Rajasthan – Cynosure of Bhansali’s big hit

Part 3

The next day I woke up to a fuss. My friends were bustling around, in the room ,speaking in a hushed tone. Before I said a word, I was told to show up at the breakfast table, along with my luggage, as we were checking out right after. At full tilt, I got ready , wrapped my stuff and made it to the table in no time . I gazed at the deliciously attractive breakfast while my friends were gobbling down the food with all possible haste, already.
Everyone at the table were having a good time until Ma’am asked us to make it quick. At once, we all marched towards the coach ,dragging the luggage behind us.

The journey could have been more fun if some of us would not be snoring loudly , lolling our heads on each others shoulders and dozzing off but it was tiring , how we mooched around the market the previous evening.Good music and a long journey is a mood, we all know.Hrishikesh, being the Debbie Downer of our group ,for a change ,came up to us with glad tidings-an announcement regarding the lunch. ‘Si, Si” and we all hopped down at a Dhaba in Bhilwara . A meal after the so called diurnal nap was indeed pleasurable. We ordered a few cold drinks against eventuality as it was goshdarn hot and Chittorgarh was approximately 60 miles farther away.

On arrival at Chittor fort’s foothills , there were gypsys, awaiting us .The journey from the foothills to the fort in OPEN gypsies was supposed to be pleasant but remember the month we were travelling in?Exactly.The gypsy drivers were escorts themselves ,that helped us get the right information of the history of the former capital of Mewar. The fact that it is a world heritage site had made us more attentive. (howbeit, we had to submit a report afterall.)
The fort was not exactly as I imagined it to be. My eyes rolled in all directions, over 700 acres, that boasted the ruins of the palaces, fortess,temples,etc. Exhausted by ages of existing and watching glories, battles and generations ,the ruins appeared fragile.The main area of the palace was called as Kumbha mahal. That was the area where the royal family lived.The fun fact was, it had a secret undergroud passage for women to reach the bathing area without being seen ,to the nearby pond.Honestly, such facts interest me .Thereafter, I was heaved to Jain and Hindu temples in the area.Now I know, being an atheist cannot be an excuse to not visit temples because the carved deities on the doors and most importantly , the ‘shikaras‘ are worth capturing.

We got back into the gypsies to proceed towards Vijay stambh- a tall pillar built on the occasion of the victory of Rana Kumbha over sultan of Malwa.Open gypsies were a reason we could all yell and greet the natives,straight up . The women mostly blushed and the men giggled in their hoarse voices. Speaking of Vijay Stambh , there are numerous hindu deities carved on the pillar, that depict the nine avatars of Vishnu. The interesting part about history and the elderly generation is that ,everything around them has a story to tell and trust me, Rajasthan is all about stories.

The next stop was at Queen Padmini’s Palace. For most of us who had no clue of a famous beauty at that time, Sanjay Leela Bhansali( a known bollywood film director) sort of enlightened us. Although he had to face a lot of condemnation for portyal of the stories in the newfangled way, he managed to release the movie, sooner or later .

Stories of ” Rani Padmavati” are exceptionally dearer to the Rajput community and that was reflected through the way they narrated it.
“The tale began in the early 12th century” the guide exclaimed “Rawal Ratan Singh who was a noble ruler of the kingdom of Mewar , had fourteen queens, the youngest one being the honoured, Rani Padmini.Her beauty was compared to the Indra’s celestial nymphs and her skin was so transparent that when she would drink water it could be easily seen through her throat”.

This isn’t a convincing story, I thought to myself. Also these things can be easily spurned ,meaning, the tales were either exaggerated or were a gush of hyperbole but it is undeniable that the queen must have been a real beauty. Inspite of watching the movie(Padmavat) and dealing with the whole’ short attention span ‘ issue, I buttoned my lips and listened to him. He went on…”Alauddin Khilji, the Sultan of Delhi, when heard about her beauty expressed his desire to meet her. Although Rawal Ratan Singh would not let that happen, he agreed on showing him, her reflection. Having Khilji’s eyes laid on her reflection,Khilji was startled by her beauty and wanted her for himself. Directly after, he attacked the fort to win her over, but she commited Jauhar (self immolation), thereby defeating Khilji’s aim and their honour”.Not to mention but this part of the fort had my attention for the longest time.

