Meet The Maharaja


This blog entry about the events of Wednesday, November 03, 2004 was originally posted on November 04, 2004.

DAY 382:  Baldel, the bearded old Indian man in the paisley shirt, greeted me with a smile and a wave like he did every morning I walked down the market area from the Evergreen Hotel.  It was his way of telling me his cycle rickshaw services were available to me without being too pushy like the other cyclists.

“Hello, how are you?” I greeted him.

“How is your leg?” he asked.  The day before he had brought me to the local hospital to get my leg checked out.

“It’s fine,” I told him, hopping into the carriage, no questions asked.  “I need to go to the City Palace,” I instructed him.  He had been there many a time before, it being one of the main tourist attractions in Jaipur.  However I was going there not as a tourist but as a journalist.  “I’m going to meet with the maharaja.”

AFTER THREE DAYS OF PHONE CALLS and meetings with secretaries, I had landed an “exclusive” interview with the current maharaja of Jaipur, His Highness Maharaja Sawai Bhawani Singh.  (“Exclusive” to the very few people of which I was one, that did not have the Lonely Planet book; it was Let’s Go that informed me that a meeting could be set up with the maharaja behind all the Lonely Planeteer’s backs.)  The Principal Private Secretary of the Royal City Palace told me that the maharaja would sometimes grant civilians the courtesy of meeting him in person and for a photo opp.  I would meet his highness under the guise that I was legitimate journalist from New York — while that was true to some extent, most of you Blogreaders know that is somewhat of a complete farce, what with all my references to poop and toilet humor.  Perhaps it was fitting that my writing credentials included a “low-brow” tabloid like the New York Post (which is not to be confused with the more sophisticated New York Times, which appreciates the “high-brow” humor of belching).

I arrived at the City Palace twenty minutes ahead of my 10:30 meeting with the maharaja.  “Hi, I’m Erik Trinidad.  I have a 10:30 appointment with his highness.”  I signed in at the front security guard station as I had done before, this time with a new answer for the “name of person to be met” (“His Highness”) and walked over to the Aide de Camp office.  The ADC officer had a royal guard escort me to the Principal Private Secretary’s office, who had a royal guard escort me back to the ADC office because it was still too early.  I sat on a couch while waiting patiently for my scheduled meeting.  Meanwhile I crammed with my notes at the last minute, like I was about to take a mid-term, just in case I was “quizzed” on any background history of the maharaja or the members of the royal family.  With me I had a printout of their brief history from the Royal Family of Jaipur’s official website.

It is important for a journalist to be well informed on the facts before going into an interview with someone of importance, especially when that someone is royalty.  I had never met anyone of royalty in person before, so it was sort of a big deal regardless of the fact that with India’s modern democratic government, royal maharajas were nothing more than figureheads left over from a legacy of history, much like the Queen of England.  While most modern-day royal figureheads did nothing but bask in the glory of their royal lineage — seriously, what has the Queen of England done for you lately? — Maharaja Sawai Bhawani Singh actually earned his respect, having served in the Indian Army as a paratrooper and ultimately a commanding officer in the Indian-Pakistan War and the Bangladesh War.  He eventually made the rank of Brigadier for life and even served as the first Resident High Commissioner to the State of Brunei from 1993 to 1997.  Nowadays, he was old and retired and it was rumored he was very much into playing around with computers as a hobby.

I wasn’t worried about getting my facts straight about the maharaja — that I had down-packed — I was more concerned with trying to remember facts about his wife the maharani (queen) and his daughter the princess.  I had the maharaja’s full name engraved on my brain, but I couldn’t seem to remember the queen or princess’ names without having to look them up.  Should I write their names under my sleeve? I wondered.  No you idiot, you’re wearing short sleeves.

The ADC officer was waiting with me in the room for the royal guard to cue us it was time.  “Does his highness always get visitors like this?” I asked. 

“Yeah, he’s always having people come by or going out to visit people.  He gets bored.”

Hmm, always having people over or going out to visit others?  Sounds like the maharaja was just like me as a teenager.

The red turban- and thick, curly moustache-wearing royal guard signaled us that it was time.  The ADC officer and the guard escorted me back towards Chandra Mahal, the residence of the maharaja.  “Wait here [outside] a moment,” the ADC officer instructed me.

