Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Queen of a Far Country

"Who does she think she is," my grandmother would demand of some temporary rival, an upstart at the bridge club or interloper at the women's guild, "the Maharani of Cooch Behar?"

Being a denizen of our local public library, and one addicted to its generous stock of obscure biographies, I eventually discovered that there actually was such a person, sort of:

Her name was Gayatri Devi, and she was actually the Maharani of Jaipur, although she was born a Princess of Cooch Behar. She was a media celebrity in the 40s, and wrote a book of memoirs I remember as being feisty, amusing, and utterly bewildering because of the profusion of incredibly complicated Indian names, titles, and nicknames.

Grandmother undoubtedly ran across her in the fashion magazines or in her favorite, Look. Why the Maharani became her own personal synonym for "uppity" is less clear, one of those mysteries only mildly less intriguing than the Maharani's bewitching gaze.

While my Grandmother is alas long gone, the Maharani of Jaipur - for many years now the Rajmata, or Queen Mother - is still very much with us at just this side of 90.

And somewhere, perhaps, some lady with a grudge is invoking her name. "Who does she think she is..."

1 comment:

  1. "Who does she think she is,the Maharani of Cooch Behar?"

    That's a keeper!