Amrit Kaur, the 86-year-old Rajkumari of Faridkot, is graceful, soft-spoken, and royal, as she should be. She is the eldest daughter of Raja Harinder Singh of Faridkot. She was raised by governesses in her father's palaces. It was ensured that she learned singing, embroidery and the piano. Her brother Harmohinder Singh and sisters Deepinder Kaur and Maheepinder Kaur also spent their formative years at their father's castles in Faridkot. She remembers her father with affection.

The princess recalled her governess, the Australian Miss Foley, who demanded porridge every morning for breakfast.Amrit Kaur shared when Miss Foley visited Lahore before the partition, where she witnessed bloodshed. So, she gathered her bags, packed her bags, and came back. 

Reminiscence of growing up years 

Amrit Kaur recollects her memories and shares about her childhood, 

“My father was a gentle person. If he wanted you to do something, he would sit you down and talk to you. On the other hand, my mother, Rani Narinder Kaur, was a strict disciplinarian. Clothes had to be folded and kept just so! She would check the cupboards to ensure that this was done!”

Her father made certain she learned how to ride a horse. While she fell down multiple times, he made sure that she became  skilled at the art of horse riding. Also, he made sure that she learned driving. Raja Harinder Singh also had a legendary vehicle collection, and he trained her to drive in the Raj Mahal. 

Amrit Kaur recalls that her father would sit next to her and guide her. One time, she kept looking at her grandmother and mother while driving and hit the wall. However, all was well in the end as she finally learnt to drive. 

After homeschooling, Amrit Kaur’s parents made certain that their children received a traditional education. She completed her Matriculation before enrolling in FA and BA programmes at St. Bede's in Shimla. The nuns at this all-girls college were strict. 

The boarders became close, particularly Amrit’s group of pals. She says that she had five friends who sat at the same table and ate their meals together. Even later in life, they stayed in touch with each other. Two of them, Gursmat Sandhawalia and Ajit Sanghera live in Chandigarh. Once, they slipped out of the hostel, borrowed bicycles, and travelled to her grandmother's Mashobra estate. She participated in piano and extracurricular activities. At age 18, she received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the college.

The new beginnings 

Amrit Kaur married Major Harpal Singh in 1952. He was the son of Col. Harnam Singh, who was decorated for his service in World War I. His son, Major Harpal Singh, served on the Burma Front during World War II. He joined the Faridkot Police in 1946 and was Raja Harinder Singh's aide-de-camp at the time of their marriage. Her family did not approve of the marriage. 

In an interview, Gurveen Kaur, Amrit’s daughter shared, “ My mother always had cordial relations with her brother and sisters, and we stayed at Kenilworth (in the Mashobra estate of Raja Harinder Singh) with our grandfather, in Faridkot and Delhi with the family and attended family weddings.”

In 1954, Harpal Singh joined the Indian Police Service (IPS). The couple spent the subsequent years wherever he was sent, including Jalalabad, Patiala, Kapurthala, and Shimla. AIG Traffic, Deputy Director National Police Academy, Border Security Force (BSF), Deputy Inspector-General (DIG) Haryana Police, a diplomat in the United States, and Director-General of Vigilance, Haryana State Electricity Board were some of his previous positions.

He witnessed the partition as well as the creation of Pepsu, which merged into Punjab, and the trifurcation of Punjab into Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, and Haryana beginning with Faridkot as a state in British-ruled India. Harpal Singh was assigned to the Haryana cadre. Prof Karuna Goswamy recalls how he was close to her uncle, the legendary police officer Ashwani Kumar. 

Amrit Kaur's love and affection for her husband shined through as she spoke about him. She recalled the postings and takes satisfaction in describing his professional exploits and achievements. She fondly recounts, 

“US President ‘Ike’ Eisenhower addressed the General Assembly. Later, it was remarked that ‘for a multinational gathering, the delegates (except for a bearded Sikh) all looked terribly alike in drab sack suits.” 

The session was called in response to the United States’ intervention in Beirut in July of that year, as well as the increasing security situation in Lebanon and Jordan. They lived on 84 Street, just off Central Park in Manhattan, New York.

They were in Rohtak a year later. The Princess had to deal with a lot of ups and downs in her life. From palaces to government quarters, the family made the best of a bad situation. As Prof Karuna Goswamy, “She is a person of great refinement and has the ability to manage situations with élan.”

Their children received the greatest education possible and performed admirably. Jaskaran Singh, their son, was born in Ambala in 1954. He enrolled in Math Honours at St. Stephen's College in Delhi. He was enrolled in the LLB programme when he took an exam and joined the SBI alongside two of his college friends. He is now retired and lives in Loughton, Essex. He previously worked for Barclays and Lloyds banks.

Her daughter, Simar Negi, was born in 1955 in Ambala. She retired as the Principal Chief Commissioner of Income Tax in Delhi. Gurveen Kaur, the youngest, was born in 1962. She was the Additional Advocate General of Punjab. She lives with her mother and recalls receiving her first camera from her grandfather.

The recent lockdown gave the family another opportunity to spend time together. The daughters were with their mother, and Jaskaran, who had returned to the UK from India just before the lockdown, is currently there with his family.

After the death of Harinder Singh Brar, Raja of Faridkot in 1989, his purported will was made public. According to the will, his properties were bequeathed to Maharawal Khewaji Trust. In 1992, Amrit who was kept out of the will contested it. 

Matter of honour 

Senior Advocate Manjit Singh Khaira led her case from the trial court to the high court. He recalls Amrit saying, “I am not fighting for money, I am fighting for my honour, to show that my father could not disinherit me.” He further shared that she fought the case for twenty-eight years to prove her father’s love for her. In the end, it was proved that the will was forged. 

In 2013, the civil court held the will as fraudulent. The Punjab and Haryana High Court upheld the civil court judgement and awarded a 37.5% share in the estimated Rs20,000-crore property to Amrit Kaur and Deepinder Kaur. Also, 25% of the share went to the brother of Raja Harinder Singh, Manjit Inder Singh’s descendants.

Amrit Kaur is her generation's sole survivor. Her brother, who was the heir apparent, died in 1981. Her sister Maheepinder Kaur died in 2002. They weren't married. Also, the chairperson of the Maharawal Khewaji Trust, Deepinder Kaur died in 2018. She leaves behind a daughter and a son. The latter is now in charge of the trust.

Amrit Kaur's family has lived in Chandigarh for a long time. They are very much a part of the social scene and keep a low profile. According to her college classmate Ajit Sanghera, she was a humble, generous girl who was always willing to help everyone. 

A lifetime of experiences and decades of litigation rests lightly on the lovely lady who has carved a place for herself in a world that has altered radically since her birth as the eldest child of Colonel H.H. Farzand-i-Saadat-i-Nishan-i-Hazrat-i-Kaiser-i-Hind Raja Sir Harinder Singh, Brar Bans Sahib Bahadur, Raja of Faridkot, KCSI.


*Based on an article by Roopinder Singh, published in Tribune in June 2020

Add a Comment