Many of us harbour a keen interest in reading memoirs or autobiographies of great personalities. The same memoir can inspire, inform and impact an individual in different possible ways – be it personally or professionally. My recent read, “A Princess Remembers- The Memoirs of the Maharani of Jaipur” by the legendary Gayatri Devi, motivated me to such an extent that I decided to visit Jaipur and live her book for real.
The ‘Jai for Gayatri’ love story
Romeo and Juliet, Layla and Majnun, Elizabeth Bennett and Darcy, and many other love stories from the pages of folklore, history, and literature, see the couple meeting a tragic end while yearning for love. But, the question remains – why are we made to believe that death is the ultimate end for love.
Gayatri Devi and Maharaja Jai Singh’s saga of love is an exceptional story as they live and support each other throughout their lives – both in profession and passion. Death doesn’t mean love, living for it is.
Gayatri Devi was in love with Maharaja Jai Singh, who already had two wives. Meanwhile, her dating life was a glorious story in the streets of London. But the duo got married and lived happily in love. Throughout her memoir, it’s evident how her husband believed and encouraged her to achieve her dream of reforming the society for better.
Gayatri Devi – The woman who rewrote history
Gayatri Devi was the princess of Cooch Behar, who pursued most of her education in various parts of the world. She had modern thoughts and was not a believer in the ‘Purdah’ system. To raise awareness among the women in and around Jaipur, she started a school, ‘Maharani Gayatri Devi School’, where she supported the education of young girls and encouraged them to build the life of their dreams.
During my visit to Jaipur, I went to experience the evolution of women’s freedom and life in the city. It’s not an obligation to visit only tourist places, this is what I strongly felt when I visited the school built by Gayatri Devi, still shaping many futures.
Walls speak in terms of science more than history
Usually, palaces, forts, and historical monuments depict the legacy of the place or the rich heritage which the ancestral hierarchy believed in. But, I found how the palaces and forts in Jaipur adapted science in their construction, not merely focusing on the design and ornamentation. From water irrigation systems to climate-compatible housing architecture, the palaces have it all.
In one of the chapters of her memoir – ‘Further Change’ – Gayatri Devi writes about the Meena tribals who guarded the Jaigarh Fort when income Tax officers raided the property. It showed how the community stood by the Maharaja always. Today, UNESCO has made efforts to conserve the Meena tribal community to cherish the art and culture of their life. There are about 860 tribal families residing now in the premises of Amer Fort, working on their famous artworks.
Anything that inspires is an encouraging element for life. Gayatri Devi’s story is not the quintessential success story of someone who comes from nothing but strives to achieve everything in life. Rather, Gayatri Devi was an exceptional personality, whose memoir captures the determination and efforts of a Maharani to bring in a positive change in the lives of the people of Jaipur and beyond. Her life in the palace to her struggles in the prison is a strong example for a woman to understand and lead a successful life.