National Geographic : 1942 Feb
Life with an Indian Prince As Guests of a Maharaja's Brother, Two Young American Naturalists Study Age-old Methods of Hunting with Trained Falcons and Cheetahs and Savor the Pomp of Royal India BY JOHN AND FRANK CRAIGHEAD With Illustrations from Photographs by the Authors H IS Highness Maharaja Sir Krishnaku marsinhji of Bhavnagar turned to his two American guests at the huge round banquet table. "Do you fly peregrines in America?" he asked politely. "Yeah, sure," we answered, and, encouraged by the interest and friendliness of His High ness, we talked on about hawks and falconry. Unconsciously, "I mean's," "You see's," "Uh huh's" and more "Yeah's" crept into our con versation. All the Indian state officials at the table were silent. "Do you shoot in your country?" the Maharaja continued. "Yeah," said Frank, and I noticed an ex change of glances go the round of the table. What was the trouble? Were we eating too slowly? Should we have stopped attack ing our quail when the Maharaja finished his? Had we taken too big a helping of curry? Were we supposed to use every one of those forks and spoons? Or had we said something we should not have said? I glanced over at Bapa, our friend. Even he looked uncomfortable; and then I realized what was wrong. In our enthusiasm we had completely forgotten to address the Maharaja correctly. "Yes, Your Highness" Before dinner Bapa had instructed us in this custom of his country, and we had prac ticed saying, "Yes, Your Highness," and "No, Your Highness," in the privacy of our room. How strange it had sounded! But now I was determined to make good on the next question addressed to me. My chance came. "Did you come by way of the Pacific?" "Yes, Your Highness." At last I had gotten that mouthful out. It sounded like a strange language. I looked all around, yet no one else seemed to think it sounded queer; and naturally so, for we were in India as guests of the Maharaja and his youngest brother Bapa. A long story leads up to that first banquet with Indian royalty. It begins just seven years ago when with halting steps and anxious glances Frank and I entered the National Geographic Society building in Washington with a manuscript and a stack of pictures under our arms illustrating our experiments in training hawks and falcons to hunt for us.* "We can use it," we had been told. That meant the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC would publish our article. How much more it meant we could never have dreamed. Cer tainly we could not have foreseen the first letter postmarked "India" that dropped through the mail slot. That letter began, "I have just read your article in the National Geographic," and con cluded with, "God willing, you must visit my country sometime and see how we fly falcons. Sincerely, K. S. Dharmakumarsinhji. P. S. Don't let the name scare you. . . . Call me Bapa for short." That postscript firmly estab lished our friendship. For several years letters arrived from far away India. From them we learned that Bapa was a Rajput and a prince, that his people had come down from the north and fought for the land they now ruled. Bapa described hunting lions, wild boars, and gazelles. He mentioned running trained cheetahs at black buck and flying saker fal cons at kites. Each letter stirred our imagina tion, and each one ended with, "Sometime you must come and see all this for yourselves." We in turn told Bapa about America and invited him here. It never occurred to us that Bapa would be the first to accept, but one day we learned he was on his way to America. How were we to entertain a prince? What would he look like? How would he act? A thousand other questions came to mind. But when Bapa arrived he soon answered them all, for Bapa was in any language a regular guy! Prince Sips "Cokes," Rides Roller Coaster In two short weeks we tried to show Bapa how young Americans live. We went fishing, canoeing, swimming, and hunting. He did them all well. We drank Coca-Colas and milk * See "Adventures with Birds of Prey," NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, July, 1937.