For Padmaja Kumari Parmar of Mewar, the responsibility of being a royal custodian of Udaipur, a city in India known for its tranquil lakes and a rich past, remains a priority.
Now based in Boston, thousands of miles away from India where she grew amidst an illustrious family history, Padmaja carries a piece of Rajasthan in her heart.
And it was this duty she felt towards her homeland that moved her to create The Friends of Mewar foundation, a charitable organization that works towards preserving cultural heritage, providing access to preventative healthcare, and promoting womenâ€™s empowerment and education in rural India.
Recently, Padmajaâ€™s charity was instrumental in supporting an international exhibition titled â€˜A Splendid Land: Paintings from Royal Udaipurâ€™ at the Smithsonianâ€™s National Museum of Asian Art in Washington DC. It features a selection of masterpieces from The City Palace Museum in Udaipur, administered by The Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation.
Padmaja who also serves as the Executive Director-Business Development of the HRH Hotel Group, one of the largest hospitality companies in India talks about running a charity and bringing jobs and medicine to the rural women of Udaipur.
Talking about her early inspiration into charity work and her family history, and the royal title, Padmaja says, â€œMy family has been the custodians of Mewar, now the area more popularly known as Udaipur in Rajasthan, India for nearly 1400 years.â€
â€œBack in 1947, when India stood as an independent, democratic nation, free from British rule, titles of the royals were abolished as their states were merged into the Union of India,â€ she recalls.
â€œDue to our commitment to our community the concept of custodianship was born,â€ Padmaja says. â€œA custodianship is a sort of unwritten contract, a pledge that my family makes with every generation to protect the heritage that we have been given responsibility for.â€
â€œIt is not a written constitution, yet it survives because we are fully aware of our obligation to uphold this legacy,â€ she says. â€œMy grandfather, Maharana Bhagwat Singh Mewar established the public charitable trust the Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation (MMCF) in 1969.â€
About coming to the US and settling here, Padmaja says, â€œI came to the US as an undergrad at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. I lived and worked in New York for a few years for The Four Seasons.â€
But just when Padmaja thought that it was time for her to return to India, life had other plans in store. She got married in 2011, moved to Boston, and has been living in Boston ever since with her husband and daughter.
Talking about the Friends of Mewar, she says, â€œThere are so many driving forces that inspired me to start Friends of Mewar!â€
Padmaja says she wanted to showcase how much the little region had to offer to the world. â€œThe objectives behind the charity are preserving cultural heritage, enabling access to preventive healthcare, and promoting womenâ€™s empowerment and education.â€
â€œThe most effective way to improve the quality of life in the underserved sections of society is to provide educational opportunities, and preventive healthcare, and make strides toward strengthening and preserving the rich culture that has always been a proud part of our Mewar heritage,â€ she says. â€œOur mission is to bring together a community to support programs and projects that address these causes.â€
Through her organization, Padmaja has been promoting childcare and nutrition among tribal, high migration communities in Rajasthan by supporting existing and implementing new childcare centers.
They have also been delivering eye care programs in villages for those in need including providing cataract surgeries and distribution of free glasses in conjunction with their long-time partners Alakh Nayan Mandir.
The foundation has also been supporting Harvard Medical Schoolâ€™s Global Mental Health initiative to address disparities and curate an online curriculum to train mental health workers in the development of psychological therapies.