| M.M. Kaye with Michael Ward
London, March 1: Mollie Kaye is coming home.
Two years after her death at the age of 95, a portion of the ashes of Mary Margaret (Mollie) Kaye, author of the best-selling novel The Far Pavilions, will be scattered at sunset on Lake Piccola in Udaipur on Saturday.
This is being done in recognition of Kaye’s love for India, the country where she was born and which she always considered her “real home”, rather than England, for which she had to leave at Independence in 1947.
The ashes will be scattered precisely at 6.22 pm ' the author’s family will wait for that moment back in Britain at 12.52 pm ' by Michael Ward, who produced the musical based on The Far Pavilions, and his wife, Elaine, who was the first to draw her husband’s attention to the novel.
“It will be a simple, private ceremony,” Ward told The Telegraph today in London, on the eve of his departure for Mumbai en route Udaipur. “We will be scattering a few rose petals and perhaps we will get a flutist to play a tune.”
The ashes are being scattered in Udaipur as the setting and especially the history of the Mewar dynasty inspired a section of the novel, “particularly the part dealing with the Rana of Bhithor”, Ward said.
Kaye’s family requested Ward to perform the ceremony.
M.M. Kaye, as the author is usually known, was born into a family of the Raj on August 21, 1908, and left India “very reluctantly” after Independence.
Her grandfather, father, brother and husband ' all served the Raj, and her grandfather’s cousin, Sir John Kaye, wrote the standard accounts of the 1857 Mutiny and the first Afghan War.
After India’s Independence, her husband, Major General Goff Hamilton of Queen Victoria’s Own Corps of Guides (the famous Indian Army regiment featured in The Far Pavilions), joined the British Army. In March 2003, she was awarded the Colonel James Tod International Award by the Maharana Mewar Foundation of Udaipur for her “contribution of permanent value reflecting the spirit and values of Mewar”.
“Because of her husband, Mollie Kaye had an Irish passport but what she really wanted was an Indian passport,” disclosed Ward. “The departing British rulers said they couldn’t offer her that.” (Ironically, Manmohan Singh might have been able to grant her that under the new dual nationality proposals).
The 1,000 pages of The Far Pavilions were written by Kaye at her home in Farnham, Surrey, between 1964 and 1978, when it was published. She had returned to India to do some of her research in Udaipur in the early 1970s.
The book has now sold 15 million copies in 16 languages, and was adapted into a television mini-serial in 1984 and a West End musical in London last year. The musical closed after 200 performances, partly because many theatregoers stayed away from London after the suicide bombings on London Underground last July.
It spans the 25 years between the 1857 uprising and the Second Afghan War, telling the story of forbidden love between British officer Ashton Khan Pelham-Martyn and an Indian woman, Princess Anjuli.
Kaye’s daughter, Nikki Hamilton, said: “The Far Pavilions was my mother’s love letter to India. India was home for mother. She saw India through an Indian eye, not a European one.”
Kaye collaborated with Ward in the production of the musical but died on January 29, 2004. When the musical opened in April last year at the 1,300-seat Shaftestbury Theatre in London, one chair was kept empty in honour of the author.
Ward, who was himself born in Assam, the son of a tea planter, said: “We are going to scatter the ashes where Mollie loved to visit and where she took much of her inspiration. It’s a romantic gesture for a romantic lady who will always be remembered fondly and with great admiration.”