Saturday, January 16, 2010

Scindias: Maharaja class

Gwalior city may have fallen on hard days but there is no sign here that the sway of the royalty is waning, writes Sanjay Srivastava

Gwalior’s railway station is a huge letdown. The late Madhvarao Scindia, a prominent scion of the royal dynasty was once the Union railway minister. His stamp, however, is not visible anymore. Outside the station, an old but sparkling locomotive – GLR (Gwalior Light Railway) stands mute witness to an era gone by. However, the squalor around the building hints at the decay that has set in. It is difficult to believe that the current scion of the dynasty represents the city in Parliament. The city is clearly in decline. But loyalty to the Scindias comes easy to most denizens of Gwalior. At the local university, which bears the name of one of the Scindias, a student says: “We don’t much care for the kings and queens. We just want our representatives to be honest. Our Raja is just that.”

But not for APS Chauhan, head of the political science department, who is even pejoratively referred to as a “feudal Communist”. He says: “If the writ of the Scindias still runs here, it is not because of their wealth. Honorifics like Maharaja, Raje and Shrimant do not really reflect their hold over minds. They haven’t brought development to Gwalior nor do the people fear them. It isn’t still in the 14th century as many would like to believe. They have remained relevant through compromises, connections and other tricks of the trade.” In the bustling Bada Bazaar, an old man quips, “If there is anything worth mentioning in Gwalior apart from the dynasty, it is the Fort, gond kay ladoo and the musical gharana of Tansen.” That, in a way, sums up the city. Its door opens in a rather claustrophobic alley of Choori Bazaar. The structure is crumbling. So is the mausoleum of his ustaad, Gaus Saheb. We asked the khadim of the place, Zameel Khan, whether the dynasty supports the upkeep of the mausoleums. “Yes, they make promises,” he replied. The fact is that these monuments fall under the Archaeological Survey of India. So the Scindias cannot do much to conserve them. The Fort, too, is in a dilapidated state, but its architectural splendour is still intact. The adjoining Scindia School is squeaky clean. One visiting government official is rather caustic: “The Scindias are only concerned about their votes. They don’t take care of the city. Its heritage is decaying. Isn’t it their responsibility?” But there are those who swear by loyalty.

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Source :
IIPM Editorial, 2009

An IIPM and Professor Arindam Chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist) Initiative

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