In the august halls of royalty, the 31-year-old Digvijay Sinh Kathiwada straddles eclectic tastes and rich history. Something the young “Rana” does not take lightly. Part prince, part-entrepreneur, he is now a complete sports aficionado. The Kathiwada family’s tryst with cricket kindled those embers and today, Digvijay helms a cricket league in Mumbai, “I wish I had been a lot better as a batsman, as it’s every child’s fantasy to play for India, but then you realise that you are among so many thousands (who are much better). I was, of course, crushed. Now, I play cricket thrice a week, or squash,” says the scion of Madhya Pradesh’s Kathiwada royal family. Sports caught the young Rana hook, line and sinker, and he decided to make it his business — auctioning prized sports items. The handsome, well-spoken and direct Digvijay Sinh Kathiwada recalls, “I wanted to create a ‘hard rock of sport’ (like music),” so as director of Osian, a sports platform for memorabilia auctions was created. “This time, I’ve done it solo in Mumbai, predominantly cricket items. My favourites are a cricket bat of Virat Kohli, Sachin Tendulkar’s 2003 World Cup winning jersey when he made the most runs, the Prasanna 1974 blazer, a navy blue cap, Ranjit Singh and Don Bradman’s cherished items,” he says, about the recently-held auction in Mumbai.
How deep are Indian pockets for such memorabilia? “A few items cost more than a lakh, but there are photographs a common man can bid on — the cheapest collective could be Rs 5,000. I wanted people to feel the history, and energy,” he adds.
The young scion is the trustee of the Kathiwada Foundation, director, Osianama (a division of Osian’s), director, Melange, a fashion house in Mumbai founded by his mother Sangita Sinh Kathiwada and co-founder of the Kathiwada Arts & Sports auction house. In 2014, along with his wife Swati (who is from an aristocratic Udaipur family), and his cousin Imran, he co-founded Custom Cricket Co. & 3C Sports.
Is royalty in today’s context a boon or bane? “Well, it does sound privileged to be a royal but it comes with great responsibility, some you like, some you don’t. Our forefathers gave us this legacy and while the gene pool does not change, the politics, climate and surroundings evolve. Our guru Raj Supe taught us well. He is a young man of science who lives in Rishikesh. Spiritually, he levels my playing field,” says the young Rana, a graduate of urban planning and civil engineering from USC, Los Angles.
The key to being grounded, he feels is, “Mindfulness, being aware of yourself, the environment, I am a practicing Hindu, but believe in god.” Does the title, “Rana Sahib” follow him everywhere, we ask playfully? He answers seriously, “Without our order, we are finished as a community, as Rajputs. Fellow cousins from different families refer to titles but it is not just gestural. It’s a part of the rich legacy which my uncles and cousins take seriously,” he admits. Stories of angst that follow royalty who could not imbibe the modern pecking order makes Digvijay thoughtful, “It’s a tough journey, I am lucky to have lived in Mumbai, with an excellent education. Yes, it’s sad how some have struggled, yet some have done great things. I feel people expect a royal to come with trappings. I find it rather annoying. Any project we do, for the people in Kathiwada, government interactions etc, it’s painful politicisation and petty politics at play,” he admits. His royal lineage has now spread its wings to hospitality, real estate and he feels that his mother’s creative bent of mind kept her busy in creativity, so the business side of things were his for the taking, and learning. “We are launching two boutique hotels in Mumbai and Kathiwada. We have a fulcrum of activities — education and nursing institutions (not for profit),” he adds. In the Kathiwada treasure chest, are his own favourites — a painting of him as a little boy with his mother in a temple on the royal grounds, “It’s by J.S. Bindre. I grew up learning to respect heirlooms, and my mother is the one who has done most of the taking care.” Prod further on the family jewellery, and he laughs, “Other than complimenting my mom and my wife Swati when they wear it, I stay away! Mom takes such splendid care, and hopefully, Swati will follow suit. Some guns and swords are my favourites, a gold 12-bore gun especially,” says the Rana who’s friends tease him about always getting his way. Amidst royal weddings, he loves his summer break in London, where he gets to play cricket.