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Published: June 15th 2013
The day of the wedding between Crown Prince Birendra and his fiancée Princess Aishwarya had arrived. Jenny's villa was situated on the broad Durbar Marg that led to the King's palace, an ideal vantage point from which to view the wedding procession.She invited him along with some of the other UN staff to watch the proceedings from her flat roof.
Preparations had been taking place in the streets and parks of Kathmandu in the weeks leading up to the big day, providing interesting diversions for the public. One day Frank had watched a throne being strapped to an elephant's back.Fresh coats of paint were being applied to everything along the route, the reason why Jegan had been unable to find a painter.Even the roads were being decorated with zebra crossings.These had no impact on driving or pedestrian behaviour, but served as public works of art, and outward signs of Nepal's membership of the international community of nations - the visible trappings of a modern state. Elephants stepped elegantly along the thoroughfares, and in the Tundhikel parade ground the military rehearsed various exploits, such as riding through flaming hoops, and blowing up bridges. Frank saw some rehearsing a dance with the famous curved Nepalese knife, the feared weapon of Gurkha soldiers, thekukhuri.
On the day itself, the streets were lined with crowds of people. Those lucky enough to find a place on the kerbs squatted, while those behind stood. Others clambered up trees and onto roofs to get a better view. Those on Jenny's roof had as good a view as any. Sunita was in the group, but she and Frank studiously ignored each other as they continued to act as though their affair was invisible. It was in no-one’s interest that they proclaim their love to the world. As it was, their colleagues, not being compelled to know the truth, could pretend they didn’t know it, and so were saved from having to take a stance against them.From time to time Sunita and Frank shared their delight at the events with an exchange of secret glances.
Serried ranks of soldiers marched by, some firing muskets in the air. Girl guides, boy scouts, some with drums, and soberly attired state employees followed on one after the other, contributing their own colours and style to the spectacle. Musicians playing rough hewn music through long silver horns that curved extravagantly back over their heads provided the sound track, over the steady boom of artillery from the parade ground, and the random banging of drums.
“Oh look! The King!” went up the cry as a large black limousine passed by, and then, enthroned ontop of a huge elephant, under the shade of a canopy, the bespectacled Crown Prince Birendra, dressed entirely in silver garments, swayed by. And then a gasp from the crowd as a team of horses, their riders looking resplendent in their scarlet uniforms and thick red plumes, was spotted pulling a fairy-tale carriage, resembling the one used by the British Queen on state occasions, and close behind, a silver palanquin with four domes, was being borne by a team of twelve liveried bearers kitted out in smart white trousers and red tunics. They all strained to see the passengers inside. From their viewpoint, the spectators on Jenny's roof could not be certain but guessed they included the Princess and Queen. There was laughter and excited chatter as huge carnival characters on stilts, some taking the form of deities, walked stiffly by. Even the foreign diplomatic community was represented. The German ambassador, who, as the longest resident ambassador in Kathmandu, was representing the diplomatic corps, lumbered by, enthroned like the Crown Prince under a canopy on top of an ornately dressed elephant. He seemed to be enjoying himself and doffed his top hat to the crowds.
When the tail-end of the procession had passed them, Frank gave Sunita a look that contained a cryptic invitation to visit him, which he hoped she would be able to decipher. She twisted her lips to indicate that she got the message, but wasn’t sure if she could accept.
He returned home and waited in hope. Later that afternoon, she knocked on the door of his flat. As they lay together, Frank said, for no better reason than that he thought it might amuse her:
“I'm Prince Birendra and you're my princess.”
“I'm a Newar,” she replied. “And you're an Englishman.”
“Princess Aishwarya is a Rana, and Prince Birendra is a Shah. We don't want to be them.”
“They are not Newars. Nepal was ruled by three Newari kings before Prithvi Narayan Shah invaded and destroyed our kingdoms. The Shahs come from Gorkha, not Nepal.”
“But Gorkha is in Nepal.”
“Not until the invasion.”
“What about the Ranas?”
“They took power from the Shahs, and kept them prisoner in the palace until King Mahendra's father escaped. But they are also not Newars. They have no right to rule us.”
“OK, then. You're my Newari princess, rightful ruler of Nepal. What’s your name?”
“Tula Rani. She was a great Newari queen once, a long time ago.”
“OK, so you want to be a queen,” Frank said, playing along with this game. “But who am I?” She thought for a moment, and decided:
“You are Jaya Prakash Malla.”
“The last Newari King of Kathmandu.”
“The trouble is, Thula Rani and Jaya Prakash Malla are both dead,” he said perceptively.
“They have come alive again,” she said, pinching him. “Ouch!”He decided not to question this any further. He didn't want to invalidate his position as Sunita's royal consort by challenging his own credentials. They snoozed contentedly on this for a while, but when he woke up he had an even better idea.
“How about if I am Shiva and you Parvati?” he asked.
“Yes, that’s better,” she said with a grin. So it was settled. They were not mere royal lovers. They were divine.
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