Our meeting with the Crown Princess of Denmark

Deepti Bhatnagar

Dr. Deepti Bhatnagar retired in 2014 after serving as a Professor of Organizational Behaviour, at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad for thirty years. Besides other academic hounors,  she was conferred recently the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Indian Academy of Management for her contribution to management education in India.

She grew up in Lucknow. Having spent fifty years in Ahmedabad as a management researcher, teacher, and consultant, she has now settled down happily in Antara Senior care Facility in Dehradun. Deepti loves the simple joys of life offered by mother nature every day.


                    Our meeting with the Crown Princess of Denmark 

Nearly sixty years ago, when Daddy was posted in Agra, around the Sharad Purnima time in October 1963, there was a news item in local newspapers that Princess Margrethe, the Crown Princess of Denmark, was going to visit Agra to see the Taj Mahal.

Bhaiya had recently left home to join the NDA and we were struggling hard to get used to the huge void in the house.

Daddy-Mummy used to look for ways to keep Abha and me happy so we wouldn't miss Bhaiya too much :(. On seeing the news item about Princess Margrethe, Daddy asked us if we would be interested in meeting the visiting dignitary). 

To Abha and me, 12- and 14-year-olds, meeting a real princess, that too from the fabled land of Denmark- peopled with familiar characters from Hans Christian Anderson's magical stories, was an exhilarating possibility.

We jumped at the idea! Seeing our excitement, Daddy found out the hotel where Princess Margrethe was staying and took an appointment for a meeting. In no time, all our friends in school knew about our forthcoming meeting with the visiting royalty and were envious.

Adding her autograph to our collection which had already been blessed by the then Indian Prime Minister, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, became the key objective of our meeting. Drawing from his familiarity with the Danish language (acquired during his year-long stay in Denmark in the mid-fifties), Daddy taught us how to request for an autograph in Danish. Abha and I memorized and practiced the Danish translation of 'May I please have your autograph?' (må jeg få din autograf )' and 'Thanks very much' (tak, tak tusind tak), which both of us remember to this day 😃!

 Armed with exactly seven Danish words, two of us were in no doubt that the visiting Princess would be floored by our familiarity with her language and would happily oblige us .

On the appointed date and time, Daddy and we sisters, decked up in our best clothes, reached the lobby of the hotel (Clarks Shiraz, if I remember right) where the Princess was staying. Almost trembling with anticipation, we could not believe our luck that we were going to meet a real princess from the land of our dreams, in flesh and blood!

We were ushered into a luxurious visiting room and as we settled down, the princess arrived.

I still remember Princess Margrethe as a tall, elegant and cheerful young lady with a compelling presence and a winsome smile, to whom it was easy to relate to. She was accompanied by a smart and handsome staff member.

After their conversation with Daddy (in English with some Danish words thrown in), the visiting duo shifted their attention to the two overdressed, overawed, and overwhelmed sisters. We had an exchange of inane pleasantries for a couple of minutes.

 At the first opportunity offered by a pause, we extended our autograph book and blurted out to the princess our request for her autograph- of course in pure, if heavily self-conscious Danish. Pleased with ourselves, we waited for our big prize.

At this point, her staff intervened to say that he was sorry but as she would become queen someday, the Crown Princess did not give her autograph to anyone.

We were crestfallen! What would we tell our friends in school whom we had promised to show her autograph as a proof of our meeting? What about the huge loss to our collection, and of our credibility?

Fortunately, our disappointment did not last long. The staff member mentioned that instead of autograph, the Princess Margrethe would like to gift us special coins which were issued to mark the coming of age of the Crown Princess five years earlier.

Abha and I were delighted with this unexpected turn of events. Not a bad deal! With the bust of the eighteen-year-old Princess Margrethe on the obverse and of her father King Frederik IX on the reverse, the coins were beautiful (picture appears above)! Surely collector's items, one thought !!

And they were definitely a lot more tactile, weighty, and durable proofs of our meeting with the royalty than signatures on a piece of paper. For many years, we guarded the coins as our most prized possessions- to be shown selectively only to close friends who could be trusted with the knowledge of our treasure.

I remember that on the following and several subsequent Diwalis, when Mummy took out the traditional silver coin for Lakshmi Pujan by the family, we would offer our coins, too, for the puja. They were accorded a somewhat elevated place in our hearts.

On bad days, they served as our good-luck charm. We sometimes secretly invoked the power of coins to help us in a difficult exam.

Or to protect us from parental anger or from other teenage crises... Once in a blue moon, the coins actually seemed to help.

However, with time, as we acquired greater control over our lives, the magical potency of coins dimmed. Somewhere down the line, I lost mine. Happily, while sifting through her old stuff while shifting to her new home, Abha has just found hers.

I hope her Danish coin reclaims its place of honour in the puja after all these years when Abha celebrates Diwali in her new home with her family including her grandchildren.

And I hope that the grandkids are regaled with the story of their grandma's meeting with a charming princess from a far-off land who is now the reigning queen of Denmark!

Deepti with husband  Subhash, son Saurabh., daughter-in-law Tarana and grand daughters  Izelle and Ariana 

Who knows, the coin may regain some of its old charm for the young minds and help the little ones steer through some of their life's little storms safely.

And they may turn to their grandma to say 'Tak, tak, tusind tak' for the story and the coin.

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