Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXIX No. 11, September 16-30, 2019

The Rani from Down Under

– Dr. A. Raman
anant@raman.id.au

– Dr. A. Raman
anant@raman.id.au

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Above: Martanda Bairava Tondaiman and below: Molly Fink

Martanda Bairava Tondaiman (1875-1928), ruler of the erstwhile princely state of Pudukkottai in Madras presidency travelled to Australia in March 1915. He checked in to Hotel Hydro Majestic located in the village Medlow Bath on the Blue Mountains, 110 km slightly north-west of Sydney. There he met Molly Fink (Esme Molly Sorrett Fink, 1894-1967) in the dining hall. Five months later Martanda proposed to Molly, who was 19 years younger than him. They were married on 10 August 1915 at the registrar’s office in Melbourne (Victoria). After honeymooning in California, Martanda and Molly came to Pudukkottai in October 1915. In November 1915 he introduced her to his people in Pudukkottai, who excitedly and rousingly welcomed their white rani. Unfortunately, for unexplained reasons, the British Government refused recognition of Molly as the rani of Pudukkottai. She was ostracised by the government and the harassed Molly attempted suicide consuming seeds of Nerium oleander (sev-arali), but managed to survive. Martanda’s efforts to secure a palatial house in Ooty for Molly were also interfered with by the government. In the following year, a frustrated Martanda left India for good with Molly. They travelled to Melbourne and settled and soon after, their first son Martanda Sydney Tondaiman was born in 1916. In 1919 they moved to England and met George V, the king of England. The Secretary of State for India informed Martanda Senior that his son Sydney would not be recognized as the rightful heir for the throne of Pudukkottai. Martanda Senior renounced his kingship and his cousin Rajagopala Tondaiman became the ruler of Pudukkottai. Martanda Senior died in Paris aged 53 on 28 May 1928. Molly lived in London with her son Sydney and died in Cannes (France) on 22 November 1967, aged 73.

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