| Maharaja Pradyot Bikram Manikya Deb Burman at Ujjayanta Palace in Agartala. Telegraph picture |
Agartala, Feb. 8: What does one say of a king who lives all by himself in the spectacular Ujjayanta Palace in the heart of this town, misses his 107 dogs tucked away in Tripura Castle in Shillong, plays the guitar with the passion of a 34-year-old and is a chef par excellence?
That the sole heir of the 800-year-old Manikya dynasty, Maharaja Pradyot Bikram Manikya Deb Burman, is charming and elegant is to state the obvious.
That he loves the hills of Meghalaya he grew up in and wanders among them with his semi-professional camera would also come as no surprise. Today, he is Tripura’s biggest crowd-puller, but he is a lonely man. “I am a happy person. I don’t like to complicate things. I am extremely concerned that I don’t undo all the good done by my ancestors. But it’s very lonely being what I am. It is time I settled down,” he says with disarming candour.
Over a scrumptuous breakfast, the young king stops to consider what he is looking for in a soulmate, whom he is yet to find. “I look for a private relationship. And I hope to settle down soon, maybe in a year,” he says in what he describes as a “non-clichéd response”.
Born on July 4, 1978, Deb Burman studied in Shillong and spoke only English and Hindi at home. “I learnt Khasi, but it is only a year that I have started speaking Bengali,” he says. He also intends to learn Halam and Bru languages. But in a departure from his ancestors, he is the first royal scion in four generations to learn the local Kokborok language and communicates fluently with the indigenous population in Tripura. It is hardly any wonder that they adore their king or “Bubaghra” as he is called in that language.
For the next decade, Deb Burman intends to work “for my people”. He has already set up a school in Dhalai district, where education opportunities were scarce. “English-medium education will give our youths a link with the world and I want to give them that boost,” he explains. Then he will set out to explore the world, after having “passed on the torch to someone whom I will personally groom”.
Last year, he went to the US and spoke about the Northeast at Harvard Kennedy School in Boston, where he has been invited twice. Articulate about his priorities, Deb Burman says: “I speak about politics in Southeast Asia vis-à-vis the Look East Policy, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, which I abhor, development, displacement and democracy.”
Till such time, and until he finds the free-spirited, dog-loving princess who will fill the glass slipper, the Northeast’s most eligible royal bachelor is happy to potter around his garden selecting herbs to garnish his cooking. He readily admits to being a great cook and adds that his standards are “so high it becomes difficult”.
Keen on rock-climbing and a great lover of sport, the young royal will, of course, keep an eye on the soccer scene, being co-owner of Shillong Lajong FC.