Rupert—Yuvraj Rupinder Singh—is heir to the throne of the princely state of Mubarakpur in Punjab. Except that there is no throne to inherit, now that India is free and a democracy. So he moves to the palatial Mubarakpur House in the heart of New Delhi, where he throws lavish parties to ward off loneliness and boredom. The parties sparkle with alcohol, gossip and music— with stars like the great Begum Akhtar making them magical. The parties draw Delhi’s rich and powerful—politicians, judges and senior bureaucrats—and idle royalty, many of them gay men forced to hide their sexual identity for fear of persecution and ridicule, and because homosexuality is a crime in the Indian republic. There are also a variety of young men who come to the parties—handsome, adventurous men whom Prince Rupert first picked up in the famous cruising spot, Central Park, Connaught Circus, or in the streets of Central Delhi past midnight.
The narrator, a near invalid whom no one desires, and who is happy to be a voyeur, watches the people who come and go in this secret world. And he watches Prince Rupert love, lust and self destruct. Some four decades later, he tells the story of the Prince and the secret world of others like him—some happy men, some sad; some good people and some villains and chancers—in this tragi-comic novel full of scandal, pathos, tenderness and black humour.