All of 20, he has travelled to over 30 countries. A professional polo player, intrepid traveller, and style maverick—His Highness Jaipur Padmanabh Singh invited T + L India & South Asia over to the City Palace, Jaipur, for a conversation on his escapades. By Aindrila Mitra
STYLED BY RAGHAVENDRA RATHORE
PHOTOGRAPHED BY POOJA ACHAN
PRODUCED BY AINDRILA MITRA
WATCH PARTNER HUBLOT
LOCATIONS CITY PALACE,
JAIPUR & SUJÁN RAJMAHAL PALACE
There’s something quintessentially royal about the Pink City—be it the architectural marvels, the rich cuisine, or the Rajputs who nurture their roots in history. It’s a city that has always mesmerised and overwhelmed me at the same time—enchanting in its opulence, and awe-inspiring when it comes to the prominence given to heritage and lineage, even in everyday life.
This is, therefore, no ordinary day. I am meeting the Maharaja of Jaipur, Padmanabh Singh, at his residence, the City Palace, right in the heart of Jaipur, opposite the iconic Jantar Mantar. Featured in Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Asia list, all of 20 years and fondly called Pacho by his friends and family, His Highness Jaipur is leading every traveller’s dream. Polite to a fault, always composed, but seriously passionate about polo and travel, Pacho is upfront. “Travel is freedom. Sometimes, when I have nothing pressing to do and have time, I take out the map, point to a place, and I’m there before you know it! I enjoy that freedom—without too many responsibilities, doing what you like teaches you so much about yourself.” But at the nearly 300-year-old City Palace, he’s the King. “My favourite section in the palace is Sukh Niwas, where my grandfather (the late Bhawani Singh) used to live, and now I do. We’ve had really opulent balls there.” Indeed, the guest list of these events included the likes of Oprah Winfrey and the Prince of Wales.
As a part of the Indian polo team, royalty notwithstanding, Pacho has already seen more of the world than most of us will in our lifetime. “My aim is to be able to play polo in over 100 countries. I’ve done 30 or more so far. I enjoy going to South America, mainly because polo is massive there. But I really love Europe—the history, the culture, [and how] every little street [or] house has a story to tell.” The Maharaja is candid in his wishful thinking. “If I weren’t born in Jaipur, I see myself on an island off the coast of Italy. It’s called Ponza. (The largest island of the Pontine Islands archipelago, it is crescent-shaped with just one large beach called Spiaggia di Chiaia di Luna, or the Half Moon Beach.) It’s super peaceful. There’s a small community here, and they’re self-sufficient. It’s the kind of life I dream of having. I’m not a city boy. I never have been.”
The young lad is close to his family, something that becomes evident in his conversations with uncle and bespoke menswear designer Raghavendra Rathore (from the royal family of Jodhpur) during our cover shoot. Rathore styled Pacho for his coronation when he turned 18, and has done so exclusively for this T+L feature as well. “Our family has always been very close to the Jodhpur royal family. My great-grandmother was the princess of Jodhpur. I play polo there every season, and it’s like my second home,” says the young royal.
The trend of multi-generational travel isn’t new to Pacho. “When I was a child, every year we would go for an annual family vacation, along with my grandparents. We would go to London, and then move to a destination in Europe.” His love for the continent was clearly defined in his early days.
“The first time I travelled alone was when I went to school in England. I was going from one boarding school (Mayo College in Ajmer) to another (Millfield School in Somerset, UK). And, I recognised independence,” something this polo maverick prizes above everything else now. “I grew up at the City Palace surrounded by all the comforts, until I moved to Mayo. I was 10 when I first got the taste of being by myself.” Now, he likes his solitude so much that he takes at least one solo trip a year. “This time, I did the south of Italy. I travelled with a friend for a week, did all the local things, [and] met the locals as a foreigner.”
ROAD LESS TRAVELLED
As the day progresses, the modern-day Maharaja lightens up. We chat about his travel plans and goals, and he takes me through his whirlwind journeys on Instagram. “I made an impromptu visit to Brazil this August. There was a polo match, but I took two weeks off before it. I went to Rio, basked on the beach where people mistook me for a Brazilian, walked into favelas, and even though language was a barrier, people were amazing,” he beams. Ask him about his favourite beach destination, and prompt comes the reply: “Trancoso. It’s on the northern coast of Brazil. The place is especially popular during NYE celebrations, but I went there at a quiet time.” Originally founded by Jesuit priests in the 16th century, Trancoso is famed for its beaches like Praia dos Espelho, Praia dos Nativos, and Praia dos Coqueiros. In fact, Trancoso lies at the start point of an Environmental Protection Area—the APA Caraiva-Trancoso, which limits tourism and economic development of the region in order to minimise harm to its environment.
An offbeat destination that Pacho insists one must visit is Iran. His memories of the place may be the reason. “We went to play the World Cup playoffs in Iran, and it was a country on my bucket list for long. I was 18, and I was with the Indian Polo Association. We were playing against Pakistan, Iran, [and] South Africa.” Pacho played wonderfully to get India through to the finals.
TRAVEL IN STYLE
Off to Rome for a year to continue his education, Pacho was a student in NYC until recently. And you’d be forgiven to mistake him for just another New Yorker. “I’m always in a jeans and a white tee when I’m in New York, and I love my Venetian velvet shoes. I like to travel in style,” he says. It’s quite clear that the vibe of the destination inspires his dressing, Paris bringing out his stylish best. “It all depends on where you are, and the time of the year,” he states matter-of-factly.
Closer home, Pacho finds his space at the Rajmahal Palace, now converted into a SUJÁN heritage hotel. Spread over 15 acres of verdant lawns, it’s no surprise that luxury has found an address here. “I used to come here often with my grandfather, and it used to be a different structure then. A few years ago, my parents decided to renovate it. (The palace was restored under the able guidance of interior designer Adil Ahmad.) It was a tough decision, but turned out to be beautiful. When I want to be alone, I come here… it’s my
favourite place in the country,” he confesses.
THE NOMADIC KING
After spending a whole day with His Highness Sawai Padmanabh Singh, the 303rd descendant of the royal family of Jaipur, one thing is clear—this quintessential charmer has his head firmly on his shoulders, and wants to see the whole world, like many of us. “In Jaipur, people are watching [me]. But when I travel, I’m just like anyone else, and that gives me a sense of freedom to do things that I normally can’t, and to learn things that I can’t [when I’m home].” The wanderer in him wants to chase his dreams. “I want to lead by example. Polo is my way of contributing [to the country]. However, I want to come back and work with the people of Jaipur, and see myself doing social work.” Until then, as they say, the world is his oyster.