Kesri Singh Mandawa

Suddenly someone who you loved and knew intimately all your life leaves your radar screen and disappears like a fallen aircraft does from the screen of Air Traffic Controllers.  My dear cousin Kesri is one such, who after a month in the ICU at hospital had a heart seizure.  He had stopped smoking for the past twenty years and took care of his kidneys which a month ago were no worse than mine. But after his youngest brother passed away, ten years younger, he was quite inconsolable, though he didn’t show it. He arranged a grand funeral for him at his village fortress, but after the cremation, for the first time, he began neglecting himself and went out canvassing for the General Elections in India in the open 48 degree midday sun, and suffered a heat stroke and kidney failure. He was rushed to Jaipur three hours away and admitted to hospital where they placed him in an ICU. There when I visited him, he joyously greeted me, waving both arms and was also chatty with the nurses. But he did not survive beyond a month.

Kesri’s Funeral at Mandawa


Sure, he must then have joined his parents’ souls waiting for him. So dear Kesri then left this world and joined the spirit world meeting his mother, father and 95 year old grandfather. 

Dear Kesri is therefore, alas, no more. What a maverick personality he was and an achiever. He had a finger in every pie and a concern and compassion for his family, extended family and people at large. He was always there for anyone who approached him with a kind word, providing help they needed. He looked after his brothers, their families, his own family, wife, daughters and a son, and even the grandchildren. He was always on the lookout to meet his uncles and their kids, arranging parties and get-togethers so that no connection was ever lost, like a grandsire.

In that respect, he was much like his parents whose home was always open to relatives and all and sundry with the warmest hospitality and affection you can imagine. From childhood my siblings and I were always there. He inherited those qualities.

He was also a great entrepreneur, full of initiative, and built his fortress in the village into a grand four-star hotel where tourists from overseas and home visited, feasted and were provided every conceivable comfort. It is today on the map of the world, “ Mandawa Castle”, and in Jaipur he turned their villa into another hotel called Mandawa Haveli. Places to be a must-visit for foreigners. He also set up a Desert Camp with 50 rooms and tents, replete with the latest luxuries for tourists in the village. Indians and foreigners came in flocks to this renowned but remote tourist site promoted meticulously in foreign capitals and on the website.

He discharged all his responsibilities with equal vigour and concern, marrying his daughters and son with great fanfare at the fortress in Mandawa where governors, maharajas, ministers, relatives and the social elite all congregated to enjoy the festivities. These events were spectacular and full of traditional hospitality which few can equal. Dance, folk music, torch bearers, puppet shows, and the finest cuisine and drinks to fulfil all expectations were all there. What fun we had at these events with Kesri the magnificent host.

He cared for the aged older generation with the same fervour ensuring their presence at all these events like his 90 year old mother’s sister, who circumambulating his coffin, said, “I have lived too long. Now it’s my time to go.”

I knew him first as a kid of 7 joining the ETON of India, Mayo College. We remained in touch over decades a close and warm relationship, as he grew from being an energetic kid into a great entrepreneur, full of compassion for family concerns and the desire to develop his fortress.

He also joined as governing member of Mayo College at Ajmer, Rajasthan, and developed it with fervour, always present at its events. He then spawned an extension of the college for resident girl students and a Mayo Girls came up where people from faraway places like Nepal sent their daughters to receive boarding education which was hardly available elsewhere.  At Mayo College he developed sports like polo and golf which facilities didn’t exist in other public schools.

Kesri was always a dynamic personality, full of energy and spirit, despite his health, and managed to survive to the age of 73. I called on him a year ago and requested a peculiar favour. I said, “When I die, I would like you to take care of my funeral.” He smiled and said, as was his wont, “Sure, I will, but who knows who will go first“- Prophetic words for he has preceded me.

I miss him terribly and I am sorry being overseas could not be there for his funeral.

He came thrice to see me when I fell and broke my hip and had surgery. Each time, he was so full of love and concern. May his great soul rest in eternal peace with his dear parents.

I remember, vividly, just two months ago at the funeral at the fortress he sat beside me as the cremation proceeded and chatted for half an hour as if he had a premonition that this would be our last meeting. He was always full of humour and in parting said that I should spend another night there considering that when his mother had wed the Mandawa barat had spent three nights at our village.

It is going to be a challenge for his only surviving brother, Randhir, some seven years younger, to bear the loss, guide the family affairs, and carry the Mandawa flag, having lost three brothers in as many years. Our sympathies go out to him. May God give him the courage, strength and discretion to carry on.

Randhir Mandawa

And Kesri’s dear wife, Bindu, who cared for him all his life, as a doctor would have, must be quite inconsolable. Whenever I asked him about his health, he would say, “I don’t have a clue. Ask Bindu, she knows it all.” May God give her the strength to bear this irreparable loss to be able to guide her children and grandchildren in the times ahead. May his spirit be constantly with her at her elbow to provide the same strength love and compassion as he did when he was alive.

Kesri and Bindu with their children: Geetanjali, Priyanjali and Shivarjun.

His two daughters Gitanjali and Priyanjali are now mature, with children almost out of their teens. He had the pleasure of being a grandfather many times over. They and his son, Shivarjun, are sure to miss his guiding hand, but he taught them about life and they should fare well.

Never failing to discharge his duties to the very end, he went campaigning for the General Elections in the midday sun which proved fatal. As they say the brave conscientious warrior was brought home dead to find eternal peace and rest.

Here, I am in conclusion, reminded of Rajput warriors who became the legendary “ Jhunjhars” who kept on fighting and remained in the saddle even when their heads were severed, like dear Kesri at the Election Campaign and later battling life in the ICU. This was a true Jhunjhar if ever there was one. 

Kesri: The Jhunjhar