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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 part 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.   


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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 part 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.   

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

  1. 4 out of 5

    Harper Sutherland

    A memoir of a prince of a tiny state, Sarila, now in Madhya Pradesh. Contains very interesting material on the author's time at Mayo College, an English-style boarding school for many of India's princes during the colonial period. The author has an odd viewpoint that is not quite nationalist in the Congress vein, but also pragmatic of the declining power & hegemony of the princes. I would have enjoyed more discussion on the author's life after independence and less on tiger hunts. I've read sever A memoir of a prince of a tiny state, Sarila, now in Madhya Pradesh. Contains very interesting material on the author's time at Mayo College, an English-style boarding school for many of India's princes during the colonial period. The author has an odd viewpoint that is not quite nationalist in the Congress vein, but also pragmatic of the declining power & hegemony of the princes. I would have enjoyed more discussion on the author's life after independence and less on tiger hunts. I've read several princely memoirs and this one is remarkable in the author's involvement in major events in princely Indian history (his time at Mayo College & observations on the process of integration). His Indian nationalist pragmatism is also notable, meaning that the author isn't trying to convince you of the deep love & commitment to justice between a maharaja and their subjects, and that princely rule was a completely valid and legitimate form of government that was unnecessarily ended. This would be more characteristic of a memoir like <> by Vijayaraje Scindia, which despite its hilarious faults, I would still recommend above this one.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mukul Bhatnagar

    The book is definitely a good read. The author is intelligent, with keen interest in politics, architecture and history. He has given a first hand account of the lives of Indian royalty during pre-independence days- their palaces & forts, cars, lifestyle and hunts, their place and tribulations in the new, emerging India, the realtionship between Pt Nehru and Lady Mountbatten, Lord Mountbatten's influence over the Indian leadership which is all true to the book's title. N S Sarila has also made a The book is definitely a good read. The author is intelligent, with keen interest in politics, architecture and history. He has given a first hand account of the lives of Indian royalty during pre-independence days- their palaces & forts, cars, lifestyle and hunts, their place and tribulations in the new, emerging India, the realtionship between Pt Nehru and Lady Mountbatten, Lord Mountbatten's influence over the Indian leadership which is all true to the book's title. N S Sarila has also made a point against democracy, which appears to be correct and relevant during the current times- that it creates vote bank or identity politics. The book has also highlighted a much ignored competetion for influence in the 50s of the last century between USA and Britian over newly independent countries. The British tried to influence early Indian leadership against becoming a sovereign nation. They wanted India to remain a dominion under the British Monarch. It has also exposed the British hand behind Kashmir turmoil- They wanted western Kashmir (Gilgit and Pakistani Occupied Kashmir) to remain under the control of Pakistan because of its geographical location. It is well known that the allied powers created Pakistan as their bulwark against the former Soviet Union which wanted access to Arabian Sea. To summarize, a book worth reading.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    A somewhat dull book on a topic that should have been really interesting.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Chandra

  5. 4 out of 5

    ISH KUMAR

  6. 4 out of 5

    Hanif

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ina Cawl

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rizwan Niaz Raiyan

  9. 4 out of 5

    Abdul Basit

  10. 4 out of 5

    Anuja

  11. 5 out of 5

    GrabAsia

  12. 4 out of 5

    Emily Thompson

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lula

  14. 4 out of 5

    Anand

  15. 5 out of 5

    Siddartha Sikdar

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ammar

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jay Shah

  18. 5 out of 5

    Hamza

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ravinder

  20. 4 out of 5

    হাঁটুপানির জলদস্যু

  21. 4 out of 5

    Shahriar Rana

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lipika Pradhan

  23. 4 out of 5

    Amy Thorsen

  24. 4 out of 5

    Venu Gopal

  25. 4 out of 5

    Deepanjan Roy

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ruhee

  27. 5 out of 5

    Prasenjit

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mihir Sharma

  29. 5 out of 5

    Vaishali

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

  31. 4 out of 5

    Pranab Roy

  32. 4 out of 5

    Zahir

  33. 5 out of 5

    Muhammad Asghar

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