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November 7th, 2017

Remembering the reclusive Prince in his forest palace

With the death of the last remaining member of the family who claimed to be descendants of the deposed King of Oudh, the mystery surrounding the ruined “palace” where they lived in the middle of a Delhi forest draws to a sad close.

I’d shared with you on Sunday the news of the death of the Prince – here’s the link, in case you didn’t read my original piece.

Actually, if you haven’t read the original blog post, do please take a couple of minutes to read it now, since it puts the following interesting story into perspective.

One of my friends, Eva Sud, mentioned that she had met the Prince many years ago, and she kindly wrote down her memories here, to share with us all.

This is an amazing glimpse into the secluded life of these recluses, all those years ago.

“On a sunny December morning in the late 1970s I was told by my aunt K that we would be visiting a friend of hers. On hearing the background story of the person we were going to meet I was immediately intrigued and left with a feeling of excitement and apprehension.

We set off for the Ridge Forest and once there made our way up a rocky and neglected path, through thorny shrubbery, towards a rundown looking palace barely visible through the undergrowth. There was no one in sight and it made us feel more like unwelcome intruders when we were greeted by a volley of ferocious barking from a pack of aggressive looking chained canines.

On hearing the commotion a slight figure emerged from the shadows of a ruined arch. K was greeted warmly but I was given only a cursory contemptuous glance. The young man expressed a desire to speak with K in private and I was left in the shadows of a dilapidated passage while they moved away.

Timidly walking forward into a cavernous parlour I could see beautiful Persian carpets strewn everywhere. I noticed elegant silverware arranged on a shabby ‘majoos’ or sideboard. Antique artefacts were placed randomly all over the room. I would have loved to have examined them more closely but was too nervous and ill at ease to do so. No doors or windows offered any protection from the biting December chill and I remember shivering in the strangely eerie environment.

I hesitantly tiptoed ahead into a dark alcove and came across an imperious looking old lady sitting alone on a divan which was draped with an exotic looking rug. She did not return my hesitant greeting or acknowledge me in any way which made me feel even more awkward than I already was.

I crept quietly back to the entrance and watched through the crumbling façade for any sign of K and the young man. I heaved a sigh of relief when fifteen minutes later I saw them strolling back still in deep conversation. K gestured for me to come down to where they were and announced we would be leaving. The young man still did not acknowledge me in any way and I realised that for some reason I did not exist for either mother or son.

Whenever I read an article about the late Begum Wilayat Mahal of Oudh and her family it brings to mind this strange encounter which somehow left an indelible impression on my mind. K never told me what we were there for or what had been discussed which somehow added to the mystique of that strange day.”

Eva, thank you SO much for sharing this story.

Now you need to share it on your own blog, too!

The Times of India has an interesting article online today about the death of the Prince, as well as an extremely indifferent video.

There’s not much in the TOI story that hasn’t been reported elsewhere, whereas Eva’s story is firsthand.

And all the more poignant for it.

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