“Happy birthday! Surprise! Road trip!”
Daddy’s Little Girl or not, raise your hand if you’ve always wanted to say those words to your main man, as a kid.
When my father turned a year younger (coincidentally on the day the financial year ended; such pressure, much madness) and my mother was just about done with the hustle and bustle of Delhi and its deadlines, I decided to put on my cape, turn Superdaughter and give Google a go.
Think royal. Think Rajasthan.
It was literally the eleventh hour.
And yet, for my borderline ADHD father who had brought me up on a hyperactive and impulsive diet of “do one new thing everyday”, clichés would just not do.
After naysaying a bunch of usual choices, The Hill Fort, Kesroli caught my eye.
4 hours. NH 48.
The map on their website was deceptively simple and reminiscent of Delhi Metro’s multicoloured lines. (We would soon find out that the route via Sohna was not too compatible with backs and backsides).
But Google Earth nailed it. Hmm. Doable. So common that it’s a superpower.
When I called their Corporate Office, the representative had me at hello.
“It will take you a while to reach, though. The lunch buffet will wait, ma’am. Birthdays are special.”
One step closer!
The drive was a breeze. The midday sun was flamboyant and journalistic (mind the potholes!) but hardly scorching enough to make us reconsider the trip. And though local cold drinks and munchies disappeared in moments, the much-hyped non vegetarian lunch buffet beckoned us like sirens.
When we finally reached the fort, the panoramic view of the pastures and the resplendent ruins was surprisingly cosy. It wasn’t about acres and acres of property. It had simply captured time.
A few crisp swigs of green tea with jasmine at the reception and we were feeling fresh already.
“I hope the Laal Maas isn’t too spicy!”
Say no more!
As thunder rolled unexpectedly across the horizon, even the shahi paneer, the dal baati choorma and the veg fried rice sated our souls. The rose in the vase at the centre of the table and the ever-courteous staff in the dining room nestled in our hearts like furry memories. Saved.
As if on cue, the first drops of rain fell.
We left the hall and walked across the grassy lawn, quickening our pace towards the wrought iron chairs as it started pouring.
The pineapple cake with the candle appeared as if by magic.
“Sir, a small gift on your birthday.”
Happiness has a way of creating a warm, fuzzy blur. The song. The claps. The radiant birthday boy. And the humble Man Friday in his pink kurta, as if curated to match the bougainvillea creeping up behind us. And they say men know nothing about the colour wheel!
The fort wasn’t roomy but had lovely rooms. No, we had no plans of staying overnight. But the rooms were named after birds and when it’s peacock weather, how does one say no to that?
A gigantic room showed off shamelessly, in the centre. This was for entertainment. There were huge reclining easy chairs. Musical instruments of yore. Chess. The star attraction, though? A carrom board.
Outside, the skies rumbled. Inside, red, white and black were battling it out.
There was even a television. But in the lap of nature, it lay forgotten.
We went out once the rain stopped. Somewhere on the terrace there was a photoshoot going on. The balconies were witness to a vast nothingness.
It’s strange how the silence stayed with us on the way back.
I’ve heard silence before in libraries, churches and morgues. The silence in Ladakh. The silence deep in the forests of Satpura.
This, was different.