I stood there alone in the courtyard in the sun, waiting for my big meeting with the maharaja.  I have to say that up until that point I wasn’t really nervous, but at that moment it struck me.  I’m actually going to meet a real maharaja.  The actual living man of royal blood from the Royal Singh family prominent in the history books, a descendant of Maharaja Jai Singh who actually built up most of this city centuries ago.  And I’ll be in his presence soon.  I gathered my composure and prepared myself, the “journalist” I was.  I had let the questions I’d ask him hang on the tip of my tongue so I wouldn’t forget them if I got too star struck.

The royal guard came back and escorted me beyond the PPS office and to the next one.  Is this it?  It was a big office with nice furniture and an old man at the desk.  Is that him?  Is that the maharaja?  Where’s the royal red turban like I’d seen in the photos on the internet?  He extended his hand and I shook it.  Oh!  This is the maharaja!.  I almost didn’t notice his hand extended to me in my confusion and almost left his royal hand hanging.

“Please,” he said, extending his hand towards the royal couch and royal armchair across from the desk.  We sat.  “It’s great to meet you,” I said.

“What do you want to do?” he said in a sort of confused way.  I remembered that he wasn’t all with it since his stroke some time ago.

I got right down to it.  “Well I’ve been touring around the city of Jaipur and learning about the maharajas of the past, but I haven’t really seen the correlation on how that translates into modern day society,” I started, trying to sound all professional.  “And I guess that’s something that only a man of your status could answer.”  Dan Rather, eat your heart out.

“I don’t understand.”

“Well, what I guess I’m trying to ask is what it’s like to be the maharaja in a modern world.”

Still confused at my tough questions of crack journalism, he said, “I have been in the army.”

“Yes, I know you’ve been in the army…” I started. Whew, that research paid off.

He cut to the chase.  “Uh, did you want to take a photo?”


He stood up and I followed him over to the wall.  The royal guard was called in and I gave him my little camera to take my photo with the maharaja (picture above).  “Uh, watch your finger on the lens there,” I instructed him like I did to everyone else I’d had take a photo of me.  (The lens was on the corner, not in the center.)  The flash went off and that was it.  Meeting adjourned.  His highness extended his hand again in goodbye and I shook it. 

“Thank you for meeting me,” I said before I left.  The maharaja went on with his own business, preparing to leave the city again to visit a friend, probably to play computer games.

Okay, so I didn’t get the big inside scoop on life as a living maharaja of India.  Luckily His Highness cut our meeting short before I really stumped him with the really pressing questions of crack journalism, like “Do you prefer the end of the toilet paper roll to be hanging from the top or bottom?” and (since he was a computer buff), “Do you, uh, Yahoo?”  I guess we will never know the answers to these questions.  (In case you were keeping track, yes, I did manage to squeeze in some toilet humor in this article just now.)

I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR A SLOW NEWS DAY to report about something else I’ve noticed in India, particularly in Jaipur, and that is the presence of the neo-hippies everywhere.  India is a haven for dreadlocked Europeans and Israelis to come and pretty much do nothing but sit around ungroomed, wearing Indian textiles and make jewelry, under the pretense that they are being badasses rebelling against their Western upbringings. 

I don’t know if it’s because I’m older now (I’ve hit the big Three-Oh if you recall), but I must say that my tolerance for hippies has really declined.  At the expense of sounding like a right-wing nut over here, I really can’t stand those goddamn hippies.  Seriously, get a haircut and go somewhere other than your room at the Evergreen Hotel.  I swear those guys did nothing but walk around barefoot all stoned out, being “all spiritual” by listening to music and trying to make jewelry.  I guess it’s partially my fault for encountering so many of them en masse; I chose to stay at the same budget accommodation that attracted such a group of people — but not for long. 

