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Cover Story
April 25, 2016

Contemporary Royals: Chandini Singh

Text by Shraddha Jahagirdar-Saxena. Photographed by Trisha Sarang. Styling by Shweta Navandar. Make-up by Rebecca Doney, TFM India. Hair by Meghna Butani, Assisted by Reena Creado. Location courtesy: Bungalow 8, Mumbai

A royal from Seohara, Uttar Pradesh, Chandini Singh talks about her regular childhood and her passion for textiles and fabrics

Though life has taken her away from Seohara in Uttar Pradesh (UP), she remains conscious of her clan’s responsibility towards their state. Married into a non-royal family, Chandini Singh’s life is filled with her interests in textiles and fabrics, and her baby, Rose Tree, that she created with her mother, Kanwarani Kamini Singh. A few weeks ago, she launched the international furniture brand Warisan in India and she is also involved with the running of The Orchard, a luxury resort in Kumaon, Uttarakhand.

Childhood capers “We travelled a lot; my father (Kunwar Shail Raj Singh) loved driving so we used to just pack up and leave. I was the only child for almost 12 years; my brother Prithvi is around eleven-and-a-half years younger than me. I was like a son to my father — I learned how to drive when I was very young; I knew everything about cars — I knew how to change a tyre; I was taught how to shoot…. My childhood years were far different from the average girl’s.”

On being special “For a long time, it did not occur to me that I was so. I studied in a regular school in Delhi, lived in a normal home. It was a big house, but my parents behaved normally, so no one made me feel as if I was better than or different from others. It was only when my friends came with me to Seohara that I — and they — realised the difference. They went, ‘Oh, my god, you live in a palace!’”

Throwback time “In Seohara, people did not see me for a long time; they did not know who I was because we were always in the house. Only the women who came over to meet or work with mom had seen me. At my wedding — an 11-day-long affair — people just wanted to touch me and see if I was real or not.”

Work ethos “By the time I finished my schooling, I knew I wanted to take up a job to see where I stand. My father was not very happy with the idea. After much convincing, he let me work for a short period of time, and I had a brief stint at Mango through one of my friends. For me, it was extremely exciting because my incentive at that point was the 40-per-cent discount that I would get! Then after a very short time at Satya Paul, my father told me that he didn’t really like me being out until late at night.

So I quit and later opened Rose Tree with my mother and am still involved with that. The name is important because the rose represents what femininity is all about and the tree stands for life. It is all about organic cotton and
hand-embroidered stuff — nothing is done by machine except for the stitching. It generates employment for women in the villages in UP and in Lucknow too, where
we do a lot of chikan work.”

Coping with loss “Coming to terms with my father’s death has been the biggest challenge in my life. Even though our lives were shattered, there was no way we could stop in our tracks. I knew that Seohara had to be looked after — my father had taken care of it earlier — and our establishment in Delhi also needed to be tended to. People did not accept the supervision of a woman easily and for a long time they thought that my mother was going to sell everything and go away. We put my brother in a hostel…and it was only months later that I gave myself the liberty to break down.”

The forever knot “I have known my husband Abhimanyu (Bansal) since the sixth grade. We started dating in 2009, and got married a little while ago. Our family backgrounds are not similar — he was born and brought up in the US in his early years before returning to India. He is into project management, has a venture in coal mining, one in medical transcription and now hospitality management. His mother is from a very well-known family in Gwalior and she is very aware of what it means to be a royal.”

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