confident she’d help them if she could. Her smokey, throaty voice added to the allure and mystique still further. Talking to her, it was easy to tell she was a woman who had LIVED. A woman who had experienced life in all its complexities. This Cinderella story was not without its warts.In her book, “ A Princess Remembers,” she had recalled with rare poignancy and candour that at the end of the day, even the World’s Most Beautiful Woman places her head on a pillow…. and silently weeps. Today, we mourn the death of Eternal Beauty. May her soul rest in peace.
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The flight from Bhuvaneshwar had barely touched down when the phone calls started. Gayatri Devi had slipped away.... and with her an entire era had also ended. Two days earlier, another legendary beauty, Leela Naidu, had died a lonely death in her Colaba flat. Sometimes, only a cliche says it best - they don't make them like that anymore.
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As was expected, my whirlwind trip to Orissa went by in a flash and a blur of lovely memories. What does an award -winning writer do on a loooong flight?? Two guesses. Both will be wrong! Amitav Ghosh spent most of his time swatting flies! It must have been acutely frustrating for him, since he was also trying to write ( no laptop, yellow writing pads, fountain pen, much scratching, chopping , changing - I was openly spying!!). But when the Indian Airlines plane landed at Raipur (hopping flight), we picked up monster flies which swarmed the cabin and buzzed over Amitav's tousled, silver grey crop of hair. Poor guy battled the menace through the next hour, before finally giving up.
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I wasn't sure I was ready to listen to a local guide taking Arundhati and moi through the 'meaning' of those explicit and highly erotic Konarak sculptures. But the person turned out to be a really discreet gentleman, who rushed us past the more kinky ones and concentrated on the harmless dance panels. Earlier, we had watched the angry sea outside our bay windows. The Mayfair Hotel is right on the beach at Puri, and very interestingly designed using local material.
Our darshan at the Jagannath Mandir took place late at night. It was a hair-raisingly sublime experience. Especially the time spent in the Mahalakshmi temple just after the bhog ceremony. I feel so very blessed....

20 comments:

Roshni said...

Seems u had a nice time at Orissa ...the Puri sea beach is so soothing and relaxing!
the fly story was funny...it indeed was!

Balvinder Singh said...

Bhell Come Back.

The abstract scientist said...

I just read the Rajmata Gayatri Devi news. Yes indeed, it is an end to a great era.

Ritwik said...

Shobhaa,

It is indeed sad to her about Maharani Gayatri Devi. I have been meaning to write to you about how much I enjoy your blog and reading your views on social isus. I would love to read your views on the lack of good writers in India. Take a look at Indian films. I want to read what you think of the whole aspect of remaking and copying movie ideas and storylines from Hollywood and regional films.

*Aham* said...

Gayatri Devi has some kind of earthiness in her and still, she seems like a dream. Her eyes and that poignant look is so very royal.

Her loss would be felt profoundly.
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Leela Naidu.. i am sure many dont know who she is. Cinema for most is Bebo and Kat and Deeps... and I dont see as many people fond of yester cinema these days... baring a few...

Now though there is this new and very promising trend.... of film makers that's coming in.. many still believe that formula bhandarkar is what is meaningful cinema.

Leela was another royal beauty. her Indo-French hybrid looks her foreign roots. How strange, both these ladies - Gayatri Devi and Leela Naidu featured in the list of most beautiful ladies in the world... and both died together.

Another Kiran In NYC said...

I am sorry for the world's loss of anyone... Gayatri Devi and Leela Naidu included. Everyone has a dubious contribution to the enticing madness that makes up the "duniya".

I am sure Gayatri Devi did some good in her own extremely remote, and anachronistically "royal" way... MGD school and a jail stint in opposition to Gandhi Memsaab Sr during the emergency. I suppose we must genuflect to that royal magnanimity. I am on my skinned knees already!

However truly I cannot share the admiration for anything more than her beauty. I have watched a few rarely shown (I think they are just archived now) BBC TV interviews of her in her heyday up until the late 70's and I was really quite appalled at the extremely patronizing and completely out of touch with reality attitudes presented as her public facade.

Without waving a laal jhanda complete with hammer and sickle, I can safely say those words coming from her own mouth, completely underlined the blood sucking, serf raping, responsibility shirking exploitive landlords/royals mentality of those the wily British made rich and ever more "royal" for thier administrative purposes.

