Many decades ago, we had been the guests of the sumptuous Maharajah of Gwalior, government minister and huge personality. He had told us of his dacoits. They were the local bandits that occupied the savannah. They were organized in gangs, the most famous of the time lead by a woman, Phoolan Devi, which had been raped in her youth and thus sought revenge. The dacoits would attack most of the region’s motorists. They were merciless and admirably organized. However, they had undisclosed and privileged relations with their maharajah. It was understood that the dacoits were not to touch anyone explicitly under the maharajah’s protection. And thus, he reassured us that we could travel as we wished through his states, even in the wildest parts of the savannah, no one would attack us. Indeed, that is what happened.
However, shortly before our arrival, there was an incident. The dacoits had dared open fire on the car of the Raj Mata, the mother of the Maharajah, an unthinkable blasphemy. The Maharajah summoned them to his palace. The dacoits arrived, sheepishly.
These proud bandits, usually with a knife in between their teeth, fell to their knees in front of the Maharajah to ask for forgiveness. He continued to be indignant, but mostly surprised:
“What could possibly have come over you?”
“Forgive us, lord, we thought it was the car of the British Consul.”
The dacoits did not know that the Raj Mata was more than capable of holding her own. One could not conceive a stronger personality, more decided, more energetic, more extreme. She had launched herself into politics and moved mountains. Always dressed with the utmost modesty, without a single jewel, always on the road, she dominated all that would approach her.
The first minister of India, the cruel Madam Indira Ghandi, could not leave her nor the other maharani launched into politics and her rival, the maharani Aisha of Jaipur, alone. She had the two women thrown in prison, and with her signature cruelty, had them locked in with streetwalkers. The maharani of Jaipur lamented, while the Raj Mata of Gwalior, on the other hand, was winning over her cellmates. In no time she transformed them into her devoted servants.
Thus, when after a few months she was released, the streetwalkers in tears kneeled on her path, showering her with good wishes and asking her to bless them.