In the early 20th century, R. K. Jalan worked closely with the British administration under the Raj, and was rewarded successively with the titles “Rai Sahab”, “Rai Bahadur” and finally, towards the end of the Second World War, “Dewan Bahadur”. This last title was given in recognition of his services in organising the war effort in that part of the country.
Both before and after becoming Dewan Bahadur, R. K. Jalan regularly received and entertained every visiting dignitary who came to Patna.
Indeed, family lore maintains that when members of the British administration visited the city, they were ferried around, even whilst discharging their official duties, in R. K. Jalan’s private car. This he graciously made available for their use, since they didn’t have any of their own. Amongst those who benefited from R. K. Jalan’s largesse was the Governor of Bengal, which at the time included the present-day states of Bihar and Orissa.
The services rendered by Dewan Bahadur to the British Raj before and after receiving the title earned him an invitation to several royal events: the celebration of the Silver Jubilee of King George V in 1935, and the Coronation ceremonies both of King George VI in 1937 and of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. Out of these, he only attended the first and the last; the former being the most memorable of his two European trips.
On his trip to Europe Dewan Bahadur took with him not only his own servant but also his manager, his driver, and his car. He rented a bungalow in London for the six months of the trip. And on every Europe-bound ship from India a consignment of drinking water was sent to him.
If this sounds remarkably like the elaborate travel arrangements of an Indian Maharajah, it is with good reason. Indeed, already during his lifetime Dewan Bahadur was referred to as “the uncrowned King of Patna”. On the public sphere, he made many contributions to Patna and to Bihar; he was, for instance, the founding President of the Bihar Chamber of Commerce.