The Maharani’s Hidden Granddaughter

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  1. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

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    The Maharani’s Hidden Granddaughter

    Sunday, 31 May, 2009 | 11:56 AM PST |

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    MADRID: When Maha Akhtar tried to renew her British passport while studying in Spain, she discovered that she is the granddaughter of an Indian maharaja -- her mother had not been quite open about her father.

    Her family story could become a Hollywood film and while Akhtar has not completely gotten over the shock she has written a book to tell her side.

    Akhtar was taken aback when her request for a birth certificate, needed to complete her passport application, was turned down.

    She did some digging and learned that she was not born in Australia as her mother had told her but in Lebanon.

    More surprisingly, her father was Ajit Singh, offspring of a young Spanish dancer from Malaga, Anita Delgado, and one of India's richest maharajas, Jagatjit Singh. Delgado married the maharaja in 1907.

    Akhtar had always thought her father was her mother's Pakistani husband.

    ‘I felt tremendous anger and shock, I felt like I had lived a lie but with time, and by discussing what had happened with my aunt, I started to feel compassion towards my mother,’ the 44-year-old Akhtar said at the presentation of her memoirs in Madrid this month.

    The marriage of Anita and the Maharaja of Kapurthala in northern India is well known in Spain thanks to the 2005 book ‘Passion India’ by Javier Moro that tells the story of the couple.

    Oscar-winning Spanish actress Penelope Cruz bought the rights to the book with a view to turning it into a movie in which she would play the lead role.

    Anita met Jagatjit, then a prince who was 18 years her senior, when he came to Spain for the wedding in 1906 of King Alfonso XIII to a granddaughter of Britain's Queen Victoria, Princess Victoria Eugenie.

    She married him the following year at the age of 17, becoming the Maharani of Kapurthala. They divorced after she had an affair with one of the maharajah's sons from one of his four previous marriages.

    In the 1960s their son Ajit had a brief affair with Maha's mother, Zahra Ajami, which resulted in her returning to Beirut alone and pregnant.

    The maharaja paid a Pakistani associate to marry Zahra and after she gave birth to the baby -- Maha Akhtar -- the couple moved to Australia.

    Akhtar, who was educated in Britain and the United States, said she had never heard about the Spanish maharani before learning the truth of her ancestry.

    Since making her discovery, Akhtar has made several visits to New Dehli to meet family on her father's side.

    ‘I did not go looking for them, they found me and I'm very happy they found me because I would not have gone looking for them. Because it's embarrassing, you don't go knocking at somebody's door,’ she told AFP.

    ‘They have been generous and kind and just welcoming and warm. I feel part of this, they have made me feel part of that family. They are extremely open, they have not hidden anything from me,’ she added.

    Akhtar began to study flamenco in 1996, years before she became aware that her grandmother had been a dancer from Spain.

    Akhtar herself worked for a while as a production assistant for The Cure, the British new wave rock band, and then for 15 years in New York with veteran CBS news anchor Dan Rather. She became a professional flamenco dancer in 2005.

    ‘I have a passion for dance. I don't know where this passion comes from,’ said Akhtar, who has also studied kathak, classical dance of northern India.

    Akhtar, who speaks six languages, currently divides her time between New York, Seville and New Delhi.

    Translation rights for her book, ‘The Maharani's Hidden Granddaughter,’ have already been sold to Brazil, China and Germany, and an English version will be launched shortly in India. – AFP

    DAWN.COM | World | The Maharani?s Hidden Granddaughter
     
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  3. S.A.T.A

    S.A.T.A Senior Member Senior Member

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    No wonder Hollywood is interested..............I wonder what the title is. :)
     

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