7th November 2018
After a busy 24 hours in Delhi it was wonderful to be back at Bijaipur. The nation’s capital, as fascinating and dynamic as it is, is such a busy, cosmopolitan place these days. Half the time you can’t really tell where you are. Walking through duty-free shopping at the new international airport arrivals is no different from walking out of duty-free shopping at London’s Heathrow T5, and much of the modern new town – particularly around the new cyber hub in Gurgaon – is as bright and colourful as Las Vegas.
As such the contrast between Delhi and rural Rajasthan could hardly be more profound. My wife, Anna, and I flew down to Udaipur and from there drove the two-hour journey to the castle. As it's Diwali, all the family were there, excited to see us again, and to show us all the new additions to this most wonderful heritage hotel. They have added three new rooms on the top of the Victorian wing, which bring it in line with the old 17th century original castle, added a smart new reception area and a spa, with two rooms, where three masseurs from Nagaland ply their trade. The horses in the stables looked plump and healthy. The castles bicycles were in good shape. The place looked great, in perfect nick to receive any one of the many groups we send through the castle each season.
As the sun was setting we also nipped down to the other end of the village to see the farmhouse they have been renovating to see what progress had been made since my last visit, over a year ago. The place looked magnificent, in a rather forlorn sort of a way, as it still has some way to go before it will be finished.
After a lovely evening with lord of the manor, Narendra, and his two sons, Moji and Rishi, chewing the fat, and laughing about various escapades we have got up to over the years, we headed to bed, and this morning drove up to the lotus lake.
Passing through the rich countryside in the early morning light, I was reminded of what a stunning part of India this is. Around the lush fertile fields, now being sown with mustard that in two months’ time will become a field of bright yellow and majestic mango, banyan and neem trees. Farmers drove their buffalo and goats down the narrow country lanes. Women collected water and washed clothes by the dam. Children played. It was a timeless scene that could hardly have been more different from what we had been witnessing 24 hours earlier.
Sadly, thought this was only a brief visit and after a cup of masala chai with Narendra and Rishi at Pangarh lotus lake, where Narendra proudly showed off his organic vegetable garden, we said our goodbyes and are now heading into Madhya Pradesh to continue our journey south.
I wish I was coming back for Christmas. We promised we would next year.