Greetings, my name is Niti Bhan and I’ve been invited to write about my recent experience as a guest at The Ranthambhore Bagh, by Aditya Singh, the owner of the lodge just outside the Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve in Sawai Madhopur, Rajasthan, India. I guess this is what they mean by guest blogging!
Dicky, as Aditya is better known to me, hosted us from the 6th to the 8th of December 2006 after I’d arrived in New Delhi from San Francisco to attend the recent CII NID Design with India Summit along with my colleague David Tait, Creative Director of Readymade, a product design and innovation consultancy based in Pretoria, South Africa. Let me attempt to recreate in words – this journey – a world away from the world in which I normally reside; one that took me back in time, forward in space and more profoundly, deeper inside to a very peaceful place.
We took the night train, the Mewar Express from Nizamuddin Station, tickets were arranged for us by Vikram Singh, who runs Wild World India, an ecologically aware wildlife tour company based in New Delhi. I spent much of my time standing at the open doorway outside our first class airconditioned compartment, preferring to smell, see and feel the desert; it was almost the full moon and late at night as the train rushed us through Faridabad, Mathura and Bharatpur getting us into Sawai Madhopur station just five hours later. Other than a blurry drive, the first thing that I recall on my arrival was a warm, already heated and cozy tent with quaint details such as a mosquito net and a luxurious pukka shower and bathroom. I couldn’t believe it was just a tent, from the inside it had all the mod cons and amenities you could wish for, including a long hot shower to get rid of the filth of the train journey.
You can see David’s tent here, mine is the one on the left just hidden by the bushes. They’ve all been laid out to ensure a little bit of privacy for any guest who may choose to sit out on their personal porch and relax with a beer or two. Or three, but we won’t go there , since we were Dicky’s guests and he was the one who’d taught me how to hold my drink back when I was a freshman.
That night we had dinner outside sitting around a portable fire pit that kept us warm enough in the chilly night air of almost winter in North India. Temperatures have been known to go down to 10 celsius or lower. Since it was late, we had missed the daily evening highlight – a Rajasthani family of musicians arrive to entertain Aditya’s guests with haunting local ballads of lost or unrequited love, popular songs from old hindi movies or classical melodies based on stories from India’s mythological epics – The Mahabharata and the Ramayana.
Their young daughter danced most gracefully for us, encouraging the guests to join her when an upbeat tune was played. You get to snack on tidbits, drink the best the bar has to offer, and Dicky’s bar has been and is, legendary. Just sit back – we happened to be there on the night of the full moon – and lose yourself in a state of emotional euphoria bordering on pure lethargy.
After my long flight from California to India, the hectic rush of the conference, this timeless place after 9 months without a break from work, was nothing less than pure bliss. Or as I read recently, heaven on earth, for heaven is the place where you get all your needs fulfilled. Enough, I have to shake my head to return from those moments but that was when I knew I would return, for all the stress, the pressure, the tension, just seemed to melt away and I was left a boneless puddle.
The next day, we set out after a leisurely brunch to see Ranthambhore Fort or Killa as its known in the local language. Built in 1192 AD by the descendants of one of India’s best known Rajput kings, Prithviraj Chauhan, whose story is worthy of any swashbuckling romance from the days of yore and chivalry. I’ll continue with a post on the Fort tomorrow with more photos and stories of the legendary bravery of Veer Hammir and the Rajputs of Ranthambhore.