She had been named one of the ten most beautiful women in the world by TIME magazine but that was not when I saw her. I saw her when her elegantly coiffed hair was a helmet of silver, those doe eyes had got hooded over with folds of skin, her porcelain skin had wrinkled gently into comfort and spotted with unforgiving years, but vestiges of the beauty were evident to everyone in the crowded venue at the five star hotel in Mumbai where the royalty of Rajasthan and the rest of India had gathered for an event. I was there, of course, in my capacity as a lowly hack sent to cover the event. I could only stare at her open mouthed. She outshone every single woman in the room, without a fringe of a doubt. And it was not just beauty. It was her presence. She was in a pale pink chiffon with a single strand of pearls, and she outshone every loaded to the gills with jewellery socialite flitting around. Her back was ramrod straight. Her tilting of her chin imperious, yet not arrogant. Her gaze direct and unwavering. It was the gaze of a woman who had lived her life to the fullest, who was aware of her beauty and the effect it had on the onlooker and was unapologetic about it. It was the kind of self assurance that us lesser folk could never even imagine having. It was the kind of assurance that made this, then 24 year old woman squirm and feel totally inadequate, like a gawky teenager straight from the village. But she was gracious with me. A little sharp with those who hovered around too much for her liking or those who asked inane questions. The regality came from within, it didn’t depend on externals of clothing and jewellery, though those too, were understated but impeccable. Her passing is the passing of an era, one feels the same sort of indescribable vacuum one felt when Lady Diana passed away, the feeling that something truly beautiful has gone away and the earth is that much lesser a place for the loss. Here is wishing her a peaceful afterlife.