Just after we thought, we were done acknowleding the grandeur of the city of Chittorgarh, the gypsy drivers took us to the local handicrafft store. We walked in, nudging each other, hoping we would find something to fill our display racks back at home .I wouldnt say we do not have a materialistic lifestyle, but a very few of us actually bought the souveniers. But the scented sarees had our attention. A ‘saree’ is an ideal gift for women in India and thats what a few dutiful sons and daughters did; got a couple of them for their mothers.

After having sensed a very vibrant and zesty vibe, seeking through the handicrafts and handlooms in there, we made a departure. The rest of the little story at that place, revolves around me being shitscared by the monkeys and getting mocked (hopefully one last time)by my friends.

It was time to check in at some hotel .As much as I know of, all my friends are very enthusiastic about new hotel rooms. That somehow made them act like they were bitten by bugs. Nevermind, we all are ludicrous beings. Against all our expectations of the journey to the resort, we were undergoing a scary transfer.We travelled a long way inland to a large clearing, when most of us, fretted uncharacteristically. Except things took a turn for the better( quite literally) ; Ma’am announced that our next stay would be Jungle Resort.The announcement brought with it a long pause followed by an applause.( I had started to believe, that was just a puerile way to show excitement).
I peered at the surrounding from afar. I could locate a few rooms and a dimly lit big space in the forefront.I am terrible at the guessing game, but this somehow felt right. Since the coach could’nt go too far from the main road ,the jeeps picked and dropped us at the resort, in turns.

Immediately after shifting my luggage to the room, I approached the big lawn-like space in the forefront. The view embraced benches arranged with eatables on them and set of chairs hidden partially in the dark .Not to overlook, the music system in the obscure corner ,that resembled a bigger version of a ghetto box .I’d always cherish this unforeseenly calm and heartneing welcome except for the pups that hopped between our chairs while we enjoyed the ‘pakodas’. Well, our joyous moods had different reasons.
A full course dinner followed by dancing and chattering under the stars, relatively far away from the city noise was an ideal night. I would like to elaborate on “chattering under the sky”.We shared scary stories, snarled and spared no effort to make vicious noises. That was just an attempt to make it a remarkable,spooky night, which it was. Just when I thought it would get better , it did. We had a little horse riding session, right before we retired for the night. Well ,all the more details of the day would just be plethoric. Sigh.

Regal Forts of the Royals

Part 2

At 11 , the next morning, we had reached the “seat of power”- The Amer Fort. An elephant ride to the fort would have been like reliving the past all over cobbled pathways. But since we had a lot of zoophilists in our group, it was a big no-no. Anyway, Jeeps would cost us more than KFC’s tenders and wedges so we chose our limbs! (T’was a tough one. No?). The elevation looked too much for my knees.(I feel like an old woman in many ways).My sudden dramatic proclamation that I would be ‘crawling’ all the way up had shocked and perplexed my coterie of friends, except for Rasika- who had unvarying intensions. The well-versed group of mates was thrilled to visit a UNESCO world heritage site but for chumps like me and my little team, all the efforts were merely to witness the locations where Jodha Akbar, Bajirao Mastani, Khoobsurat, Bhool Bhulaiyya, etc were shot.

Ganesh Pol

“The hard part is over,” I thought to myself on reaching the Jaleb Chowk-the soldier quarters.We noticed we had reached the gate only when we spotted a steady flow of foreigners waiting for entry tickets. That was when we traced double entrances, Chand Pol and Suraj Pol for the Royal family and the commoners. We commenced with the greatly emphasized Ganesh Pol- the majestic looking gateway that provided access to the private areas of the Palace.It had diminutive windows on the superior portion, known as Suhag mandir, through which the queens could witness the victory parades. That was just a glimpse of the opulent lifestyles of the royal families in the past.In the heartland, we started with Diwan-i-Khas, the hall of private audience, a now, foyer complex, where the king met his subjects and officials. Then we traversed along with the Sheesh Mahal (Rendezvous Hall of the Royals), which boasted the mirror aesthetics. That was when I overheard a guide mentioning about the fact that only 2 candles could be enough to light up the whole complex. I fancy infinite reflections and intricate work for I’ve watched too much of Bhansali’s work recently and I’d bet he does too. I kept bumping into more foreigners as I was making my way to the Shila Devi temple.It is believed that the king offered prayers in the temple, before wars. Some even suggest that human sacrifices were made here.Further, into the searing setting, I could see Diwan-i-Aam which was an assembly hall where the king would address the problems of the commonality. And the last remark being, Sukh Niwas – The Private Hall of Pleasure where the king rested. The place of ivory-emblazoned sandalwood doors stimulating olfactory senses was glee. Although history had never amazed me, neither have I been a fan of it, but the queer stories of the royal families and the elegant designs had resonated with me so well, I sensed the blessedness.

