The Indian flag soared. Revelry and celebration hadn’t stopped all year, and it
didn’t seem to stop now. Hearts were soaring, memories were smiling, heads
were held high as the massacre was behind them and the sweet scent of
independence hung thick in the air. By now, a government was in place, and such
a government that had the burden of bringing two million people satisfaction
with a common policy, in a common polity. For this, it worked relentless, in dark
and in light, pushing and crooning and sighing with each conquered mass, inching
steadily towards success with each tribe that said yes to Independent India.
Not far from the new capital was the kingdom of lush royalty, the State of Patiala.
The palace swooned over stretches of green pastures, windows cracked open to
let rosy sunlight in, fountains squeaked and burst attempting to touch the clouds.
The maidens admired their chiseled noses in the mirrors as the dasis draped
heavy silk on their shoulders, and the men twirled their moustaches with pride.
The world was impressed with India. In one year, most of the princely states had
succumbed to the power of democracy; covert titles were all that was left of the
royalty. Yet, the Maharaj of Patiala was not celebrating. Today, the man they
called their Prime Minister was coming to steal his land. He would start with
humble requests until he brought the Maharaj down on his knees and forced
negotiation. But the Maharaj was not born yesterday. He had dealt with many a
colonial Viceroys and princesses, and many more Indian kings in far off valleys and
gone on to win their daughters. Today would be just another victory, as had
The regalia were laid out, as he approached in his purple velvet robes, the smell
of roses fuming. He studied the zari of Benaras, pure gold sewn on his sherwani.
Khaddi silk from the East delicately trapped between diamonds brought all the
way from Britain, were all a small part of his magnificent attire. He had told the
dasis to bring out the finest. Today, the Maharaj had the pride of Patiala on his
mind, almost ready for battle if so required.
Maharaj clapped his hands. An echo raced throughout the palace, and the
servants who waited outside rushed in to turn this mortal into a king. The
sherwani was tied, the jutiyan placed under his feet, endless maroon satin
wrapped over his shoulder and arm. Two men daintily carried a silver tray into the
room, and another two picked the royal turban and set it carefully on the
Maharaj’s head as the sapphires beamed. He put up his hand and they went out
as quickly as they had come. Not a word was spoken, for it was forbidden. The
Maharaj studied his reflection. The Prime Minister shall not win Patiala!
But he was leaving no stone unturned. There was a treasure in the Palace of
Patiala that subdued the fiercest of egos and burnt the envious. It had taken two
years to complete this beauty, in which was enshrined the beauty of Patiala. In its
radiance shined his kingdom’s crop and in its sound the sound of the people’s joy.
The Maharaj walked towards the inner room now, head higher with each step. He
grasped the sordid black box, wondrously gazing at the elegance it had gained
since its occupant. His fingers were steady in this moment of anticipation. Slowly
now, he cracked open the brass lock and twisting the knob, he pulled the lid off.
His eyes ached to see a sparkling sun inside, and he threw the lid away… And
It was gone.
A tiger roar shocked all of Patiala, trumpets were blown, and gongs were
sounded, dhols were beaten with urgent strength as soldiers fled into the country.
Catastrophe had struck.
The Patiala necklace had been stolen.