“It is easier to go down a hill than up, but the view is from the top.
For a long time I had wanted a trip, basically, an escapade from my banal life – to a place which comes within a shoestring budget, from where I can return in a day and also where I had never been to. And God decided to fulfill my wish. One of my friends suddenly asked me to accompany her to Neemrana Fort Palace (Alwar, Rajasthan). Her reason was very personal – to heal her broken heart. It reminded me of Liz from the Hollywood movie Eat Pray Love, who decides to tour for the same reason. It was surely very sad but I thought why not! The words fort and palace were enough to attract me. It immediately connected my mind to royalty, grandeur and something splendid.
The fort is located very close to Delhi-Jaipur highway. As we headed for the outing from North Delhi through metro and bus, the journey was quite good till the highway. But surprisingly actual spoiler came when a sharing tempo plied us through narrow, bumpy, dusty and filthy road to reach our destination exactly at 12 noon. After four hours long journey we didn’t expect to see few heaps of garbage near the sign board displaying the name of the fort, fading colours of the fort built in the 15th century and the ugly looking parking space. A question then arose inside my mind – should not the authority care about maintaining the surrounding area of the fort which is listed as one of the most unique hotels in the world? To put our restless minds to rest I talked to a woman visitor. It seemed she visited the place more than once. She assured us of its beauty and worthiness.
The first glimpse of royalty – the guards standing near the big metal and wood gate-door, adorned in red and white traditional dress – finally brought smile on our faces. At the second gate we collected the tickets (Rs 1,600 per visitor, including lunch, which is mandatory). I had read much about the adventurous activities like zipping that would have cost us Rs 3,000 (entry charge+lunch+zipping). But we two just settled for lunch and fort visit.
Feeling the scorching heat we thought it apt to have our lunch first. We walked past the Kanak Mahal Resto and a swimming pool. The old cobbled stone stairs led us to the Jalgiri Restaurant. Very close to it is a royal chess table. On its wooden terrace visitors were watching the fun-filled young girls, swimming and posing for the camera while waiting for the restaurant to open at 12.30. It opened at right time. The woman visitor was right. As soon as we entered the restaurant our angst disappeared into thin air. Here we witnessed the perfect blend of modern amenities and aristocratic décor. The sitting arrangements were made for two people, four people and also for large group. We chose a table for two. As it was a buffet lunch we served ourselves with unlimited amount of food items, including chicken tandoori, chicken palak tikka, mutton curry, paneer curry and desserts among other items. My heart-broken friend wanted to avail the full value of our hard-earned money. She decided to relish the food till 2.30 pm. She would have remained beyond this time if they allowed. Here, I would also like to warn. Visitors require paying extra charges for any kind of beverages and personal food items or drinks were not allowed inside the restaurant.
Post-lunch, we were fuelled enough to explore the palace wings covering six acres of land over 12 separate levels. Standing there I felt as if stones and walls of the fort were breathing in and out to tell us how strong remained the fort since its establishment in 1467 by Raja Dup Raj and witnessed the descendants of Prithviraj Chauhan III, king of the Rajput Chauhan dynasty till 1947.
Soon my friend pulled me out of my philosophical mode to take me to the changing room of the Ayurvedic spa. There she switched from her jeans and top to a beautiful, thigh length one piece. I became the photographer and she turned my muse, posing perfectly around the two swimming pools, the amphitheatre, porch swings, hanging garden and terrace gardens with the breath-taking hilltop views of the misty mountains, flora and fauna and antique pieces on the background.
We then moved on to the Hawa Mahal terrace area. There visitors, including foreigners, were enjoying the evening snacks and the stunning bird’s eye view of the entire village. Although, we skipped zipping we felt the thrill simply by looking at those people who were doing this activity with full enthusiasm and without fear.
Both of us had enough collection of photographs but it never satisfied us. While smartphone camera continued capturing images, our mind skipped the fact that ours was a sharing tempo and a bus journey ahead and that it was about to get dark. We hurriedly signed off from the palace and reached the Delhi-Jaipur highway of course from the same mode of transportation.
Not getting any bus for almost waiting for fifteen minutes we decided to hire a sharing cab. Total we were two women and three men, including the driver and one sitting with us at the back seat. After few minutes of drive we realised that co-passengers were nice people and we felt relaxed to enjoy the long speedy drive. But here came a twist. The driver, who actually was on his way to the Indira Gandhi International Airport to pick up a foreigner, left us on the mid way as his service was not needed for the evening. We had no option but to leave the cab.
Here came the prayer moment, seeking help from God to send a reliable transportation for us and keep us safe. Thankfully, our co-passengers accompanied us on the forlorn road. Like me, one of them was little off-beat and quiet while the other one was friendly and smart like my friend. This gave enough time for bonding between the two smarties till the time we got a bus and reached the IFFCO Chowk metro station. They talked about their professional lives, general experiences while travelling and beautiful tourist spots. May be they exchanged numbers too. I leave this up to you readers for open interpretation. At last we reached back safely after ten in the late evening. While the dreamy views from the Neemrana Fort Palace refuse to leave me, may be my friend is enjoying the love moment from this trip.