An author and an art historian, Cynthia pens a very endearing book looking at the world of palaces from the eyes of a royal canine. Born a member of the notable working breed Gaddi, Queenie witnesses life from, “ Her palatial turreted mansion situated in the Northern Indian hill station of Mussoorie. The designated royal canine of Pookajeet, she gives an exclusive peak into the day-to-day life of her seemingly rarified abode.
Cynthia Meera Frederick
Queenie’s narration gives creative licence for an imaginary account of life within the fictitious Pookajeet Palace. Author Cynthia Meera Frederick says, “I was inspired to write this during the pandemic after rediscovering former American First Lady Barbara Bush’s runaway bestseller, “Millie’s Story” (first read in 1991), which is about life in the White House told through the Presidential family’s springer spaniel, Millie. This paved the way to emulate this genre and share tales via the frankness of a dog’s voice.
Queenie’s mouthpiece has also allowed her to take unabashed jibes at perplexing human behaviour and parody hypocritical traits as an amalgamation of amusing characters and situations are revealed. Adults of all ages will enjoy Queenie’s satire laced chronicles as she narrates exploits with a memorable cast of characters, most of whom she parodies with bestowments of hilariously fitting monikers. This galaxy of personalities she encounters and pokes fun of includes a prima-donna Yorkshire terrier, an insidious politician, and numerous others. She classifies all who enter the palace portals as either a Gracious Guests” or “Beastly Bores” the later whom she feels needs a refresher course on matters of etiquette. “Queenie also reflects on life’s lessons, mores, and values, which are universally shared by all species,” adds Cynthia.
American-born and of Indian origin, Cynthia spent her initial years travelling to Garhwal and the hills of Mussorie. She is now domiciled in her ancestral homeland, where she is a keen traveller around the country. She lectures and writes extensively on subjects about Indian history, heritage and royalty, and has provided historical content and logistical support
for numerous production companies filming in India. In addition, she is a passionate advocate for the welfare, adoption, and safe sterilisation of the indigenous Indian breed of dog, of which she is a dog mother to one dozen, along with one Himalayan Gaddi. She only became a dog lover late in her adult life.
CHAPTER ONE: DESTINED TO BE QUEEN
First, let me tell you a little bit about me. I am a GaddiKutta, a peerless breed of mastiff-type mountain dog belonging exclusively to the Western Himalayan belt in Northern India. In earlier times, we were bred for hunting purposes and were widely used to assist nomadic shepherds throughout the region. While herding sheep is indeed a noble profession, it simply was not my destiny to follow my ancestors’ path. However, such inherent guardian skills are still vital to this very day, and I am indebted to this legacy. While I do not guard flocks of sheep or am otherwise engaged in the field as a working dog, I still take my job of protecting my family and the palace very seriously. I do not remember too much from my early puppyhood. However, I can distinctly recall that there were six of us in our litter. We were all taken on a journey up to Mussoorie by a weather-beaten Garhwali who wore an embroidered woollen cap, which is a proud cultural identity of the Pahari men.
Another ode to his heritage was the traditional woven basket that was hung across his back; where, inside the basket, we were all huddled close togetherundefinedvery warm and snug. I was the only female in the brood, and as the weather-beaten Garhwali went from door to door, one by one and little by little, my siblings all found new homes. The first pup went to a Bengali family who lived in a quaint heritage bungalow. So, now we are down to five. Plodding on, the weather-beaten Garhwali found another taker for one more pup, and so, we dwindled to an even four. His pace quickened as he descended Vincent Hill and our basket got bouncier with each step until he stopped at a household to hand over another puppy. Now, I and my remaining siblings held out like a dejected little threesome. The next sibling was taken in by a well-known television journalist, and so, only two of us were left now. The weather-beaten Garhwali was sagely aware that, as a female, I was always discriminately passed over. It is beyond unreasonable and so unfair, but here in India, an inexplicable prejudice exists against the girl puppy. This is perplexing and I cannot comprehend the mentality behind this irrational logic. Unquestionably, female pups are more affectionate, cleaner, better behaved, and, above all, loyal and devoted companions. Yet, everyone preferred my brothers without paying me the slightest heed. Eventually, the last male pup found a home, leaving me all alone in the basket.
