Date: 01 Sep 2012


ALEXANDRA AITKEN : FROM PARTY GIRL TO SUPER-SIKH \\\\\\\\\\\\\\ WHEN IT COMES TO HER NEWFOUNDED SPIRITUALITY, FORMER SOCIALITE ALEXANDRA AITKEN MEANS BUSINESS By Sarah Rainey \\\\\\\\\\\ 7:30AM BST 01 Sep 2012 \\\\\\\\\ As the sun rises over the dirt roads of Bani, a remote village in Uttar Pradesh, India, a solitary figure begins her morning prayer. She is barefoot, dressed in long, traditional robes. Her blonde hair, modestly wrapped in a white turban, is knotted on top of her head. On her left wrist, she wears a metal bracelet – the kara – a symbol of her devotion to the Sikh faith. \\\\\\\\\\\\\ The figure is Alexandra Aitken, former “It” girl and daughter of disgraced Tory Cabinet minister Jonathan. It is nearly two years since she gave up partying in London and Los Angeles and married a Sikh warrior from the Punjab. Now, Aitken is known as Uttrang Kaur Khalsa (“victorious return” in Punjabi). She moved to a small house in the holy city of Anandpur Sahib with her husband, Inderjot Singh, a member of the deeply religious Nihang sect. By day, she prays, meditates and practises yoga. By night, she studies religious texts and helps local women scrub the temple floors. \\\\\\\\\\\\\\ Since her reinvention, Aitken has shunned tabloid attention. But this week she has been back in the headlines. The former socialite, pictured striding along an Indian road carrying a spear and ceremonial dagger, is rumoured to be living apart from her husband. Reports say she has retreated to an ashram run by a sect of yoga Sikhs, where other guests have not seen her husband in weeks. In July, Singh’s father, Brahmjit, died – but Aitken did not attend the family funeral. \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\, a rap artist, leapt to her sister’s defence, insisting that her marriage is fine. “I speak to her all the time,” she said. When The Daily Telegraph contacted Aitken for an interview, she replied by email: “Deeply grateful for the offer. Still enjoying meditating, so at this time, it’s better not to speak unless it improves listening or silence. Thank you kindly all the same.” In a second message, she wrote: “Thank you. No Mud. No Lotus.” The phrase, which originates in Buddhist teachings, is said to mean “no enlightenment without suffering”. \\\\\\\\\\\ But she still has ties with her glamorous past. Her latest website, – a wellbeing project set up in January – is registered to an upmarket apartment in Beverly Hills. Another web venture,, an accessories shop selling notebooks and cardholders, was renewed under Aitken’s name in July and is registered to the same address. (registered under the name of Camilla Granasen, a Facebook friend of both Aitken’s and Singh’s) lists weekly yoga events in California and a yoga mat designed by Aitken (on sale for $85). And Aitken is still associated with two British companies, albeit non-trading ones – she is listed at Companies House as secretary of Alice Camille Ltd and co-director of Frisky Pony Ltd – both set up by Alice Bamford, daughter of JCB construction billionaire Sir Anthony Bamford. \\\\\\\\\\\ Much of Aitken’s work since moving to India has, she says, been charitable. She has claimed to be building a school in Amritsar and a meditation centre in Anandpur Sahib. She has spoken widely about Blue Light Yoga, a Beverly Hills-based charity that she set up to “bring the healing power of yoga to under-funded schools, hospitals and prisons across the United States”. A statement on says that 8 per cent of all profits from notebooks ($24.99) and cardholders ($12.99) sold on the site goes to Blue Light Yoga. Yet according to Internal Revenue Service records, the charity has now been terminated. \\\\\\\\\\\ So has Alexandra Aitken truly shunned her socialite lifestyle for a devout existence in the foothills of the Himalayas? Friends who knew Aitken on the London party circuit say they have been suspicious of her religious transformation for years. “She seems to be searching around for something that will give her life purpose,” says one former acquaintance. “It seems likely she’ll tire of it soon.” \\\\\\\\\\\Aitken’s journey to spiritualism was far from typical. Now 32, she was a teenager when her father was imprisoned