I checked out that afternoon, hopped on Baldel’s cycle rickshaw, rode my last cycle rickshaw ride in the city of Jaipur and then got on a train bound for my next destination, Bikaner, about seven hours northwest via rail.  I had a ticket in second, air-conditioned class, the unofficial “tourist” class since most foreign travelers spent the couple extra bucks to travel in it, away from the constant begging in third.  My train car was practically empty, except for an Indian family and two obvious foreign-looking travelers, Michael and Martina, a couple from Vienna on holiday through the State of Rajasthan for a month.  The two were on the budget backpacker trail as well, and like me, weren’t all hippied out.  We got along almost immediately and chat about this, that and our depression about the other big story of the day, the results of the US election.  (I’m not a right wing nut after all.)  The train zipped through the countryside under the orange sunset and then dark evening sky for just over seven hours, stopping briefly at stations on the way.  I killed most of the time reading Dan Brown’s Digital Fortress and eating Lay’s Indian masala-flavored potato chips (as opposed to Lay’s “American” flavor, sour cream and onion).

It was 10:30 at night by the time we arrived in Bikaner, late by Bikaner standards with most places shut down already.  The Austrians Michael and Martina had already made a reservation at the Hotel Marudhar Heritage, one of the hotels in India converted from old historical buildings, including some converted from former royal houses after most of the people of royalty realized that they had no real power anymore and had to get a real job.  I went with them to check it out, inspected a room and approved.  For five bucks (just about a dollar more) I got a nice big room with the usual bed and private bath, but this former royal residence went the extra mile and, unlike a budget hippie haven, provided a TV, blanket, towel, soap and most importantly, toilet paper.  Oh yeah, I’m living like a maharaja now!  As nice as the room was, there was nowhere to hang the toilet paper roll in the bathroom, finally shedding some light on that pressing issue with the maharaja of Jaipur; perhaps he had no option to have a preference on where the end of the toilet paper roll should be after all.

Erik R. Trinidad for, Bikaner.

Next entry: Celebrities

Previous entry: Look At The Stars

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Comments for “Meet The Maharaja”

  • Haven?t read the post yet, but I wanted to be FIRST! FIRST!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/04  at  12:09 PM

  • GREETINGS FROM BIKANER!  I could be in the NIZ for a day or two due to shotty connections around here.  It’s the weekend anyway…

    LIZ:  Isn’t Dhoom awesome?

    MARKYT:  Go to Patel Video, rent it and watch it with WHEAT.

    MICHELLE:  Hey there!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/04  at  12:13 PM

  • Hey Erik,

    I?m still reading!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/04  at  12:22 PM

  • Toilet paper hanging from the top, for SURE!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/04  at  12:31 PM

  • HRH Erik:  I completely understand your frustrating with dirty hippies…..the hippie culture and lifestyle is cool, but can’t they just take a bath and wash their hair?

    I’m off to the Caribbean for a week, so you being NIZ will make my catch up much easier….so take some time off from the BLOG, for my sake!

    HRH Canadian Lisa!

    p.s. the “HRH” for me is self-proclaimed…..Erik you are the royalty of the BLOG!  LOL smile

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/04  at  12:44 PM

  • “almost left his royal hand hanging”.  LOL!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/04  at  01:36 PM

  • Erik - still downloading… will watch it tomorrow…
    Michelle - yep, hanging from the top
    Lisa - happy wedding!

    Posted by Liz  on  11/04  at  01:46 PM

  • i bet he does yahoo and plays yahoo chess with his buddies in bangalore….

    kalima kalima….shuckdeday…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/04  at  02:17 PM

  • Definitely from the top.

    So we’ll never know if it’s good to be the maharaja.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/04  at  02:18 PM

  • i don’t think it is so much the unhygenic practices of the hippies than the frustrations we have. to see others go through life without a care in the world, acting like they can survive on making cheap jewelry, just pisses off anyone who works a 9-5 job, struggling to pay the bills. watching these people just waltz through life, expecting handouts or easy ways of getting by, makes us jealous and/or mad. their personal hygene has nothing to do with us, just as long as they don’t sit next to you. if they like feeling dirty and itchy all the time, then so be it.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/04  at  02:35 PM

  • It’s like you met the great Oz. 

    And I love potato chip flavors in foreign countries!  Masala sounds good.  My favorite was Lay’s tsatziki flavored potato chips in Greece.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/04  at  02:57 PM

  • Markyt: he proably plays backgammon against Queen Elizabeth ...

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/04  at  03:14 PM

  • probably so SIM….but i bet he hasn’t gotten to IMing a person sitting right next to him just yet….

