Excerpt: Maharani by Ruskin Bond | books | Hindustan Times
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Excerpt: Maharani by Ruskin Bond

books Updated: Oct 03, 2012 16:55 IST

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The Terai jungles were far more extensive then than they are now. So keen was His Highness on having a young tiger for a pet that he actually engaged the services of Jim Corbett, the celebrated big-game hunter, in his efforts to obtain one.

Corbett specialized in hunting man-eaters (or so he tells us in his books), but he was always ready to oblige royalty, and they would sometimes engage him to supervise VIP shikar parties—like the one for Lord Linlithgow, viceroy, in which a couple of tigers had to be rounded up and driven in the direction of the great man, who fired at them from the safety of his elephant’s howdah. If he missed (and it often happened) Corbett would be conveniently placed to fire the fatal shot, attributing it to the guest of honour. He had, poor man, to make a living.

It was while the sport-loving Maharaja was away on his many forays into the forests of north India that his Maharani, bored with palace life and the novels of Baroness Orczy, whose Scarlet Pimpernel regularly saved the lives of French royalty during the Revolution, took to taking long drives around the surrounding countryside in her Hillman Minx (or sometimes Sunbeam-Talbot), the latest in fast cars.

The State employed three drivers, and the Maharani’s favourite was Gafoor, a good-looking, good-natured Muslim youth who had been recommended by the Nawab of Dhol. Gafoor was the ideal employee—competent, courteous, willing to please, and exuding sex appeal.

From sitting in the back seat, the Maharani took to sitting in the front seat, beside the driver. It gave her a better view of the countryside, she said. (And a better view of Gafoor’s handsome profile.) She left the palace seated at the back, but once they were out of town she transferred to the front of the car.

If a sex-starved Maharani has to spend several hours a day in the company of a virile young driver, she is bound to become attached to him.

Those drives into the countryside became more intimate. There were stops at small towns where the Maharani was anonymous. They dined together at dhabas and small cafés where royalty would never think of dining. And one evening, when the car broke down, they were forced to spend a night at a small hotel outside Saharanpur. They took separate rooms. But when, on retiring for the night, the Maharani complained of a headache, Gafoor was there with a small container of Oriental Balm which he applied gently to his employer’s fevered brow.

It served only to make her more feverish. She sighed and moaned as his beautiful but rough fingers caressed her forehead, her temples, the lobes of her ears. His hands went to her breasts, his lips to her welcoming mouth. Five minutes of frantic kissing, and then they flung aside their garments, embraced, thrust at each other like gladiators lusting for love rather than blood.

Hers was a thirst that could not be quenched. The Maharaja had given her a son but little else. Years of loveless lovemaking had made her vulnerable to the first real lover who had come her way. Gafoor fitted the role perfectly. Well endowed, considerate, willing to give as much pleasure as he took, he was the ideal foil for this neglected but passionate princess. While His Highness hunted elusive tigers, his chauffeur tamed a real tigress in his master’s very own den.