The dreamy, musical journey created by this luxury boutique hotel in arid Jaisalmer will make you fall in love with life.
Words & photos: Ambica Gulati
Flat on my back, I gazed at the stars as the Manganiyar troupe sang its heart out. Little frogs jumped over my feet, as I felt the music penetrating the womb of the night. I call it the night of the Sufis, for the rhythm had got me twirling with the women who danced the ghoomar. Maybe this was the union Rumi had written about where you forget who you are because only the rhythm of the universe resonates through you. Maybe the magic lay in the troupe whose leader Mehboob Khan was leading it the way he knew best—by singing folk and Sufi numbers. Or maybe the magic lay in my hosts—Karan Singh Vaid (President, MRS Group), Siddharth Yadav (Vice President, MRS Group) and Nakul Hada, the man who managed the hotel. Maybe the magic was in their philosophy of “everyone must relive the royal era in all their properties”. Perhaps the magic was in way the three dream weavers were casting their dream threads. Wondering about the magic, I didn’t do justice to the lavish Thar dinner which had been specially prepared for the party. The flicker of the lamps was dim now. The desert breeze had got cooler, blowing the sheer curtains of the cabana in my face. Chappals in hand, I swayed my way through the Celebration Gardens to the luxurious suite with a private sitting area.
The morning sun sent dancing rays through the sheer curtains, coercing me to wake up. We had missed the breakfast with the peacocks at Khaba Fort. Outside, the rays filtered through the stone jaalis, creating a row of diamonds in the corridor. The sound of the flute was filling the courtyard. I sat on the sofa in the lift to reach the big table where lay a detox breakfast. Parties do that to you; they create the need for filling up the body with juices and a different set of grains. Vaid’s philosophy has been to keep the guest satiated, sometimes with overdoses, with a variety that is suited to all kinds of palate. So there were ragi dosas, chillas, beetroot/pineapple/coconut water shots, buttermilk and all things that the stomach loved. The flute kept playing. Between bites, I did wonder if the man was tired of us. But it was a happy courtyard.
The fountain in the middle probably enjoyed being the bathing spot for the three golden labradors—Nala, Bugsy and Simba. The peacock ran for his life every time someone wanted to take a picture. The white pigeons gurgled something, hiding under a table. Only the little turtle didn’t care. His head went in and out of the shell. Bored with all the fiddling and the noise, he waddled his way into the bushes. The donkeys didn’t stand a chance to meet the guests, for one was sturdily held by his caretaker and the other simply shied away. But the incorrigible sparrows pecked at everything within their range. Breakfast came to an end as the sun rose higher and the man with the flute too retired. The golden shades of the desert were calling.
The days were dedicated to the stark, stony beauty of the desert—walking past tombs of men long gone, eyeing the cursed villages where the Paliwal Brahmins once lived, stepping into a cursed temple, hugging baby deers, gazing at the intricate ceiling of the cenotaphs, enjoying a whiff of the cool oasis breeze, watching the herd of sheep drinking the water, drinking from the fresh water wells, meeting the sole Bhil family living in the middle of nowhere, driving to a Jain temple, finding our way into the ruined gardens of Amar Bagh, exploring the cenotaphs of the royals at Bara Bagh and some abandoned temples at Brahma Sagar.
But the evening was sheer music on the dunes. Through an uncarved path, the SUV tore its way to the border of the Desert National Park. The adventure ended in a musical saga, as little lamps flickered along the curves of the dune. The man was playing the flute once more. The sun was dressing the desert in all shades of orange and violet. As we slowly sipped the champagne, we could see the romance between the sky and the earth fading. The last kiss of life and the sun departed for the night. Sighing, we headed back to the hotel which lay at the edge of the dunes. The dim lights of the hotel twinkled like stars.
Dinner is always a fancy, dressy affair at Suryagarh. The darkness of the night is a womb of peace where you make merry. Quite a paradox–peace and merry, but then the night does that to you. The lights turned the hotel into a dreamy palace where lived only those who wanted to forget the world. A few steps and through another path, we were led to the Lake Garden. As we got closer to a tree, the sound of music hushed us into a dreamy silence. Under the tree sat the flute man. We turned a curve and more musical waves flowed. The path had musicians at every curve, taking us towards a table where glittery lamps awaited. The troupe assembled again, creating more magic. But it was not a long party for we were to leave the music behind the next morning and carry back only the memories. But does the magic ever fade way? Not until the dream weavers decide to stop weaving their magic.
How to reach Jaisalmer
By Air: SpiceJet has flights to Jaisalmer from Delhi. Alternatively there are flights to Jodhpur and one can enjoy a 5-hour drive to the hotel.
By Rail: Jaisalmer has a railway station with trains from Delhi and other major cities of Rajasthan.
By Road: The highway to Jaisalmer is a trip in itself. You cross the famous nuclear bomb testing site of Pokharan, the village of saint Ramdev. Along the way, you can see deers crossing the roads and peacocks playing truant.