As the noon wore on, we dined at a local restaurant where I forcibly gulped down a couple of beverages to uphold myself in the heat. But I was warned that I won’t be able to get rid of the uncanny feeling while we drive uphill through the rickety gateways to the 18th-century fort, Nahargarh.

On reaching the parking space, I was told that we had to walk for a a while to get to the fort.The only motivation, we collectively had, was a water dispenser! Yes.(Incase you’re wondering about the juice I gulped down earlier, yeah I was mocked by these asses,for that)
During that  15 minutes brisk walk to the fort, I broke 2 things and was about to break the third.First and foremost,One of my saviour friends, Hrishikesh’s cellphone, followed by his heart and lastly,on the brink of breaking , my head!
Unexpectedly, he did not hammer my head, instead gave a disconcerting smile!(Im still embarassed. tbh.)
I realised, things were back to normal when everyone had started looking for the water dispensers again! Apparently, the ones who sprinted, could track one.
Meandering in and around the only unconqueredfort had led us to corridors decorated with delicate murals.The guide told us tales of the fort, built by Sawai Madhi Singh,and that, it had 12 matching boudoirs for the queens, at the head of which was a suite for the king. It wasnt late for us to realise that the queen chambers were all connected through secret passeges to the king’s suite. (KA BOOOM! cool kids of the royal family) This place was smeared with coutyards and little spaces.The spendid view into the valley that once constituted the kingdom of Amer and far beyond,from atop the fort, cannot be overlooked (I’d bet dollars to doughnuts.)After a lot of vagabonding, all of us , one after one ,gathered under a shady tree. A few almost took a catnap there.

Jal Mahal

On our way back to the resort ,we had a photostop at the most photographed monument in India-the Jal Mahal, that floats in the centre of the Man sagar lake.Although the reach of the monument is off limits, we spent a beautiful evening around there. I wouldn’t lie about the calm view of the water palace amidst the chaos of Jaipur.The day did not end there.Before returning to the resort, we all stopped at the Bapu Market for bargain hunting.

I was sure of the amazing night that was approaching .It was Sayali’s birthday and we were about to have a small celebration at night followed by Antakshari by the pool.We actually brought into being, the idea of a little birthday bash.It almost made me miss my little soirees back at home.

PS . All the photographs are clicked by the same guy who’s phone I broke. 🙂


Part -3

Its 7.00 am, I am wide awake and shaking inexplicably. I am sitting on the chair, right next to the bed, muted and thinking about all the worst possibilities of messing up the paper presentation. I can’t help but envy Sai who is fast asleep. As much as I know that it is futile, I have slapped her ass quite a few times to get her out of the dreams! All I can do now is  calm myself , munch on the Pringles and wait for the devil to give her a call.

An hour of performing stridently in the bathroom, I am fresh out of bath, while Sai and the devil are discussing our attire for today.This is how quick she is  with her chores when the devil is around.The Devil wants us to wear something casual and be comfortable . Here, they don’t have any dress code , this is something that I am really impressed by. Anyway, we have mutually decided to wear semi-formals to stick the standards.

We are now headed for the breakfast . Devil and Kavi are planning to order ‘puri’ .Sai and I , as usual are uncertain. Since we have never been  fans of South Indian food , we have ordered Masala Dosa as a challenge for ourselves. We are totally enamoured of being challenged.(You know how this started!).My eyes are locked on the waiter who is approaching us with huge plates .I am staring at the plates and I’m appalled . There’s too much on the platter- several types of  chutneys and a huge Dosa. Me and Sai are already regretting challenging ourselves , more to that, the devil is giving us that smile.I hate it! Greatest Irony of all times- the devil has managed to finish his food and me and sai have leftovers on our plates. Happens!

Done with breakfast and we are on our way to Newman college- the venue of our conference. The campus  is as beautiful as of the one located up the hills. Beautiful Malayali girls draped in traditional saree have walked us through the registration.We have been given the conference kit as well. Now, we are good to go!

