You can make anything by writing – CS Lewis
He is young, king of a dynasty, politician, owns hotel, co-owner of a football club, rock-fan, editor of a magazine and guest lecturer at Harvard and Cambridge University. We are talking about Pradyot Bikram Manikya Debbarma, one man with so many trades!
At the first glance, Pradyot Bikram Manikya Debbarma looks like the guy from next door in jeans, t-shirt and goggles. As they say look can be deceiving, he is the 186th king of Tripura the second longest dynasty from a single line in the world. International rock star like Sebastian Bach comes to India only for his birthday. In this era, he has four palaces to live, two in Agartala, one each in Shillong and Kolkata. He takes out his sunglasses and we shook our hands, “Lets have something while we are talking, hope that’s fine with you?” says Pradyot as we walk towards the cafe for breakfast. He was going through the menu card the only thought that came into my mind was that he will order something royal, very extravagant but to my surprise, Masala dosa! However, as we start our conversation the real he came out, his love for his people and that he is also just a man. And also we are joined by his friend and business partner Sunny Narang.
“I grew up under a loving father, caring mother and feeling secure and rich, knowing that I come from a family that has contributed a lot to the state of Tripura. Also I am conscious that you are nothing without your people. It is more to do with your identity, place and communiity from where you come,” there comes his dosa and watermelon juice. “I became king at the age of 27 but I never took it up as a challenge, I always knew that one day I have to work for my people. In reality, there is no word like Maharaja or king out here. We tribal people do not have caste system, there is no body up there or down there everybody is same, we are Habobakra – protector of the land. No body in this world has a divine right to be better then anybody else but you can have more commitment and reach because of virtue of more exposure,” smiles the 34 years old emperor and takes a bite of his food.
“I was in the northeast India all the time, studied in Shillong and never went abroad like some of my cousins to London and America. Like a normal kid – playing guitar and playing football. Therefore, I never felt that I was different but the day you felt like that, you have lost half of your battle. If you want to do something for the region its better to stay and get practical knowledge to understand, so I never leave the region. On that my father had a bypass surgery in 1999 and then I got involved in running business.” Talking about business at the age of 22 he along with some friends got into hotels, converting family resorts into heritage property. And to our surprise he took loan to do that, which he explains, “You don’t value money if it comes easy to you, you will misuse it. I was a student I could have taken the money from my father but he told me to learn the way of appreciating labor and work.”
Sunny Narang who was listening quietly all the time, “Actually he does lots of interesting things, ask him about them!” To which we all share a loud laugh after which there was a silence in the cafe for a while as everybody was looking at us. Taking control of the situation Pradyot continues, “Yeah I do lots of things. Like in 2006, I started a magazine The North-East Today, one of the best political and youth affair magazine in the region. The main idea behind this magazine was that we always read negatives about north eastern India like bombing and killing in the national newspapers and magazines but nothing much good. This was also the reason why I invited international rock band like Firehouse, Mr Big, White Lion, and Sebastian Bach to perform in the country. They just perform in Shillong, not in Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai and bye. More than 40,000 gathered in the night and had a good time, whereas girls are not safe in other cities even in daytime. Come on! More people die in Delhi and Mumbai crossing the road than killed here. Ok I agree to some point it was maverick but I wanted to prove a point.” To which he understood there is a need of some explanation, with a gulp of his juice he continues, “People say identity conscious is wrong but I feel that nothing better than being committed and rooted to your identity. A strong Indian should be a strong Bengali, a strong Maharastrian, a strong Tangkhul and a strong Tripuri, why not? I do not contradict on what others do but concentrate on my people.”
After being satisfied with explanation, he moves on to his other things. “We have Royal Tripura Foundation through which opened a school in the tribal area of Tripura. It is the first English medium school in the area. I do not think towns need development but the rural area. It was a big challenge; bought the land and build it ourself without a penny from the state or central government. It is something I will treasure.” He is also actively into the politics as General Secretary Tripura Congress and the member of All India Congress Committee. He was offered ticket to state assembly and for Lok Sabha but he refused both. “I had some fundamental problem with some people and that if I have to speak for my people I want to speak it with clarity. On that, I was not ready for Lok Sabha, I thought just being the son of Mr. so and so does not give me the right to become the Member of Parliament. Now I am far better equipped to understand, maturity comes with practical work experience. If I had taken it up then my idealism would have been crushed and would have taken for ride.”
Though the discussion was going interesting we had to come back to his lifestyle after all it’s for Mandate. By the way, he does not just invite rock-stars but also loves music. “I have sung with Wildfire and then with Sebastian Bach on the stage and I think I did pretty well. I am a complete hard rock, classic rock, new rock, alternate rock, an absolute rocker! Also I have started this The Great Eastern Rock CDs that comes out every year to promote rock music only. Then I went all the way to Indian Idol (Session – 4) to support Surabhee Debbarma and she won.” So is there is any chances in future him going serious on music? “I don’t think that will be a logical next move as I am into active politics.”
“What about your olive plantation project?” excitingly Sunny pops up. Pradyot waves his hand to him to stop, “Let it come first, then we’ll talk about it. However, yeah Sunny and I are partners with the Shillong Lajong Football Club. My passion has been football, a hardcore Argentina supporter. I have been to five world cups and I am planning for the upcoming in South Africa. Among the club it’s Barcelona, earlier it used to be Florentina because of my favorite player Gabriel Batistuta. In India its Shillong Lajong as I have a share in it,” boyishly he giggles. There are some interesting facts about Pradyot like he and Bollywood actor Riya are cousins. “We are fourth cousins but hardly catch up as she is more in Mumbai and Kolkata. I have more than 193 cousins, a big family out there” He speaks seven languages (Kokborok – Tripuri, Khasi, Hindi, English, Nepali, Bengali, and Japanese). He has three tattoos on his arms, a Japanese dragon tattoo on right and on left a dog and written Mixsu in memory of his favorite dog. Another on the upper left, Che Guevera. “I have done it when I was young. I think that if you are not a communist at nineteen then you don’t have a heart but at thirty if you are still communist you don’t have brain.”
Finally the most important question and for sure everybody must be eager to know about it. When is he getting married and what is his future plans? “I am going to be single for not long now. I am not saying there is someone in my life but I am saying that after certain age and time one should get settled down. But whoever it is, she has to like my needs, accepting the fact that my life is not going to be in south Mumbai or in some fancy society but in a village. No high flying, Dolce-Gabbana bag fancy girl but rooted.” It seems this topic does matter to him, making himself comfortable as the table is cleared he explains. “Look at me jeans from Bhutia market and this T-Shirt I designed for White Lion show. I am wearing shoes because you are coming down or else I am a boot-man. I don’t go by brand but with whatever that is comfortable. Just have a look at me, I don’t have watches, no rings, no necklace, nothing! I am just a country boy!” Indeed, he was not wearing anything other than his clothes.
But he is sure about his future and knows exactly what he is going to do. “Give myself good ten years for the people and will try to disappoint less people as much as I can. After that I have many things to do like, playing with my dogs (which he have 120), read books and play my guitar. I like to go to vacations alone. I love doing backpacking, did whole America on road. Now I’d like to go to Spain something like Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara.”