Her son's and her patronizing and misjudged attitudes of noblesse oblige in those interviews really made my stomach churn. Where she could have done good in an Independent India... a sustained stint for a long period even if in the opposition and truly representing "her(?)" people was abandoned before it came to full fruitition. Such dillitanteism! With her influence she could have done so very much for the women of Rajasthan and social prejiduices against them but did not.

I will mourn for a very beautiful woman who wore chiffon and pearls well.

Puri sounds wonderful! Pictures?

mauve said...

Thank you for the wonderful piece Mam.
And I would like to join you in wishing that the beautiful one rests in peace and love that one is sure she missed since long.


Rest in peace, love and relief
HH Maharani of Jaipur Gayatri Devi.

milind said...

Hi,

Two stunning beauties passed away back to back. May both rest in peace.

I maintain again, the way you write is simple and interesting,just love it. We are still looking forward to your posts and pics on Europe tour.

Regards,

ek-ladki-anjaani-si said...

Another K... All I have to say is, you had to meet her. You had to be in her presence! She was the Queen of the people. I met and spoke to her several times at my time in MGD. She was just like Shobha said, they don't make them like her any more :-D For the rest of my personal comments... read the comment I left on FB for you LOL ;-) Have a great trip... see you in India.
Puri... now there we agree on! Shobha, I need some too!
Aham... here we come baby, both me and AKNYC. You will need to pick one.. wink wink!

narendra shenoy said...

Another K - You speak for me! I had the same feeling when I saw the palace of the Gwalior Royals, with rows and rows of their scions sucking up to the British. Disgusting.

SHe was really stylish though. And sometimes, even the life of a princess can be sad.

Amit414@IT-BHU said...

Gayatri Devi's demise is end of beautiful and great era. Really her compassionte behaviour and down to earth nature has made her earthly beauty to celestial one....

Anil Kumar said...

Bloody hell...I heard her name once but didn't know that she is so dear to some of the older folks. After death everyone talks how great she was. Just read today that she was the third wife. That could well be the reason that she was not such a public figure.

Noel said...

Maharani Gayatri Devi was truly the epitome of Indian beauty.
she proved her efficiency after registering largest victory margin in 1962 loksabha elections-approved by guiness book of world records

murkasu said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kala said...

Another Kiran represents a more realistic view of Gayatri Devi. Really, she did not go beyond. If one do not use one's education and background properly and in the right direction, all that remains will be an empty beautiful shell. As for beauty and gracefulness, I rather prefer the friendliness and earthiness of the very antithesis Jassi. Beauty has some coldness and somehow it lacks genuine warmth. What is so special about her crying or other bodily functions? She is as mortal as anybody and her privileged circumstances added all that glitz and glamour. 90 is an age where death is more close than life and the much admired Gayatri died long back. Her body completed the ordeal 2 days back. Am I sounding too cynical and cold? We have too many VIPs making all the others inconsequential.

Heeral (Nairobi) said...

Hello, fasninating gayatri devi lived. she was exquisite but cant help feel that despite the richness of her life she died lonely.

have you ever considered responding to blogees comments in the manner the BigB does? might be an idea?

TGIF!

yappyways said...

I tend to agree with Another Kiran. Gayatri Devi was an icon(saw her b/w pics while smoking cigarette), a genuine beauty who lived a charmed life. All this is fine but it was quite personal and explicit. On an implicit level there's not a lot documented nor detailed regarding her involvement with broader issues like education, poverty, deprivation, health etc. Sure there are accounts of her association with certain NGO's and women's issues, but that I guess any royalty will be obliged to do to remain in the frame in post independent India.

cmpershad said...

Although it is said that a thing of beauty is joy for ever but no body can stop the decaying process. A thing that blooms has to decay and that is the nature of nature!May the souls of Gayatri Devi and Leela Naidu rest in peace.

krish said...

Indeed vry sad to hea abt Rajmata..............its been a bad year first MJ thn Rajmata.......R.I.P Rajmata gyatri devi.


yr flight was scary..........dread such an experience....


Orissa is indeed beautiful.........


Luv


Krish

Sidhusaaheb said...

It was quite amazing how the Rajmata chose to age gracefully, rather than resort to surgery or even hair-dye.

:)