We are all seated in the hall ,awaiting  the Chief guest – Prof. Amrit Sen , head of the Department of English at Visva Bharti University , Kolkata, for the keynote speech on Cultural Studies. Devil teaches us cultural studies so we are actually able to understand the lecture but now the chief guest has started to speak Greek and Latin! so theres a possibility that me and Sai might doze off!

After a brief  inaugural session, We have a lunch break now. They are serving authentic kerala meal. Me and Sai are nervous about the conference, thus we have lost our appetite.We don’t want Devil to know about this, so we have our plates full, right in front of us. The boiled rice is difficult  to chew so we have decided to go for the sour things on the plate. After our lunch, Devil has introduced to us, a new dish- Kallapam.It resembles an Idli. It is soft and fluffy ,best part, being the fact that it is made up of Toddy. Now ,Devil is introducing us to Shilpa, Jerome Sir’s wife , who will be chairing our session. She seems sweet but wouldn’t be helping us on the stage. This thought has brought us back to our nervousness .As we walk back to the presentation hall, we are nervous and excited at the same time!

We have entered the hall and Frankly, I, no more have a sinking stomach. Since all the paper presenters have time limit , four papers are already done and we are up next. The  presentations before us have been carried out swiftly- it is not going to be that tough, we are convinced. As we are whispering among ourselves, we are startled by the call for our names. Before I am back to my senses,  Sai has already started well: confident, clear and loud. 

 Im quickly going through the highlights so that I’m ready to go. 

I have started with panic .One glance at the audience and I see, a few of them smiling.(this almost brought an end to my nervousnes). I am trying my best to be clear and loud and cover the paper in time.A couple of minutes more , and I am finally done with it! Sai and I, are exchanging wide smiles and I have gotten off the stage. Now, the chair person is asking us questions based on our paper and guess what? My bosom buddy, Sai, has managed to answer all the questions mind-blowingly. 

The Devil is super happy, and he cannot stop smiling. He’s been telling us how proud he is!.Well,  I believe it was the most amazing experience ever!(All thanks to the devil) Sai and I, want to go back to our room and celebrate already, but we have to wait for the devil to get done with his session. Now we have a tea break . Along with the tea, we are snacking on Chakka ada- a sweet dish wrapped in a leaf, made up of ripened jackfruit. After the break, Devil will be having his session.

The Devil is done with his paper soon after we entered the hall and now we are forced to sit throughout the session for no reason. Sai and I ,are helplessly looking at each other because we are hungry AF . Kavi, meanwhile , has come up with the idea of leaving the hall without devils consent . Doubtless, we hold the same kind of opinions when it comes to Devil. This woman is savage and I love the fact that she has the best comebacks ever. We are following her out while devil is staring at us blankly. 

Since we have been wandering around the campus, looking for a cafe, a distant noise has piqued our curiosity. We are all walking towards  the direction of the noise .I have caught myself staring at unusual sight of students dancing to loud music, right outside the college. I don’t think I know what’s happening. Kavi is explaining to us of the extraordinary Valentines Day Celebration in Kerala. I mean….. How cool is that?! 

As soon as we are back, we find that Devil is done with his session. A fleeting meet and greet followed by a brief photo session- we are done for the day! . Manu has offered to drop us and we are on the way back to our hotel. We will be relaxing until dinner time. Sai and I  are into the sheets again!, calling up our families to share every segment of TODAY . Just then, Kavi has come knocking on the door for Food. God, I love this woman!. Meanwhile, the devil has brought us some red velvet cake.(he can be THE nicest person, sometimes.)

This meeting is fun! The highlights of which are  random discussions on our favourite food , games and movies. We have learnt, we all have pretty much the same amount of love for cards and hence, a game session is planned after the dinner. Who else, but the devil will get the cards!(very obvious).Anyway, we have to hurry up for the dinner since the chief guest is going to be there. Well, Dinner with the chief guest  is a pleasure indeed!  

Dinner time is going great -a lot of discussions and debates on  music, movies, serials and what not.I am in love with this day! 

Done with the dinner and we are in our bed, chit chatting again. I can hardly wait for the time , when I see the devil with the  cards. Another 55376483465 hours and the devil has arrived. Although he has managed to get the cards after wandering for couple of hours on the streets, in return, we have planned on ditching him with the card game session!