    AMAZING RACE 6 - starts Nov 16th on CBS….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/04  at  03:34 PM

  • Erik: Wait until you get back to Khosan Rd. The highest hippie concentration per capita.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/04  at  03:44 PM

  • DUDE!  This is Steph’s buddy (Indian guy hanging out with the crazy white dude!) from the S. Africa trip in March.
    Listen, I’ll be in India for a month from Nov 20th to Dec20th.  If you’re still gonna be around, let me know.  I’m starting off in Gujarat and then heading down south.  We’ll be travelling with a guide and car.. you’re more than welcome to join.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/04  at  03:48 PM

  • That’s so cool you met the maharaja =)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/04  at  04:40 PM

  • Erik, I am having had bad diarhea that in the morning, I am being so sorry to cut our visit short.  Perhaps we shall be playing some online checker one time. 

    Your friend,
    The Maharaja

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/04  at  05:15 PM

  • Wow, I posted right after royalty!

    New Jersey Trivia:
    Q:  Where in the US did women first have the right to vote?
    A:  New Jersey!! (1776)  Right was withdrawn in 1807 & restored in 1920

    Former NJ resident who has forgotten her “exit”

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/04  at  07:22 PM

  • lol - i had my own encounter with a damn hippy as well in bali just recently.  i ended up travelling with him for a week!  changed my perspectives, he did - despite his unkempt appearance, there was more to him than meets the eye..  but yeah, i kinda wished that he would at least shampoo his hair for the first time..

    Posted by cayce  on  11/05  at  12:38 AM

  • Fuzz-E: Okay so I finally caught up to Oct.1st. I’ve been remiss in my blog-hog duties. Apologies. The Comment book is closed on Sept, and it won’t take my comments even on 10/1, I can’t believe how far you’ve gone in a month!!! So I’ve got some (outdated) notes for you…

    Fugu Me!? Fugu You! Actually it looked good.

    Porn in a regular newspaper? I know a bunch of guys who would be up on their current events if THAT was included in the NYTimes.

    A holiday for the autumnal equinox? I love that—and 3 days—that’s great. BTW, now that I’ve seen your ass… I HAVE seen everything.

    Also, to LIZ—it’s so nice to meet you, and put a face with your name/comments.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/05  at  04:03 PM

  • AR6

    no dwarfs….booooo!  should still be good anyway

    Nov 16th…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/05  at  05:58 PM

  • GREETINGS FROM UDAIPUR, filming location for Roger Moore as James Bond in “Octopussy”!

    I’ll get to the next entry soon enough… First, some answers to your questions/comments:

    MICHELLE:  Toilet paper end on top for life!  Have fun in Antarctica!

    LIZ:  Dhoom really has subtitles?  I saw the whole thing in Hindi only, but still thought it was pretty good.  (It’s mostly visual.)

    KATAN:  Sadly, I will have moved on from India around that time.  Bummer.  But I expect to see you and the rest of “The Real World: Capetown” Rutgers cast at the coming back party in March!

    MAHARAJA OF JAIPUR (aka Pangkot):  If I have offended you, then I am sorry.

    CHRISTY:  Hurry up and catch up; the India entries are jammed with hidden Indiana Jones quotes that no one has picked up on, and YOU have to pick up the ball!

    DUSTY:  Hey, I’ve started my approach southbound; I could be in Bangalore around the 11th or 12th…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/06  at  06:12 AM

  • ERIK - Yeah, Dhoom had subtitles, but the subtitlist had something against the letter ‘n’ - as in, there weren’t any n’s in the subtitles!  That and whacky translations made it interesting.  But, I agree, great movie.  There’s eye candy for women too (for all the girlz out there).  The dancing scenes are a hoot!  And the music is kinda funky too.  I’ve got Indian beats on my brain now.  Good chase scenes, eye candy, random singing and dancing, motorcycles - what more could you ask for in a movie?  Oh, I know, the ‘kinky’ sex teaser scenes at the end during the credits!

    Posted by Liz  on  11/06  at  11:42 PM

  • Hey Erik,

    I finally caught up after being behind over a month.  The blog even nags readers, I feel guilty when I do not read it. 

    Glad you recovered from the Everest trip, they should invest in some ATV’s over there to assist on getting people down or up the mountain.  It would definitely be cheaper than a helicopter.

    I won’t be able to go to Vietnam, so I will have to travel through your blog. 