The now very tired weather-beaten Garhwali took a chance and trudged up to the wrought-iron gates of the grand Pookajeet Palace. Waving his crinkly wrinkly hands, he caught the attention of the palace cook, who wildly gesticulated with flapping arms and a shaking head in protest. He emphatically specified that he was not interested one bit in acquiring a puppy let alone a female one. But cleverly, the weather-beaten Garhwali took me out of the basket to show me off. Cook gasped at the sight of me. I, then, was a small fuzzy ball of fur, part fawn, tan and black, and I ought to add that I have enticing amber eyes, which can cast an irresistible spell. So I gave an earnest look to the cook, imploring him to take me. Thankfully, this manoeuvre worked its magic. I was handed over to him by the weather-beaten Garhwali, whose deeply lined face was now broadly fixed in a broad smile. He folded his crinkly-wrinkly hands in a Namaste and then set off back to his village quite merry with his basket empty of puppies while his pocket plentiful of rupees. The best home, as it were, appeared to have been saved especially for me and I was euphoric in my newly found haven. Yet, while I entered the indisputable gates of paradise, I felt a twinge of sorrow because most girl puppies are not accorded a fate so blessed. Thus, I remain eternally grateful for my good fortune.
The grand Pookajeet Palace stands as one of the last abiding vestiges of Mussoorie’s heritage. Built-in the style of a grand Scottish baronial castle, this illustrious backdrop offered ample recreational space, with its spacious lawn and gardens, for a growing puppy full of vitality. Additionally, I discovered that it boasts a library, a billiards room, and a sizable ballroom, along with lots of other nooks and corners for me to explore. Outside, there is a long veranda spanning the entire length of the palace, which provides a space for me outside on rainy days. I also claimed a prime resting perch high up in one of the lofty turrets where I can peek out of its keyhole window. This affords the windows and the dusting of everything with intense fervour. To my great unease and displeasure, the high level of attention previously accorded to me was now transferred to mundane cleaning. However, my fears were assuaged when I heard Cook say, “It is essential the palace be ready in time for Maharaja Sahib.” Oh boy was I excited and honest to goodness, real-life Maharaja was coming! Would he arrive on the back of a caparisoned elephant with a grand procession, similar to how Grandfather rolled, as can be seen in the old photographs? Then, I also learned that the current Maharaja had served in a cavalry unit of the glorious Indian Army. That meant he would certainly arrive with tanks and horses and maybe a column of marching troops with bands and colors flying in the wind too! I simply could not wait for this grand cortege.
The eagerly awaited day was upon us at last, and I rushed up to the turret to keep a watch on the great entourage. My heart was beating so fast when the palace’s iron gates opened. But when I looked down the road, all I saw approaching was an ordinary-looking Innova car. What a letdown! Despite my disappointment, I was still overcome with curiosity. So, I sprinted down to proffer my felicitations to the Maharaja. As soon as he emerged from the vehicle, Cook and all the others thronged about at his side, but he noticed me at once. Spellbound, he asked, “Now, who is this petite princess?” He was simply enchanted with me, and I venture to say that it was love at first sight. I should add that I started with the name “Princess”, which he initially gave me. Having said that, gradually over time, I grew more confident in my rank and position in the household, which, in due course, led one of the guests to make the declaration, ‘That Gaddi rules the roost.” She is truly the Queen of the Castle. ’ So, in true form, fitting to my firmly avowed stature, henceforth, I was called ‘Queenie’. The Maharaja of Pookajeet is formally addressed as His Highness, but he prefers to be called Pookhie by friends, although I simply address him as “Sir”. I feel that this strikes the correct balance of not sounding too formal while at the same time not appearing too intimate or overly familiar. He was accompanied by Madame, an old family friend from America named Clarissa Cross. Facetiously speaking, whoever gifted her that surname, was bang on the money because she often acts like a cranky spoilsport.