A conversation with the Maharajah of Kangra
DG: Maharajah, what should we call you?
MK: Maharajah or MK, darling – that’s what my ladies call me.
DG: Are you a real Maharajah?
MK: What is real? There is One Reality, Brahman – spurting forth in innumerable forms. You see, people get stuck. People pretending to be what they think others what them to be – this results in so much unhappiness. Come to Kangra! You would be worshipped, as my wife. You could introduce a new tang to my blood-line.
DG: Yes – we’ve heard about you touring British summer festivals, with your hairy, aggressive dancing girls and your instant Marriage Bureau …
MK: It’s not instant! The wedding ceremony is quick because the jet is always waiting – but there are forms to fill. Loving a woman takes several lifetimes. Yes, my girls, my bodyguards, Jayanti and Rupali, get jealous. Especially the little one. But that brings masala to our love. I first knew UK festivals were the place for me when I ran out of fuel in my private jet and landed in the estate of my old friend, Lord Kelmarsh, who was hosting one. We were at school together, until I had to leave …
DG: Why did you have to leave?
MK: I missed Nanny. Oh, I wouldn’t be half the Maharajah I am, without Nanny. Churchill proposed to her. And Edgar Allen Poe – she wears ther engagement rings in hair, when she’s in company. Anyway, there I was at Lord Kelmarsh’s festival and suddenly I sawa cart of WW1 radiographers and a Colonel, being pulled along by muscular young soldiers. So Jayanti and Rupali and I hopped aboard and set about reclaiming the Raj, as it should have been … those East India Company tradesmen paying our workers, rather than smashing our silk looms and stealing our wealth! But this is the problem, when you don’t have a caste system… blood simplifies employment problems.
DG: Doesn’t the caste system fix people in their place? You seem to be full of contradictions.
MK: Contradiction is a very fertile place …
DG: You seem quite petite, for example, compared to the immensity of your machismo.
MK: I’m big where size matters, darling. I’m talking of free-thinking, free loving… I’m talking of the heart. How many people do you know with a truly open heart?
DG: Don’t you get hurt, with an open heart?
MK: Oh, I have been hurt, many, many times. But your specific incarnation comes round but once – what would it be, without love? I strap on my ‘sponc’ and fly to festivals and I worship women and discuss statesmenship with men.
DG: That sounds a bit sexist.
MK: Sexist – or sexy? Wouldn’t you like more men to be like me? Believe me, running Kangra is no fun, always thinking of the coffers and my jet fuel. When it comes to servicing my goddesses, I don’t mind telling you, I let them use me how they like. Women on top, eh?! That’s why I love Nanny.
DG: Do you, maybe, find it liberating to be so patriarchal?
MK: Of course! I love it! I love swaggering in my big boots, making promises to women that I always keep, giving people a license to be bigger than their everyday selves.
DG: Does being the Maharajah allow you to reclaim the opposite of yourself – like this wrong Imperial past you mention?
MK: Eh? You’re too clever for me. Like that Virginia Woolf. She was charming. But rather dry, in all the wrong places.
DG: Isn’t drag rather limiting? And degrading?
MK: I feel inflated!
DG: But like a cartoon?
MK: Ah – we’re back to ‘reality’, eh? I elevate others. People talk differently to me than they do with what you might call a ‘straight’ person. As my old bridge partner David Bowie said, we were born upside down – yet spend too much of our lives heads up, over-thinking, over-politicising. Where is your blood? Your spirit? Your senses? Do you remember how to play? ‘Where do you live?’ and such-like small-talk transforms into play, when I invite someone to fly home with me, to Kangra.
DG: Ah yes, Kangra. Where is it, exactly? There is a real Kangra, in India…
MK: Nanny doesn’t like me to reveal our address in public – but imagine snow and blossom and dancing girls and head for the foothills of the Himalaya, a bit to the left and right.
DG: Left and right?