Circumventing the busy roadways of the capital on a sultry afternoon a few weeks ago, I am headed towards upscale GK. After turning into one of its quieter by-lanes, my vehicle halts before the gated building that sports the address which is my appointed destination for the meeting. The durwan guides me to an upper-storey and I walk up the steps to the home of the royal in residence, Archana Kumari Singh. Ringing the doorbell, I hear the loud barking of two dogs who hurtle towards the entrance as soon as I step in.
I find myself in a comfortable space that is replete with a plethora of large and small artefacts. My eye is drawn to the huge swing that stands invitingly on one side. At another spot is a piano, silent for the moment — and the erstwhile princess, who is also president of Frazer and Haws, walks in, clad in a soft chiffon sari, her pallu draped elegantly across her shoulders. Delicate pearls glisten around her neck.
Earlier a writer and the editor of a magazine, Archana joined Frazer and Haws when she reinvented her professional life. Her role as president appealed to her inner sensibilities. She emphasises, “Frazer and Haws is the workshop of Hennell, opened by John Frazer and Edward Haws in 1869. Frazer and Haws and Hennell of Bond Street have been designing the most exquisite silver collectables and precious jewellery for over 250 years. I realised that the ideologies I grew up with matched beautifully with the vintage ethos of the company. Also, members of different royal families in Europe bought from them. The concept of corporate social responsibility existed right from the very beginning at Frazer and Haws. I decided that if I had to be the face of any company in India, it would have to be this. My background was similar to what the company embodied; the connection and sync in mindset were automatic.”
Her Delhi abode, a home that she has nurtured with her husband, Kanwar Ranjay Singh of Badnore (in Rajasthan), is comparatively much smaller than her huge childhood home in Pratapgarh in Uttar Pradesh. It displays ample traces of her personal and professional leanings. Archana points out, “The term ‘space’ is entirely relative. To me, it is just an empty expanse waiting to be embraced. And when you imbue it with elements of your own sensibilities, it embraces you back. And that is the very essence of a personal space.”
Archana’s earliest memory of a home is of a large fort which she remembers was always filled with family — immediate and extended. She rewinds, “There was constant laughter — as also rules with strict codes of conduct. Each of us had our own personal favourite corners, and there were plenty of unused spaces — a rarity now. Outdoors, it was largely a male domain but we had our moments that were liberating and satisfying too. We looked forward to festivals as the entire family congregated for a few days and the onus would be on my parents (since they were the eldest in the family) to make sure that everyone was made to feel special. The participation of the local people was of great importance too — food and music were integral and our own court singers would arrive for any special occasion; the khansamah would cook up a storm. In hindsight, I realise what efforts went into making each day an ‘event’!”
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