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.