Nepal’s former princesses turn over a new leafOctober 8th, 2010 - 1:29 pm ICT by IANS
By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, Oct 8 (IANS) Two years after Nepal’s parliament officially declared the world’s only Hindu kingdom a secular republic, Nepal’s former princesses will Friday embrace their new status as law-abiding commoners with the inauguration of a charitable trust pledged to social service.
Nepal’s last king Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah is inaugurating the Himani Trust, a non-profit charitable organisation started by his daughter-in-law, the former crown princess Himani Rajya Laxmi, in collaboration with six more women, including his daughter and three nieces.
The trust was formally registered with the district authorities last week even as Himani, a scion of the former Indian princely state of Sikar, celebrated her 35th birthday.
The mother of three, one of the most non-controversial and popular members of the royal family, had been among the first to settle down to a changed way of life since the abolition of monarchy, taking her children to the cinema during their school vacation like any other ordinary mum, going paragliding and being the chief guest at a pageant.
She has also been a regular visitor to the old-age home on the premises of Nepal’s revered Pashupatunath temple, taking blankets and fruits for the residents.
“Since the last one-and-a-half years, the Crown Princess’ secretariat began to receive public grievances,” said Pawana Shah, a relative of the former royals and also the secretary of the Himani Trust.
“People brought their sorrows and problems to her from far and wide. There were calls to help renovate a school building, repair a run-down bridge and help provide drinking water supply. That inspired her to open a trust.”
Funded initially by its seven members, the trust has pledged to work in five areas. Besides the welfare of children, youth, women and the elderly, it will also focus on health, education, employment and developmental work.
When she was the crown princess, Himani, as per tradition, was regarded as an adjutant of her husband, crown prince Paras.
However, Shah said the trust will be run by the seven-member board without any interference either by the former crown prince or the king.
It will also see the debut in public life by deposed king’s daughter Prerana, who has stayed away from limelight till now. The former king’s three nieces - daughters of his eldest brother Dhirendra, who perished in the tragic royal massacre in the palace in 2001 - are also on the board.
Of them, Sitashma Shah has already started a new chapter in her life by starting a boutique earlier this year run in partnership with her cousin Rochana Shahi and friend Vivek Upadhya.
Shah dismissed reports that the former crown princess had roused the ire of the Maoists, the former guerrillas whose 10-year insurrection led to the downfall of monarchy in Nepal.
A section of the media had reported recently that Himani, who had visited Sindhupalchowk district in northern Nepal to inaugurate a drinking water supply project, was obstructed by Maoist cadres, who called it a political ploy to gather support for the restoration of monarchy.
“It was not true,” she said. “There was tremendous public support for her. The trust is a non-political organisation solely focusing on social service.”
(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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