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Once a Prince of Sarila: Of Palaces and Tiger Hunts, Of Nehrus and Mountbattens

Narendra Singh Sarila
I. B. Tauris
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From Amazon: Princely India in the 1930s and 40s enjoyed a golden age which already seems immeasurably distant from the thriving, modern nation of today. These were halcyon days of bejewelled and eccentric Maharajas; life in marble palaces mirrored in lakes or in mighty stone fortresses on craggy hills; tiger hunts on elephant back and elephant hunts on horseback; and lavish house parties ringing with the sound of polo and music and laughter. As heir apparent to the central Indian kingdom of Sarila, Narendra Singh Sarila was born into the very heart of this society and his life offers a unique vista on a vanished world. The author enjoyed a wonderfully privileged childhood in what remained a traditional, feudal state even as the call for democratic change was being heard elsewhere on the subcontinent. This warm and unsentimental personal history beautifully evokes life at the end of the British Raj in vivid and colorful detail. But it also reveals how, despite their position, Singh and his family embraced the changes occasioned by Independence and adapted rapidly to its new demands. In 1947, at the age of just 21, Singh put his childhood concerns firmly behind him when he became Aide de Camp to Lord Mountbatten, the last British Governor General of India. From inside the Mountbattens’ household, Singh occupied a unique position both within and without the British government. Once a Prince in Sarila draws on his experiences and his detailed diaries from the period and includes intimate and revealing portraits of Lord Mountbatten and his wife, Edwina, as well as the many important visitors they received--including Jawarhalal Nehru and Sardar Patel among other top civil and military leaders, both British and Indian. Once a Prince in Sarila is a unique history of a forgotten world and Singh is a sensitive and perceptive guide to India’s transition from British rule to independent nation.