13) Princess Priyadarshini Raje Scindia, Baroda India
Priyadarshini Raje Scindia (née Gaekwad) is the wife of Jyotiraditya Scindia who is an Indian politician. He is a current Member of Parliament, a member of the Indian National Congress party, and the Union Minister of State for the Ministry of Power. In the Indian parliament, Scindia, represents the Guna constituency in the state of Madhya Pradesh.
Scindia is one of the wealthiest ministers in the government of India and, in addition, a claimant to property worth Rs. 20,000 crores or $3.27 billion belonging to his late father, Madhav Rao Scindia, a titular hereditary Maharajah of Gwalior State, which before 1947 was a princely state in the British Indian Empire.
Priyadarshini Raje Scindia was born in 1975. Her father, Kumar Sangramsingh Gaekwad, was the eighth child and third son of the last ruler of Baroda state, Pratap Singh Gaekwad, whose ruled until 1947, and who was deposed as titular ruler by the Government of India in 1951. Her mother, Asharaje Gaekwad, is a lineal descendant of the Rana dynasty of hereditary, feudal, prime ministers of Nepal. She is married to Jyotiraditya Scindia in December 12, 1994, a junior minister in the Indian government and member of parliament from Madhya Pradesh. The couple have one son and one daughter.
Scindia appeared in Verve’s “Best dressed – 2008” hall of fame list. In 2012, she was included in the “India’s 50 Most Beautiful Woman” list by Femina. She is actively involved in the restoration of Jai Vilas Mahal, Usha Kiran Palace, and formulating projects for children. According to her, “living in a palace is a full time job.”
Once upon a time, in a crowded city by the sea, in a plush residential area on a hill, dwelled a princess. A real, live princess. She led a rather normal life in a large joint family, attended Mumbai’s Fort Convent School and later Sophia College. Every few months, she visited her ancestral fiefdom and palace in Baroda. This was always a party, she recalls. Her father, being one of seven siblings, there were a dozen cousins accompanying her. Even then, the children felt special only because they were the family’s grandchildren, nothing more. The palace was just home, not an issue at all.
Today, in her parents’ Breach Candy apartment on a hill, Priyadarshini Raje Scindia, 29, in her married avatar, has slipped her very-slim form into a pair of favourite Gap jeans and her dad’s outsized white T-shirt. Plucked out of our best-dressed list, for a closer look, I wonder about the influences that have shaped her flair for style. A subtle childhood inspiration, she admits, was her mother, Asha Raje Gaekwad, who was never one for designer clothes or labels. She wore her own creations, saris like no one else possessed and always looked distinct and beautiful in whatever she wore.
The first time Priya donned anything designer, was her wedding sari by Pallavi Jaikishen, a far cry from the jeans that her father and maharaj of Baroda, Sangram Sinh Gaekwad, looks upon with innate disdain. A far cry from the simple chanderi and regal chiffon saris that she wore on the campaign trail, in Gwalior, with her husband, the new young political incumbent, Jyotiraditya Scindia.
Slipping easily into the role of New Age political wife, Priya epitomises a new breed of woman who delights in becoming a seamless part of her husband’s life and work. Coolly in place at a Delhi soirée with finger foods being served by waiters from the Maurya or a casual Mumbai evening out with popcorn and beer. Equally at home in her husband’s constituency, her head covered in deference to a prevailing purdah system, where the women finally found an ear to speak out to. And Priya listened, because, she maintains that, at the end of the day, it is the woman who has to feed her child and in-laws. “Also, I understood now why my husband was so passionate about reaching out to these people. For my family, being royalty is secondary.
And so ‘best-dressed’ does take on a new meaning and dimension in the case of the little princess. An ability to be facile about switching from traditional to modern, seamlessly as her life switches in an attempt to keep up with her husband’s, be it Delhi or Gwalior. And, her own favourite look? “Jeans. I am embarrassed to say, jeans….”
Priya loves being in Gwalior with her two kids, Mahanaaryaman (8) and Ananya (2). And while her mother-in-law, she admits, would happily burn every pair of jeans that she has ever gotten into, Priya admires her and realises that you do not need to wear labels to be ‘wonderful’.
Courses at Stanford, especially the one on museums, helped her understand her Gwalior inheritance better. And while historical artefacts quicken her pulse, heirlooms from both families leave her unmoved with the coldness of one born to all things lustrous. “My husband is my favourite heirloom,” she says
Being married to a maharaja, a Harvard undergrad, a Stanford MBA, an investment banker with Morgan Stanley, now a political figure bringing a new world consultant approach to politics, could not be easy. The two, however, have much in common. They both love to entertain and maintain an open house for their friends. In royal tradition (Priya’s father is a great cook and one of her earliest memories is of being perched on the kitchen counter with her brother, plates in hand, awaiting a variety of culinary delicacies) Priya enjoys cooking. Anything from a traditional meal to an open-air barbecue in their huge Delhi garden. Food is a big deal in their lives. Even her eight-year-old has learnt to savour a good plate of sushi, over McDonald’s. “He is willing to try anything so long as I take the first bite.”
And for her daughter, Priya has much in store. A work in progress – a journal of her thoughts and feelings – to be presented to her on her wedding day. That and a legacy of natural style and royal grace.