Obituary – Rajmata Prafulla Manjari Devi

She was a queen and died like a queen on the morning of January 8, with a grand procession marching with her to the cremation grounds – Mangardaha Ghat on banks of the River Koel at Daltonganj. My grandma was 103 years old.

And with her ended a very long and amazing chapter in the history of Chainpur Estate, one of the prominent royal families of Chota Nagpur Region in Jharkhand, India.

Princess Prafulla Manjari Devi, the third daughter of the Ruling Chief of Kharsawan (Raja Ram Chandra Singh Deo) loved and celebrated life just like Krishna, her ishtdeva. In her anecdotes, she would talk about those blissful girlhood days she had spent at Kharsawan that included travels, visits to Calcutta theatres, swimming lessons, education, elaborate religious ceremonies and a life of luxury.

After marrying my grandfather, Raja Brijdeo Narain Singh in 1941, her life took a new turn. She often told us that my grandfather looked so handsome as a bridegroom that people came in huge numbers at Kharsawan just to have a look at him. There was a train booked for the baraat and the marriage was recorded on a movie camera at that time. Otherwise all the elaborate ceremonies were a blur for her as she had to sit covered from head to toe with ornaments and bridal wear.

Accompanied by the usual retinue of cooks, servants and maids, she came to live at Chainpur fort and experienced a huge cultural change. My grandfather’s side observed purdah and ladies did not show their faces. She often smiled talking about how she was expected to walk, talk and live a veiled life in the royal household.

Communication was another issue. My grandma spoke Oriya and broken Hindi while no one in her new home knew the language. But her mother-in-law (my great grandmother) was kind enough to let her have the upper floor of the Garh where she was free to live comfortably and interact with her personal Oriya speaking staff.

Gradually, times changed, and the family moved to Chainpur Bungalow at Daltonganj town, a short distance from Chainpur. By this time, India had become free from British rule and was declared a democracy.

All the princely states got integrated into the country. My grandma adjusted to the changed and moved on to focus on education and subsequent marriages of her eight children.

After the death of my grandfather in 1977, she faced some great challenges, but the iron lady did not crumble under pressure. Instead she laughed at it all. She spent most part of her life at Daltonganj amongst grand kids and great grand kids.

She was a champion for girls education and donated land for school, hospitals and public welfare.

Towards the end of her life, she moved back to Chainpur, where she had once lived as a blushing new bride and breathed her last there. She felt no pain as she passed away in her sleep, surrounded by family.

Thus, ended the life of my grandma whose ringing laughter made people smile. She was regal, strong and spiritually exalted – the gift she passed on to subsequent generations. She is survived by three sons, four daughters and grandchildren. She will be sorely missed and mourned by all the family members of Chainpur.

Dadi Ma, we will not forget all the lessons you taught us and how you touched our lives in your own way. Hari Bol!

(Images contributed by Family)

(To read one of the anecdotes, click here.)

(To read Hindi newspapers article on her, click here)

Shashibala, The Brave Servant Girl!

I felt as if I had walked along that bridge, a long time ago, in a different age. Strange! That was my first visit to the historic Fort in a small town called Monger.

The guide went on and on describing every little detail about the kings and queens. But I was not listening! The lake was holding me in a trance.

I was seeing a pitiable face down in the lake, crying out to me, asking me to rescue her. 

Instinctively, I screamed, “Hang on girl, I will help!”. 

“Who needs help? Are you okay?,” the guide asked me. I nodded with some embarrasment.

Later in the tour, the guide showed us the portrait of a brave servant girl who had drowned in the lake while saving a princess from drowning. 

It all came back to me. I looked closer and whispered – Shashibala!!!

(This post is dedicated to the maid, who saved my grandmother from drowning. When my grandmother was a little girl, she used to swim using an inverted earthen pot (matki), which slipped out of her hand on that fateful day. The brave girl died saving her.)

This is my entry to the flash fiction challenge, Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers hosted by the lovely Priceless Joy. We are given a photo prompt and approximately 75-175 words with which to create our stories. This challenge is open to all who would like to participate. Please CLICK HERE for more. Thank you Joy Pixley for the image!

Anecdote – Lesson by my grandma!

My grandma is a grand old lady nearing a century. If you look at her, she may appear formidable in the beginning and then a ringing laughter would ensue, dismantling the image you had conjured up in your mind. The fact is, she is both formidable as well as light hearted. A unique, delightful combination!

Born and brought up in a royal family ( Kharsawan, Jharkhand), she has always had that regal bearing. She believes in maintaining distance from her kids, grand kids, great grand kids as well as recently added a great great grand kid. And we are all supposed to behave in her presence. We rise when she enters the room and remain respectful in her presence.

During my childhood years, we lived with her, so, we had the opportunity to observe her from the closest quarters. I discovered her lighter side later in life. Initially, I was apprehensive of her. She commanded and the household ran according to her. But as I grew up, I discovered the lighter, fun side of her personality. There have been many instances when she would have us in splits.

Here is one such incident. One of our cousins was going to meet a prospective bridegroom. In arranged marriages in India, girls and guys are introduced by their families, they meet up, chat and then a decision is taken unanimously. 

So, this cousin was both excited as well as scared before her first meeting. Our granny called her and said, “If you like this man, try to do little something to make him fall for you.”

We were seeing another aspect of our grandma. We all asked, “what?”. She immediately showed us how to woo a husband – “Look sideways at him and then look down… blush… look up again at him… look down and blush again. And then smile juuust a little.” We doubled up with laughter!

I don’t know whether my cousin looked sideways at the prospective groom or not but they ended up getting married!

(Sharing a picture of my grandparents)

I look up to my grand old lady because she always had the audacity to laugh at all challenges that came in her life. In her almost 100 years of life, she has seen many ups and downs. All her peers are long gone now, times have changed but she has remained strong.

I adore her because she is quite broad minded, child like and her booming laughter lightens the most serious of situations. A great devotee of Krishna, she follows what the playful God  says – to celebrate life as it is!

Long live my grandma!

The Cigarette Queen

 image

“I saw a cigarette smoking a man,

She inhaled life out of his frail form.

A thick smog covered her entire being,

She smelt from death of living things.

How vainly, did the murderess walk,

Reigning supreme over her addicted flock.

Never any mercy was shown to them,

She blackened their lungs, one by one.

Mercilessly thriving on putrid flesh,

She offered nothing but disease and stress.

The skeletons followed her blindly to death,

Ignoring cigarette smoking is injurious to health.”

(We never smoke, the cigarette smokes lives out of us. Let’s not ignore the pleadings of our loved ones and dependants.  Our life force is stronger than a cigarette. We can fight addiction. Quit smoking NOW)

Image courtesy Google