    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/07  at  03:08 AM

  • Looks like the connection here in Udaipur is still crap… Hopefully a big upload from Bombay to come…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/07  at  05:15 AM

  • Hey Erik,

    I must confess that I have been a SBR for some time. I came across your site by doing a google search for a girl in the Snoop Dogg “Beautiful” video and I found one of your entries, “The Girl from Ipanema.” I was intrigued by what I saw, and started reading from the beginning. And it took me two and a half months to catch up to present day. I’ve been amazed by all of the things you have done. And let me just say, as a fellow design guy and someone who knows how hard it is to write creatively, you’ve done an incredible job conveying what you’ve gone through. I’ve also been bitten by the travel bug, but my experiences have been limited to Europe and a couple trips to Japan. This blog has really inspired me to get out and see more.

    Glad to hear you made it relatively safely from Everest and the leg is doing well. Keep up the good work,


    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/07  at  05:19 AM

  • Hey Mr. E
    My friend in Mumbai is waiting eagerly to meet you. have sent you an email. 8-)
    take care

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/07  at  05:35 AM

  • EMMETT:  Hey there… Thanks and welcome aboard.  I’m glad I can inspire.  Seriously, whenever I don’t feel like working on The Blog, it’s comments from SBRs breaking their silence that makes it all worth it!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/07  at  07:39 AM

  • Darn those strokes - always throwing a wrench in people’s plans… I would have been interested in more of the maharaja’s goings on…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/07  at  07:41 AM

  • DUSTY:  Thanks!  I’ve emailed your friend…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/07  at  07:42 AM

  • Erik - thanks for the postcard!  It is now has a prestigious place on the fridge door smile

    Posted by Liz  on  11/07  at  12:39 PM

  • call her when u reach mumbai. she is a journalist as well, so at times when she is in a meeting the mobile would be switched off. i hope you get to meet her. sev puri is excellent… i already warned her that you will probably start shooting in this restaurant…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/07  at  01:06 PM

  • E - mumbai guided tour from the tourism office should be around 2-3USD according to the guys in the office…he said also just check on the craziness at the train station for the morning rush….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/07  at  03:53 PM

  • EMMETT - just curious how many pages in to that google search did the blog get listed??

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/07  at  04:21 PM

  • And did you find out about the girl in the Beautiful vid??!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/07  at  05:07 PM

  • It shows up on page 9. You know if everyone here with a site linked to this blog it would move his ranking up. I’m sure there are some readers with high ranking sites.

    Posted by Anthony  on  11/08  at  12:11 AM

  • My vote for toilet paper:  from the bottom.  I got in the habit when I had a cat that insisted on pawing at it.  That way he rolled it up not all over the floor!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/08  at  12:46 AM

  • MARKYT - the blog was on the first or second results page. i wanted to see if the girl from the snoop dogg video was the same actress from the movie City of God. plus, the girl from the video is hot. so i searched for “snoop dogg beautiful video rio di janeiro” or something like that. the blog had to be on the first or second page because i wouldn’t have looked past that. but that was like two months ago.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/08  at  04:15 AM

  • Still unable to comment on earlier entries—what gives?! So here I am still trying to catch up. Volume 2:

    Loved the Goldilocks theme. It was *just right*. You should have heard me reading it aloud to co-workers. A real hoot!

    Booth Bunnies?!? Don’t have those at Seybold. Must say, the Taito one was virtually naked. Too bad the bunnies on the car weren’t numbered, I guess they weren’t part of the official voting. As for the capsule hotel—I know it was a “must do” item for you—very neat. I agree, since the 5th Element, I’ve been dying to see what a real one looked like.

    Godzilla!!! You suck. Not only did you meet and grope C3PO, but now you get to see Godzilla???

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/08  at  09:48 PM

  • eager to know ur impressions of mumbai, so blog soon. I learnt that the cyber cafe at press club has opened its doors to you.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/09  at  07:32 AM

  • DUSTY:  I am at the Press Club Media Center writing this; the connection here sucks!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/09  at  10:25 AM

  • TWJ: “it’s good to be the maharaja” nice Mel Brooks ref.

    Shortround meets Maharaja, news at 11.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/18  at  05:48 PM

  • I thought that one went unnoticed grin

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/18  at  07:32 PM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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