It is on a chilly forenoon that I met Indra Vikram Singh in Delhi for a chat. With no airs about him, the scion of the royal family of the erstwhile Rajpipla kingdom in Gujarat, in a sweater — sleeves pulled up — readily autographs A Maharaja’s Turf for me.
Singh has come out with five books — all in 2011 — all collectibles. While four of these, A Maharaja’s Turf, The Big Book of World Cup Cricket, Don’s Century and Crowning Glory, are self-published by his publishing house, Sporting Links, The Little Big Book of World Cup Cricket has been brought out by Media Eight. His earlier books include Test Cricket — End of the Road? and World Cup Cricket.
Grandson of Maharaja Sir Vijaysinhji, the last ruler of Rajpipla, Indra Vikram Singh talks with some nostalgia for times past. “History is not about dates and facts; history requires interpretation. History needs to be revisited,” he says. He points out how the British policy of divide-and-rule found expression even in aspects like the location of palaces of rulers of the princely states vis-a-vis their people. Earlier the rulers built their palaces close to their people. Post-1857, the British made them build their palaces at a distance from the habitation of the people they ruled “to create a gulf between rulers and subjects”. And about Indian rulers who lived a part of the year in Britain, as in the case of his grandfather, in Windsor, he says it was not because “they had the wealth or wished to enjoy cooler climes during summer”, but to interact with the British aristocracy to keep a check on harassment back home in their principalities.
Speaking of the Rajpipla palaces, he is proud of the Vadia palace, built by his grandfather, that was fully air conditioned and had Italian marble floors and Burma teak woodwork. He also points out “the narrow gauge rail line was introduced in Rajpipla by my grandfather. Even the Sardar Sarovar dam was his idea”.
A cricket buff, who captained teams in his school and college (Singh graduated from DU’s Hans Raj College), his four books on the sport are a result of a good deal of research. While Crowning Glory is an account of India’s ICC World Cup 2011 victory, Don’s Century is a biography of the one and only Don Brandman (Singh is the only Indian to have penned a biography of Bradman), and includes a panorama of batting from the 1860s to present times, including other cricket greats like W G Grace, K S Ranjitsinhji and Tendulkar. Ask Singh how he managed to pen these books all at once, and he reveals fascinating details that hint at his inquisitive mind and fetish for collecting and preserving old books, publications, magazines, letters and sundry items from childhood, that provided material for his books. For A Maharaja’s Turf, articles from some 80 newspapers, a scrap book made by a grand uncle and his son, books and film clippings on the historic Derby, all helped in getting the tome ready.
Besides writing and publishing, Singh is now getting into heritage preservation and heritage tourism. All power to this new-age scion.