Nepal prince’s consort wins battle for citizenship

February 22nd, 2009 - 4:52 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Feb 22 (IANS) More than 40 years after she first came to Nepal and a three-decade-old grim battle with its royal family, an American visitor who became the consort of the king’s youngest brother, has finally been granted her desire - to become a Nepali citizen.

Barbara Adams was one of the handful of white women in Nepal in the 1960s who came from Kolkata to cover the Nepal visit of Queen Elizabeth II on behalf of Italian weekly, Mundo Nuova.

But due to the difficulties in boarding a flight, when she arrived in February 1961, the queen had already left.

Instead, the blonde met a local celebrity - Prince Basundhara, the youngest brother of the then all powerful king Mahendra, and thus began a relationship that lasted till the prince’s death in 1977.

“It was hardly the most romantic of meetings,” laughs Barbara, now a well-known figure in Kathmandu with her flowing white hair and eastern clothes.

“I was sitting at the Yak and Yeti bar of the Royal Hotel and the prince mistook me for someone else. When he realised his mistake, he apologised, we laughed and then I went along to see his photographs of a Himalayan expedition.”

While Barbara was in her 20s, and according to her own admission, “painfully shy”, the prince was in his 40s, estranged from his Nepali wife, had had a fling with another American journalist and known to be a playboy.

Though according to Barbara, King Mahendra did not mind the new relationship, the trouble started when his eldest son Birendra ascended the throne.

The new queen, Aishwarya, was very imperious and conscious of the status of the royal family and made life difficult for Barbara.

“They tried to take away everything I had,” Barbara says. “My car and my travel agency (which she had started with Prince Basundhara).”

After Basundhara died in 1977, Barbara feared she would be deported.

“I would be sitting at the immigration office and watch hippies come with 20 passports and get visa for all of them without any question,” she says. “But I would be put on hold.”

It was then that she decided to apply for Nepali citizenship.

It was ironic. Every year, thousands of Nepalis apply for immigration to the US while she was ready to exchange her American citizenship to become the citizen of one of the poorest nations in the world and was being thwarted.

In 2005, when King Gyanendra declared himself head of the government, Barbara says initially, like many others, she had high hopes.

“Gyanendra could have done many good things for the country had he wanted to,” she says. “But he did so many wrong things that I gave up on him.”

The royal regime put her application on hold. Then came the pro-democracy movement in 2006 when Nepal decided to abolish its 239-year-old monarchy.

Despite her links with the royal family, Barbara says she was happy.

“Nepal needed a change and the king obviously couldn’t do it. So I was hopeful that the new government would be able to.”

But the new multi-party government too put her application in limbo. It finally took a government by the Maoists, who were the palace’s arch enemy, to grant Barbara’s wish this month.

Her first reaction was one of disbelief. “I kept on thinking something is going to go wrong,” she says. “I had given up hope.”

But nothing went wrong and on Saturday, the dead prince’s consort celebrated her victory with a lavish party.

Now that she is a full-fledged Nepali citizen, is Barbara thinking of writing a no-holds barred book on her days with Prince Basundhara and the former royals?

But despite having three books under her belt, Barbara is not yet ready for that.

“I am far too involved in leading my life to write about it,” she says.

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