I’ve travelled to every continent, and I’ve spent most of my years in four places—Bhopal, from where my mother hailed; Pataudi, the family seat; the UK, where I studied and Delhi, where I now live. But if there’s one place I can think of as home, it’s Pataudi.
My three sisters and I were taught at home, in the palace, for the first few years. After Independence, my father got a job in the External Affairs Ministry, and we moved to Delhi. I was sent to Welham, in Dehradun, where I spent three years. On January 5, 1952, my eleventh birthday, my father died of a heart attack while playing polo in Delhi; he was forty-two.
That same year, I sailed to the UK. At prep school and, later, at Winchester, I acquired some distinction as a sportsman. I played my first first-class match for Sussex in 1957, as a sixteen-year-old. In 1959, I enrolled at Oxford, and continued to play county cricket—with rather more distinction than I brought to bear with my academic pursuits. By 1961, I was heading the batting averages in England. But the motorcar accident in 1961, in which I lost my right eye, changed all that…
Towards the end of 1968, after what I consider my best cricketing year, Sharmila [Tagore] and I were married. My family’s cultural and literary background isn’t, of course, quite as awesome as the Tagores’—we don’t, for instance, have a Nobel Prize winner in our family.
We are basically Afghans with a bit of Turkish blood who came down a few hundred years or so ago as glorified mercenaries, rushed around on our horses and occupied space for ourselves. Over the years, we’ve become a little more sophisticated.
…I don’t quite fancy travelling extensively any more. I do go to Europe on occasion—and whenever I’m in England I drop by at Lord’s to meet old friends and catch up on…no, not cricket, but our personal lives. But wherever one may go, Pataudi, the state that’s no longer ours, draws me repeatedly. I’m here fairly regularly: you can find me here wandering around with a book. It isn’t just the place, it’s also the relationships that it has nourished for generations now. I guess that’s why it’s ‘home’, and will always be.
(As told to V. Venkatesan. This was first published in Outlook Traveller and then reproduced in its 10th anniversary issue)