An audience with His Royal Highness, the Maha Raja of Travancore, the King of Kerala.
There are not many people who can say that they have had a private audience with an Indian King, Well I have today at 10am in the Royal Palace of Travancore, in the city of Trivandrum, the state capital of Kerala, in the Maha Raja's private room, with Her Royal Highness the Princess Lakshmi, and a former Indian Ambassador and High Commissioner. Forget Obama's visit to India !
It was a beautiful morning as I left the Mascot Hotel at 9.30, picked up by my driver to go to the house of T.P. Sreenivasan, Former Indian Ambassador to the UN, for a briefing. He was a tall and very comanding man, but extremely pleasant. He has served in the Indian diplomatic service for forty years, all over the world. It was then on to the Royal Palace of Travancore. I was driven to the gates of the Palace, with guards saluting me, then up the long drive to the main entrance of the Palace, the car door was opened, another salute, then up the steps of the Palace, guards to attention and more salutes ! I was walking into another world.
Her Royal Highness, Princess Lakshmi greeted me (I was expected), along with her twin grandaughters, she then escorted me into a beautiful room, and there in a corner was His Royal Highness, the Maha Raja of Travancore, sat in his chair, an old man of 87 years, dressed in simple white clothes, he had sparkling eyes, and a warm and welcoming smile. He stood up to greet me, as I greated him with joined hands and "Namaskar"!
I respectfully greeted him, introduced myself, and thanked His Royal Highness for his kind invitation to meet him. I am blown away by his presence, but he immedialty put me at ease, and I told him why I was in India, my special family connection with Kerala, all about Tom and Liz, and my journey through India from the Himalayas to Cape Comolin.
We talked about Kerala and the UK, the great Keralan Community in Newcastle, Indian and British Colonial history, the famous 'Magnificant Ivory Throne''at Buckingham Palace, and he wanted to know my impressions of Kerala and India. He is a wonderful old gentleman, highly educated, and razor sharp, a very keen sense of humour, and a great story teller. He was clearly a very educated man, in fact he studied at Oxford. He was widely read and extremely knowledgable about many things, including history and literature. While we were talking he told me of all the great political leaders, statesmen and royality that had met him at the Royal Palace. It read like a 'Who's Who, and that they had all sat in the chair I was sat in, how amazing is that !
Our planned 15 minutes became an hour. I told His Highness that I was very grateful for his time and for our wonderful conversation.
I asked his permission to take photographs of him, which he was delighted to allow. He then asked me to sit next to him, to have our photograph taken. He then stood up, followed by everyone else in the room, he joined his hands and thanked me for my visit, said "Namaskar", I replied in the same way with a deep, respectful bow, and His Highness left the room.
Princess Lakshmi then came up to me, and we talked for another ten minutes, she also was very gracious, warm and welcoming.
She thanked me for my visit, and told me about India's great history, culture and civilisation, of which she has written many books on this subject. She asked me about my impressions and thoughts of India, and especially, Kerala. I thanked her, joined my hands, bowed and said "Namaskar", and left the Palace on a magic carpet, which Palace guards saluting me and standing to attention at every corner.
I then went off to kovalem Beach for the afternoon to relect on my special morning with His Royal Highness, the Maha Raja of Tranvancore.