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Your Stories: Remembering a friendship, a Maharaja and his doctor

June 22nd, 2010

To kick off our call for your maharajas stories, we are delighted to share with you this story from Barbara Stephen. Just last week Barbara wrote to us with her very own memory, not of a particular Maharaja, but how a family friend brought a little bit of royalty into her family’s life through a silver cup and saucer. Dr. George Martos was once the personal physician to Maharaja Yeshwant Rao Holkar II of Indore and he gave her mother this gift after a trip to India to hunt tigers with the Maharaja.

silver demi-tasse and saucer

Here’s her story:

During the 1950s and early 1960s, my mother worked with Dr. George Martos, a Hungarian doctor who had gone from teaching at the University of Berlin to Indore where he was Medical Officer of Health during WWII, and was closely connected with the Maharaja. He built a hospital for him there, and retained his connection with Indore after immigrating to Canada after the war, requalifying, and opening an obstetrical practice in Toronto.

From time to time the Maharaja would extend an invitation to join him in India for the tiger hunt, and in due course a ticket would arrive from the maharaja desk at a London travel agency. My mother heard lots of details about life in Indore, and as Dr. Martos was also my doctor and a family friend until his untimely death, I too learned about raising lion cubs, managing elephants, hunting tigers, etc.

I suspect the current Maharani may remember Dr. Martos from her childhood. I believe it was my mother, Charlotte Burry, who wrote to inform the family of his death in the 1960s, not too long after the death of the Maharaja. Dr. Martos always spoke of the Maharaja with great affection and respect.

My mother was given a silver demi-tasse cup and saucer from Indore after one of his last trips, very plain and moderne in style, with an angular handle. It was locally made and he indicated to her that it was quite special.

— Barbara Stephen is a Curator Emerita and Early Chinese Specialist with the Royal Ontario Museum.

I will post more about the Maharaja of Indore (now part of the state of Madhya Pradesh) later. Not only was he a fascinating individual – he was photographed by Man Ray, commissioned a sculpture by Brancusi, built hospitals and loved cars – we expect to have his life-sized portrait in the exhibit!

Do you have a Maharaja story? We’re on the prowl for your connections and we’ll be highlighting various anecdotes and memories that come our way. Share your story here.

Piali Roy is a Toronto freelance writer with a long-held interest in South Asian culture and history. You can contact her at

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One Response to “Your Stories: Remembering a friendship, a Maharaja and his doctor”

  1. Guest says:

    Thank you for sharing such an exciting story!
    I love hearing reading stories about a cultures lasting impressions and influence.
    It's like recipes that are carried on from generation to generation!!!

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