Racing Royal - Kumari Niharikaraje Ghorpade talks with You & I

She is an erstwhile princess with a passion for fast cars, which led her to pursue a career in F1 Journalism. Pretty as a picture, we caught up with this soft spoken journalist, who wears her royal past on her slender shoulders beautifully.

Tell us something about yourself, your background in terms of education and work, and what you’re doing now.
Born in Kolhapur, my primary education in this town was till I was eight years old. After that I went to Mayo College Girl’s School in Ajmer, Rajasthan. This was followed by Wadia College in Pune, Deakin University in Melbourne (Australia) and the International School of Business of Media, Pune. With a degree in mass communication, my inclination was towards writing and journalism, and my career path began with working as an intern for several publications. I had my first automotive internship with Overdrive, where I wrote for their motorsport section. My main break as a full-fledged F1 paddock reporter came in 2015, when I was freelancing with a UK magazine and building a Formula 1 writing portfolio.

What exactly does Formula 1 journalism entail?
Formula 1 journalism involves covering the sport intensely, live from the racetracks. Getting in for a female journalist has not been an easy ride so far, unless it was the Indian Grand Prix, where there is a certain quota for national publications. Becoming one of the two Indians in the F1 press room, one of the two Indian women in the whole sport, and the first Indian female to permanently get accredited into F1 have been a few major milestones. Today, I am one of the few out of the select 100-150 people that tell the world about F1. As an Indian and a female, it’s a rarity.

How does it feel like to be a royal in modern day India?
As of today, the titles are passé; however, the rich cultural heritage is what most of us are proud of. Apart from the culture making a comeback in lifestyle, fashion, and social trends, royalty today blends seamlessly through various genres and classes of society. It is critically important in today’s time to not just live off past glory, but to add your own achievements to that of your clan or lineage.

You must have grown up hearing some interesting stories, being part of an illustrious family with a lot of history?
As a child, the stories of hunting and the summer camps in one of the erstwhile hunting homes at Amboli hill station (Western Ghats) were my favourites. The family weddings of the bygone era had tales of their own, along with the anecdotes from the Army days, when my grandparents spent their best years.

What does style mean to you, and what do you usually like wearing?
Style means everything; it’s a sense of identity, persona, and definition of what a person is. In traditional clothing my favourite look is the classic chiffon drape. My great-grandmother Prabhavati Ghatge was known for her style; my great-grand aunt Sanyogita Raje (former Maharani of Indore) was one of the most elegant women in the country and so was my late grandmother Vaijayantimala Ghorpade. She was known for her classic kotas, starched cottons and chiffons. A lot of the sense of style came from the ladies of the past, whose portraits hang on the walls of our houses.

What are your other hobbies and interests?
I am a voracious reader, so reading would definitely be the prime hobby. Apart from that it would be travelling, music, the cultural arts and, like the generations before me, a liking for horses and equestrian sport.

You spent some time abroad before moving back to India. How has this impacted your way of thinking and living?
My stint overseas was short as I went out at the young age of seventeen. So the exposure to foreign cultures was less then as compared to now. One of the key takeaways was the sense of independence it instilled in me in every aspect, from being able to live independently then to pursuing a career at an international level now.

What is the one thing you wish you knew earlier in life?
Had I known my life would revolve around Formula 1, maybe I would have focused on being a racing driver rather than a writer.       – as told to Suneela