M M KAYE honoured with the

JAMES TOD International Award

Rekindled - India's Romance With The Raj
24 March 2003, Financial Express

The glittering Udaipur City Palace of the erstwhile Maharanas of Mewar provided a magnificent backdrop to the resurrection of an Indian past hitherto tucked away in dusty history books and romance novels. And befittingly, it was left to present day royalty, HRH Arvind Singh Mewar, to bind together two, distinct threads running through the British Raj - a fusion which serves not only to their mutual advantage but also to that of India's heritage.

Rewind to 1818 when 24-year old James Tod became the first political agent appointed by the British to the state of Mewar (now a part of Rajasthan). Tod, during his four year-long tour of duty at the Royal Court in Udaipur, emerged not only as an able administrator but also a personal friend of then Maharana, Bhim Singh.

The fruits of this friendship were to hold great significance for the Mewaris: The warrior state benefitted from a treaty signed with the British that provided them military protection against hostile forces and Tod's grasp over matters economic, enabled the less business-savvy Maharana to double Mewar's economy within those four years. More importantly, perhaps, the Englishman's keen interest in the land's history, people and culture led to an incredible two-volume academic masterpiece - the first encyclopaedic account of the history of Rajputana, Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan - upon his return to England. Cut to early 1960s when a grand-daughter, daughter and wife of Englishmen who had all served the Raj began spinning a web of similarly gigantic proportions.

Born and raised in India, M M (Mollie) Kaye - a pucca memsahib - took 15 years to give India another literary masterpiece. This time a fictional, historical novel, The Far Pavilions. The epic, which chronicled the romance between a firangi captain in the British army and an Indian princess, went on to sell more than 15 million copies.

Translated into 16 languages, this singular work fired Western and Eastern imaginations such that Kaye earned herself a place with Rudyard Kipling, Jim Corbett, E M Forster and Paul Scott as a creator of unforgettable images of the Raj. Today, 94 year-old Kaye lives a retired life in Suffolk, England, but as in Tod's case, she too continues to be remembered by modern-day Udaipur.

Kaye visited the Venice of The East as part of a research trip for The Far Pavilions and the present Maharana's mother, Rajmata Sushila Kumari, generously provided her with insights into royal Rajput life. The same were immortalised in the characters she created in her book.

Cut to March 2003: Managing trustee of the Maharana Mewar Charitable Foundation, Arvind Singh Mewar, presents the James Tod award (instituted in 1996) to Mollie Kaye "to honour her for her outstanding (literary)contribution reflecting the spirit and values of Mewar". In the city to accept the award on her mother's behalf, daughter Nicola Hamilton shares his sentiments. "India was and is home for mother. She saw India through an Indian eye, not a European one", she says softly.

Hear Hamilton talk about her mother's Indian friends, her command over Hindi, her ability to capture the 'taste, smell and feel' of India and you almost see Mollie nod at Tod's words - "To see humanity under every aspect, and to observe the influence of different creeds upon man in his social capacity, must ever be one of the highest sources of mental enjoyment".

Hamilton is clearly emotional. "Mother found contentment here. This (award) is her last connection with India, it's made India come alive for her." But she wrestles pride with regret.  "In the autobiography that never got written, Mum wanted to say 'Don't believe everything you hear about those times. I was there – both these great lands evolved together for mutual benefit"', she half whispers. "To those back home who're too PC (politically correct) about the Raj, Tod and mum prove that colonialism wasn't all bad." The Far Pavilions celebrates its silver jubilee this year - and Mollie Kaye can rest assured her beloved India gets her final message.

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