With an impeccable academic background of being an alumni of Mayo College Girls’ School, Lady Shri Ram College and the London School of Economics, Urvashi Singh returned to where her heart belongs – Rajasthan. However, it was a contemptuous blog post about Rajputs that inclined Urvashi towards unfolding the stories that being her community alive today through Rajputana Collective.
Haalo met up with her to know more about Rajputana Collective.
What is Rajputana Collective all about?
Rajputana Collective is a lifestyle publication that strives to highlight the Rajput community in its contemporary facets. Without being predominantly historic in nature, it reflects certain aspects of history nevertheless. However, the majority portion of each issue focuses more on present-day Rajputs and the bright enterprises, journeys and stories that characterise them. Rajputana Collective is formatted to release every six months and does not follow the conventional models of mainstream media and journalism. In other words, it is a venture that comprises of independent journalistic and publishing styles, with content creation that is generated on a first-hand basis, hence making it less monotonous and repetitive. In the more recent issues, I have managed to curate sixteen to eighteen robust sections that span across diverse genres such as fashion, lifestyle, culture, music, travel, hospitality, entertainment, vintage chronicles, festive recaps, interviews and several special features. Unlike several media drives, Rajputana Collective intends to provide a media and networking platform to present-day Rajputs in a manner that duly acknowledges their efforts whilst also connecting them to like-minded people in order to further their dreams and aspirations.
How is this issue different from the previous issues?
This issue, which marks our fourth one, is the most extensive issue that Rajputana Collective has produced till date. With a customised cover handpainted by the talented artist, Rishika Kumari Jaswal, issue 4 of Rajputana Collective raises interesting moral dilemmas associated with digitalisation and social media in its special feature article, with a special emphasis on Instagram. Alongside that, Rajputana Collective has featured 101 Instagram handles worth following and has segregated them into different genres such that its readers can identify their interests and browse accordingly. Each one of the featured handles originate from, or bear an integral connection to persons from the Rajput community.
Alongside the special feature issue, there are sixteen other sections. The most notable amongst these are the features on Dr. Karan Singh of Jammu and Kashmir, Shivendra Singh of Dungarpur, Mirgarh and Festivals of The Jaipur Court. The last two features have been compiled by guest authors, who are always a pleasure to welcome on board.
What is the basic criteria for hiring writers for your magazine?
There is no hiring process as such. The operations are pretty centralised. At the end of every edition there’s a page which welcomes collaborators and contributors via a simple e-mailing process. Based on the articles, the feature, and the style of writing, I select the features that can be entertained in a particular issue. At an elementary level, the writers are given complete freedom via-a-vis their content because their writings define their intent. There pressure of deadlines and content form is also minimalised due to the magazine’s recurrent publishing every six months, which enables me to treat all submissions in a rolling manner and I am able to accommodate a diverse range of topics without being exclusionist. Hence, Rajputana Collective tries its best to accommodate as many topics and writing styles as possible in every issue. Since the curation of articles takes place on a one-on-one basis, editing is pretty straightforward and personalised as well. Once the article feature has been mutually approved by myself and the author/featured person(s), it is ready to go into its designing phase prior to being published.
What is one thing that you admire most about Rajputs?
One of the things that I admire most about my community is its inborn and inbred resilience through intensely changing and challenging times. Our country has witnessed political and socio-cultural changes at a tremendous rate and has undergone a highly defining set of centuries. Imagine an entire community’s core characteristics undergoing metamorphosis due to a nation’s political imperatives. The exciting times when India gained its independence and became a republic also had very dark chapters to it, which is probably the price one pays. Some sections of the society pay more and some pay less, and this inequity is a part of the basic nature of things. However, despite the times when change worked against the favour of the Rajputs, be it in the colonial forms of the policy of annexation, doctrine of lapse, or the more recent official bans on their privy purses and royal titles, the Rajputs have upheld a dignified resilience that is lesser known by the common reader. Instead of mourning bygone times or seized prerogatives, India’s Rajput community has by and large adapted with the changing times whilst refusing to be apologetic about their proud heritage. This is not a simple balance to strike by any means.
Further, while examining epistemological history, I do believe that literacy and academic prowess tends to make history favour one community over the other. In other words, the more literally stimulated a community, the more chances it has of retaining historical narratives to its favour. This intellectual supremacy finds testimony in almost every historical narrative in the world. Since the Rajput community was predominantly kshatriya or warrior-like in its constitution, it had lesser literary incentive within it until more recent times. The scarcity of its participation in first-hand historical narratives and writing is a strong testimony to this fact and hence, it is a highly misunderstood and generalised community in several ways. Some common misconception and stereotypes that people tend to retain about Rajputs is that they are a relatively stiff, uptight, ignorant and arrogant community. Several royals are perceived to be living in a bubble of yesteryear that a democratic India bears no place for. Despite there being exceptions that adhere to some of these stereotypes, the majority proves these generalisations wrong. In my view, holding these stereotypes towards each and every Rajput is not only a sign of ignorance but also a gesture of counter-class discrimination. It is politically and ethically problematic to generalise and judge an entire community because of their past inheritance, especially so if they undertake and uphold an integral and responsible presence in today’s society.
An effective way to counter these stereotypes and generalisations whilst effectively communicating the intents of a community, in my view, is by providing greater media representation to Rajputs, which is what Rajputana Collective primarily strives to do.
Is there anything else that you would like to tell the readers about your magazine?
Through its various sections, features and posts, what unifies the content of Rajputana Collective is the deliberate addressal of a common, elementary need that unites each one of us. That is the need to be accepted, appreciated, acknowledged and loved. At the end of the day, our ceaseless pursuits, gestures, actions and efforts boil down to this dire need. Through every page, what Rajputana Collective basically does is provide due acknowledgement, appreciation and love. I hope that through the stories of people and their pursuits featured within it, Rajputana Collective is able to inspire a greater number of people to acknowledge and appreciate one another. Just the very mindfulness of this facet would make our world so much more wonderful to live in.