for perjury. His trial left the family with legal costs of £2.4 million: their possessions were seized and homes sold. \\\\\\\\\\\\ Her parties were notoriously raucous. At her 22nd birthday party, 400 society guests were served shots of toffee vodka by dwarfs dressed as Dennis the Menace. “She was very bubbly; always approachable and not pretentious at all,” remembers one who moved in Aitken’s social circles. “Every time I saw her she was drunk – not falling about but definitely tipsy, with a loud voice. She always had someone’s arm wrapped around her.” \\\\\\\\\\\\\ Over time, her hedonistic lifestyle calmed. Aitken tried her hand at a number of careers, including writing, acting, sculpting, setting up an organic lingerie business and doing psychic readings for celebrities. In 2007, she relocated to Los Angeles and took her first Kundalini yoga class – and her first steps on the road to spirituality. She started giving classes five days a week and asked friends to call her by the Sikh name Harvinder Kaur Khalsa to represent her newfound beliefs. \\\\\\\\\\\\\\ During a yoga retreat to India in 2009, Aitken met Singh while praying at the Golden Temple in Amritsar. Despite not speaking a word to him, Aitken returned six weeks later, declared her love, and they got engaged. Within months, they were married, in a secret 4am ceremony witnessed by 150 holy men from the Nihang sect. Her parents were unable to attend, but her sister Victoria was by her side – and the world learnt from a glossy shoot for Hello! (Aitken insists the magazine approached her). \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ Two years later, Aitken is barely recognisable. The once-groomed party girl is never seen without her traditional robes, and – in line with Sikh teachings – has pledged never to cut her hair again. She is teetotal and vegan. Her old Facebook profile, featuring photos of the leggy blonde drinking champagne, has been replaced with one under her new name – Uttrang – that includes only religious pictures and sayings. On her website Aitken describes herself as “an eternal student and adventurer in meditation”. She explains that she changed her name for a second time because her husband refused to call her “Harvinder” as it “has no meaning in Gurmukhi [the sacred teachings followed by the Nihang sect]”. \\\\\\\\\\\\\\ Aitken’s husband remains a mysterious character. Like his wife, Singh has changed his name: he is now known as Janbazz Singh Akaali (“daredevil” or “brave-hearted” in Punjabi). Aitken describes Singh as a pious man who is dedicated to helping the poor. She once said the Nihang order, an armed Sikh sect of which Singh is a member, is like “the SAS of the religion”. \\\\\\\\\\\\ Singh’s relatives cast doubt on these claims at the time of their wedding. His cousin, Baljot Singh, insisted Aitken’s husband was not a true Nihang. His uncle, Nacchator Singh, told this newspaper that Singh – said to be a wealthy property developer – had no obvious means of supporting his wife, adding: “Every 15 to 20 days, he comes home to take money from his mother.” Attempts to contact Singh were unsuccessful – and none of his relatives living in his hometown of Ludhiana responded to The Daily Telegraph’s requests for interview. \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ With no other apparent income, Aitken’s main source of funds appears to be linked to her Sikh lifestyle. She regularly gives spiritual talks across the UK: last year she spoke at a temple in Coventry and Oxford University’s Sikh Society, recordings of which have been uploaded to YouTube. She is also featured on a number of Sikh websites under her new name. On, a post added in July explains how to brush your teeth using a branch from a banyan tree, and says the author, Uttrang Kaur Khalsa, is compiling a book on traditional Sikh lifestyle and teachings. \\\\\\\\\\\\\\ One can only wonder whether the party girl-turned-devotee’s new lifestyle guide will address the most pertinent question of all: how to combine a life of spirituality – and a life of business. \\\\\\\\\\\\\\ ((LAST LINE: NO PROBLEM MR. DOUBTER, THE SIKH FAITH IS FOR FAMILIES WHERE BUSINESS AND SPIRITUALITY CAN CO-EXIST.) ================= 000000000