Mahajara von Indore
The discovery of «Swissness»
It is June 14, 1960. This is the year John F. Kennedy becomes President of the United States of America. The Soviet Union wins the European Football Championships and Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita wins the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival. This is the fifth time you are staying at the Hotel Schweizerhof Lucerne: it was love at first sight when you first came to Switzerland with its picturesque lakes and mighty Alpine backdrop. The valleys remind you a little of Kashmir in northern India.
You yourself are from Indore, an important commercial centre situated on central India's Vindhya Plateau, where the waters of the Kham and the Saraswati meet. Your name is Maharajah Sir Yashwantrao Holkar II. You originate from one of the most influential ruling dynasties in British India. In 1715 your forebear, Malhar Rao Holkar, founder of the Holkar dynasty, declares Indore to be the capital of the state of the same name.
Under the British Protectorate you – the last Maharajah Holkar of Indore – rule until India gains her independence in 1947. The palatial edifices erected by your family, such as the Lal Bagh and Rajwada, are witnesses of incalculable wealth. Time moves on, however, and as India's maharajahs gradually relinquish their privileges, you leave your palaces and auction their interiors in Europe.
The «old continent» has always held attractions for your family.
Since the twenties, you have regularly spent a few weeks at a time as a guest at the Hotel Schweizerhof Luzern.
As usual, you are here with an entourage. It includes your personal physician, as well as several cooks and servants. You sit out on the terrace every morning and enjoy a sumptuous breakfast, served hot.
Typically Indian, this consists of spicy, flattened poha rice and sweet sheera semolina prepared by your cooks, but you also like the Swiss rösti made by the hotel.
Following your leisurely feast, you decide to do a spot of shopping in Lucerne's Old Town. With two servants in tow, you make your way along Hertensteinstrasse and come across a pair of handmade leather shoes at shoemakers Denti.
Delighted, you walk out of the shop holding the shoes, leaving your servants, as usual, to settle the bill.
Back at the hotel, you encounter Susy Hauser, co-proprietor of the Schweizerhof, and proudly show her your latest purchase. You may be a maharajah, but you like the simple things in life. Maybe that is why people like you so much. You also bring a present with you when you come to Lucerne.
Mrs. Hauser traditionally receives a jar of caviar. You do not realise, though, that your greatest gift is something else: your family was one of the first from India to patronise the Schweizerhof on a regular basis, and the publicity generated by your visits has helped boost the numbers of guests coming to the hotel from the subcontinent.
The term «Swissness» is understood by Indians to mean Swiss hospitality, quality and professionalism. Thanks to the Maharajah.