Fierce, Relentless & Lupus Warrior: Journey of Urvashi Singh Khimsar
1. What was the inspiration behind your publication Rajputana Collective?
Growing up, I constantly mourned the lack of narrative representation amongst my ethnic community. As post-modernist sensibilities aptly put it, histories are thoroughly skewed, especially when the subject involved lacks a voice of their own. When I connected the dots through my academic years, I did realize that the media’s rampant generalizations tied to India’s erstwhile princely and noble communities find their basis on the lack of this very narrative representation. The percolation of these generalised conceptions raised by the media have a dangerous impact on discerning sensibilities and cause a further misunderstanding between our already divided world.
Even in the midst of this context, Rajputana Collective was an incidental manifestation, a literal serendipity. On a rainy morning in New Delhi, I was scrolling through my news feed and came across a personal blog that had called out the Rajput community based not just on historically inane factors but also a moralistic resentment that so often plagues modern-day discourse. I drafted a brief critique of the gentleman’s convictions, and to the least of my expectations or intent, my response went viral across platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook and got further amplified via Miss Malini. The blogger was gracious in accepting my humble lines constructively and apologized for his poor journalistic responsibility. Overwhelmed and slightly embarrassed by all the attention that this incident attracted, I almost buried my head between my knees and went on with my days. Shortly after, a well-wisher called Lakshmanswamy Velayudhan solicited a meeting with me wherein he expressed his appreciation for my writing skills that he had observed over the years. He suggested a more systematic delivery of my written skills. But the question was, how and where could I make a positive impact in an already media and content-saturated world? After careful mulling over and subsequent consultations with experts in the field, I devised the foundation of Rajputana Collective, which would be my very own publication to provide Rajput narratives a formal voice in the ever-expanding mediascape.
2. How has the meaning of the word “royalty” evolved over time? And how have its people?
As far as my understanding goes, the term royalty was an externally-coined, anglicized way of referring to the exotic idea of a people. Those people were linked by a similar status of caste, class and social hierarchy that placed them at the governance or custodianship of their respected ancestral dwellings. Their duty and protection towards their people in lieu of the collection of feudal revenue was the prime commonality in a pre-democratic framework. Today, vestiges of the idea of royalty as that exotic conception are constantly being rekindled for the sake of curiosities that are inclined partly towards historical curiosity and imaginative fantasy. However, the people who shared these common ancestries and descent continue to wield a post-democratic presence as our nation’s living heritage. There is a duality of existence that most present-day Rajputs would agree upon, wherein they are constantly torn between their common existence as global citizens on the one hand, and repositories of a bygone era on the other. This juxtaposition is a complex one, and hence demands sociological understanding of an equally complex sense. Over all, as for royalty, a people are as royal or unroyal as the citer deems them to be. It is an externally-framed conception, the power and weight of which is reliant entirely on the performer of the norm or conception.
3. Even though a lot of privileges might come with being a princess, you have faced your fair share of challenges. What were they and how did you overcome them?
My very privilege is a double-edged sword. It has played a dominant role in getting me where I am, it has attracted many opportunities and situations that I might not have otherwise had access to. I am mindful of the extent of privilege that I have had to my disposal, and that mindfulness also brings with it the realization of the disparities around me. Initially, I was thoroughly apologetic about my privileges in the face of those disparities, but given the potential that privilege has to manifest itself in a more constructive way, I feel more empowered and responsible to play my part as a responsible citizen. Privilege has the prerogative of setting an example, and doesn’t always have to play a synonym to entitlement. If I am able to conduct my privileges without the sense of entitlement that fester around it, I do believe to have overcome the prime challenge. As for the rest, there are external mindsets that I cannot control, but those which I can perceive with compassion and empathy. For all the times that I have been stereotyped and generalised as being an entitled princess, I do try and make peace with that perception as political and deeply ridden in the larger misconceptions that my own narratives are likely to alter, one story and one person at a time. At the end of it, who I am is not very different from who anyone else is. Like everyone else, I have my fair share of insecurities, vulnerabilities and inadequacies that make us human.
4. Who has been your biggest mentor in life, as a hotelier and as an individual
My father. His honesty, sense of duty, righteousness and hard work constantly inspire me, as does his zest for life in all that it has to offer. He has mentored and guided me throughout my personal and professional journey, and is my ultimate inspiration.
5. How would you describe your childhood and the constant pressure to behave like ‘royalty’?
Both my brother and I were raised like any other children our age. Our family is like any other, and apart from the sense of conduct and behaviour that is instilled by a parent into their children, there was no other pressure as such. We were taught the importance of treating every person, elder and younger with kindness and respect, to respect our elders, to uphold good sportsmanship spirit in victories as well as losses, and to share whatever we were endowed with, be it a fistful of sweets or even toys. Till date, I cherish these values in divorcing our mindsets from an excessive attachment to material belongings. We did grow up seeing our parents undergo great struggles before arriving at this luxurious threshold that Khimsar is known to today. In that sense, struggling has unique contributions to make towards one’s character and overall resilience. It makes reduce the things they take for granted. Apart from that, we did grow up in Khimsar and Jaipur, so while in Khimsar the deferential treatment offered by the hotel’s staff members and residents in and around the village could have amounted to excessive mollycoddling. But our parents ensured that we were exposed to the larger world from a very young age, be it through our education, travels and more. Thus, we were fortunate to get the best out of that duality- to be raised in a way that makes us strive for equanimity no matter how favourable or disfavourable a situation.
6. If given a chance to hit rewind, what is the one thing you would change about your life?
I wish I had taken myself less seriously at times. In this constant endeavour to achieve and prove ourselves, we tend to forget the smaller things in life. These, as we grow up to realise are actually the important parts, like to absorb our surroundings, to appreciate nature, to truly devote our time and attention to certain people, conversations and causes. To be able to laugh at myself is a privilege that I learned much later in life, and it has been immensely empowering, nourishing and de-stressing. I wish I had learned this earlier, but I suppose it’s better late than never!
7. What is your idea of women empowerment in India?
Empowerment in itself is a complicated word. But perhaps that argument should be left for another time. To me, the very self-realisation of a woman, that the agency and power to choose that she seeks around her is already within her, is immensely liberating. Our haplessness lies in our failure to recognise the ever-prevalent presence of the right to choose. That whatever we don’t change, we choose. We are the source of our own empowerment at least at an elementary level, and with that shift of mind set, the ripples of change and further empowerment aren’t very far away.
8. How do you spend your time outside work?
When I think of all the things I enjoy doing, I am reminded of how short one lifetime is. Motorbiking, trap shooting (shotgun), reading, listening to music, watching movies (actually, browsing more than watching for my indecision!) and playing with my dogs are some of the things that make my heart very happy. I am a big fan of travelling, driving and flying kites as well. I have recently taken up bread-making (which is indeed therapeutic) and my all-time destressor is a nice, unhurried run.
9. What are some of the things you wish you could tell your younger self?
That like everything, this too shall pass, and that life isn’t meant to be taken as seriously. The little moments are what add up, and to relish them in all their glory, or the lack thereof.
10. What is the message you want to give to young women building a life for themselves?
All that you desire, yearn for and seek is already within you. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Learn to love yourself, to cherish yourself, to value what you have and who you are. And that who you are will always be beyond what you have and what you do. Don’t limit yourself, for you were meant to be limitless.