I looked out of my room window at the grey Delhi skies. It was March and slightly cold, quite unusual for this time of the year. Recent rain and hail had kept the temperatures low. I was looking for a new weekend getaway around Delhi, having covered most places nearby. I stumbled upon a property called ‘Patan Mahal’, a quaint heritage property situated on the Delhi-Jaipur highway, about 180 km from Delhi. I booked a room quickly and began my drive early morning the next day. After driving for three hours on the highway, I reached the last leg of the journey – 2 km of narrow, dusty and uneven roads running into a village. After driving for few minutes, I finally sighed relief as I got the slightest glimpse of the pink palace behind the small houses.
The hotel caretaker came running to open the gigantic gates as the car made its way to the porch marked with big steps leading to two small lawns with bougainvillea shrubs. I reached the reception and saw a courtyard with a vase in the centre full of bougainvillea petals floating in water. I was served a glass of fresh lime post which I was escorted to my room on the first floor. The room had a private patio with windows overlooking small hills that surrounded the property. The bathroom had small red-blue-yellow glass windows which opened towards rose shrubs whose sweet fragrance had filled the air.
I got to know that ‘Patan’ was a city in the Indian state of Rajasthan. In the 12th century, it became the centre of a state ruled by the ‘Tomara’ clan. ‘Patan Mahal’, nestled in a valley formed by three hills, was the ancestral home of the chief of that clan. Soon, the simplicity of the place began to grow on me. I sat in the patio enjoying morning tea while listening to the sound of peacocks, trying to spot camouflaged parrots on nearby trees and breathing the fresh air. I strolled in the village markets famous for local bangle making art and observed the village women adorn the bangles with shiny crystals in emerald, turquoise and bright gold and silver. I trekked to the nearby ruins of ‘Badal Mahal’ and an 800 year old fort which stood at an imposing height of 2,000 feet above sea level. The path was barren, full of pebbles and shrubs that grew alongside. From the terrace, I watched the sun set behind the hills which turned deep orange with each passing minute.
Next day at dinner, I met a group of bikers who I had seen check into the hotel during afternoon.
“So where are you from?” I asked the stocky, weathered and grey bearded biker sitting next to me
“UK,” he said. “We have driven some 1,200 km over the last 12 days. This is our last stop and tomorrow we are heading back home,” he added
“Oh, that sounds amazing. How was your stay in India?” I asked
“Hmm…absolutely brilliant,” he said. “The last 12 days have been crazy – loved the place, the culture, the diversity and the food.”
“I like your energy,” I said.
“Well…I am 81 years old and am here with my son who is 50. Last time I went on a biking tour was when he was only 2 years old,” he laughed, and pointed to a sturdy man who was busy narrating his travel stories to others.
“Incredible,” I thought. To be able to pursue a strenuous physical challenge after a gap of about 50 years, that too in a foreign land, was youth spirit and courage exemplified.
As more commercial hotels mushroom around Delhi/ NCR, my longing for a quaint and niche heritage property continues – to allow me to spend a quiet and relaxed weekend away from the hustle-bustle of the city, receive personalised hospitality and meet travelers from different parts of the world who too are chasing rustic pleasures of life defying the comforts of sophisticated city lives.