In 1992, 4-year-old Avanti Reddy delighted Diana, who was then touring India with her husband, Prince Charles. Dressed in traditional garb — her face painted and her feet bare — little Avanti danced for Diana, then climbed onto her lap.
The image became a beloved shot, but it was more than a photo op for the princess. She was truly charmed by the child, and so the two continued to correspond by mail. Then, five years after their initial meeting, Avanti hoped to have a reunion with her.
But tragedy struck. Diana was killed in a Paris car crash mere days before they could meet again. Avanti, a 28-year-old school teacher, has never forgotten the magical moment she shared with the People's Princess.
"I was the youngest one there," Avanti recalls of that February day in Hyderabad. "Diana saw me sitting on the ground, picked me up, took me back to stage and put me on her knee."
The pair had a touching conversation, with Diana asking all about Avanti. "I had a cold, so she wiped my nose with her own handkerchief," Avanti remembers. "She kept me with her the whole time, and then, as she was going, said, 'I don't want to leave you. I don't have a daughter, so today you are my daughter.'"
Avanti was thrilled at the thought of seeing the princess a second time. "We were performing in a number of schools in Europe and at the end of the trip we were going to see her again," she says. "But it never happened."
Diana's grace and goodness stuck with Avanti always. "When I got older, I started to realize more about who Princess Diana was," she explains.
Now, Avanti dreams of performing for the current generation of royals — or perhaps their children. Wistfully she says, "Maybe one day I could organize a dance for Prince George and Princess Charlotte!"
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