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A royal picture that clicked

chandigarh Updated: Nov 14, 2013 10:18 IST
Rajbir Deswal

This photo belongs to an era gone by. Marked by a zeitgeist of its own. Torn at the corners due to the brittleness of its texture, but not of the content. Who would have thought then that all that it showed would not remain, but only this glossy sheet of paper, to showcase a reality that at one time stood so starkly obtaining, that capturing it and making it freeze on paper, would have slipperiness of time slid over it quietly, passing it off as a 'had-been' tag, kept tied to it only for posterity, to be referred to once in a while by someone down the lineage, who did care to frame it all, but that too gave way, the way it is now. Well, I found this group photo in which my grandfather Chaudhary Maha Singh is seen with the then Maharaja of Jind, then a princely state.

The last heir who annexed Jind to India was Raja Rajbir Singh. Dada Ji had an interesting story to tell about this photograph that had us in splits then. But let me make you wait for that. Well, exactly on the face of Dada Ji are now found scratches on the picture. My father explained that one of my Bua Jis took so much pride and thrill in showing to strangers the picture of her uncle, and my grandfather, that every time putting her finger on it, she scratched the face, saying, "Here, here is my Chacha, with the king!" There are many others in here who still make an appearance of being once in form. They don improvised apparel of their own-Anglo-Indian. Combining the tie and the headgear even if it was a pugree. Also wearing a flap-coat on a dhoti. The waist-jacket got turned into an ang-rakhi and pantaloons into a pyjama. Generally, all in the photos flaunt Rajasthani-style moustaches and beards but there are a couple of clean-shaven faces of young British officers as well.

Here goes Dada Ji's story about this group photo. He along with other Alambardars of Jind state was summoned to the Maharaja's durbar. He never wore a shervani and a pajami which he had to get purpose-made for the occasion since the royals had prescribed a dress code. Band-gala suffocated him while wearing a pajami was almost impractical, for he was never accustomed to wearing a string around his waist, holding the apparel held on.

Myani, the arch-shaped extra cloth on the thighs was all confusing. When an announcement was made for all to assemble on the ramparts of the Maharaja's place, Dada Ji struggled to put his legs into the pajami. With great difficulty he could put one leg, when the last and final call was announced. He hurried through the effort, making the string go out of the sewn-tunnel meant for it. But to have a picture with the king could not be given a miss at any cost, so holding his loose on-the-waist pajami, pressure-tucked with hands from over his shervani, he approached the line-up. And here, here was my Dada Ji with the king!