NOTEBOOK | Comment

A former Princess talks to a Prince

How a reporter was swept into the story and made the frontispiece

There are princes who give up their royal titles — that is Prince Harry for you. There are also “princes” who find themselves divested of a crown they never wore — that is Prince Frederick for you.

This bizarre event happened in 2004. It illustrates how the reporting field can unexpectedly turn the humble reporter into the main character of his own story, and this may sometimes mean being trussed up in ill-fitting royal robes. This was not immersion journalism, where the reporter consciously integrates himself into a situation from the beginning to present it effectively to the reader. In such stories, there is usually meticulous planning before the reporter throws himself in into the deep end to experience the unknown. This was a case of the reporter simply being swept into the story and made the frontispiece.

It was a straightforward assignment. I had to do an interview with a businesswoman from the U.S. reportedly at the helm of half-a-dozen enterprises. She was married to Paul Kangas, an accomplished presenter of business news who was known for his long association with Public Broadcasting Service’s ‘Nightly Business Report’. She also happened to be a former princess of Bulgaria, having been decrowned when Communism was on the ascendancy in the Balkan state.

Peni Kangas (nee Angeloff), the businesswoman-princess, was launching a line of food products at a store in Chennai. The brief handed to me by my editor was that I write a short profile, keeping the focus on Kangas the person, as it was meant for a lifestyle supplement of The Hindu.

The event organiser had barely introduced me to the former princess when I found myself at the listening end of some very kindly advice.

With an air of commiseration, she proceeded straightaway to comfort me for the loss of my royal title. The crux of her message was that titles meant little, and if we focussed on developing our indestructible inner essence, we would be well on the way to having the best the world has to offer.

Cottoning on to what was happening, the organiser placed the facts on the table. He told her that there had never been anything “princely” about me. To my credit, I said the same thing as quickly as I could.

But she persisted with offering me sincere life lessons, even after realising that I was a commoner from the cradle. The interaction proved that titles after all did not mean anything to her.

I made this exchange the central point of the profile. After that interaction, our paths never crossed again. However, many years later, I was glad I presented the human side of this businesswoman, because her commiserating nature seemed to have largely defined her for the people who had known her well.

In 2010, her obituary that I found online made a clear and pointed reference to it. Obituaries are usually kind. But I have reason to believe this one presented the facts as they were, thanks to that interaction at the store in 2004.

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Printable version | Jul 7, 2020 2:38:06 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/a-former-princess-talks-to-a-prince/article30636316.ece

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