It’s taken us a whole lot longer to get here than it did 3 years ago – a combination of crater-studded roads, diversions, losing our way on multiple occasions, and if that weren’t enough, a part of our convoy being held up by the ongoing Gujjar agitation! A little over 4 hours after leaving home, we finally arrive at our destination – to a warm welcome, amidst familiar surroundings – good ‘ol Kesroli!!
Given the precedent we’ve set over the years for our annual family tradition – same state, different venue – the obvious question would be, why are we back in Kesroli? There are reasons aplenty for this but I’ll start with the simplest and most obvious of the lot – for yet another late, very filling and extremely lengthy lunch, which effortlessly mutates into afternoon tea, and ends up with us retiring on the deck to watch the sun go down..
And just as well, for on this trip, there’s little more we’ll see of the sun!
I wake up at the crack of dawn, camera in hand, but there is none of that famed north India fog, and no bright sun charismatically breaking through it either! Nevertheless, the scene is breathtaking and the morning as magical! And just as it was on our last trip, the early risers always reap the rewards 😉
By the time I’m done with my third helping of breakfast – the porridge is especially good this morning, as is their raspberry jam – the rest of the family joins me! As they begin doing justice to the old Derawal adage, ‘Aur Khao Lalaji, Aur Khao’, (roughly translates to stuff yourselves silly!), I sneak out to the village below.
For the inhabitants of the village, breakfast was at least a few hours before any of us cared or dared to surface, and by this time they are out and about their daily chores. Expectedly, the village wears a deserted look, but an idyllic one nonetheless!
A short walk through the village is followed by a longer one, through endless fields of mustard, in their characteristic fluorescent bloom! It’s a sight I can never seem to tire off, and frankly, no better place than Kesroli to relish it!
In the years to come, no matter how much progress we continue to make as a nation, I hope and pray scenes like this will never change!
One of the best things about Kesroli is it’s remote location, and over the years we’ve learned to choose venues more and more so. After all, the very idea of a reunion is to spend quality time together, ideally, in the comfort of a fabulous property, the older the better! 😉
But often, we learn this the hard way.
Another reunion, another sightseeing sojourn – this time its the City Palace, Alwar or Vinay Vilas Mahal. A sprawling 18th century palace fusing together the best of Rajput and Mughal architectural styles, set to the backdrop of the Aravalli range, capped by a fort (Bala Quila), some 5 km in length!
But that’s where the good news ends! The lower level of the Mahal – through which all visitors must pass – has been usurped by the Government of Rajasthan, and wears every sign of bureaucracy one can imagine!
We kick ourselves for making the effort to go there, and return evermore disheartened. The smarter few who didn’t end up going, of course, have the last laugh!
In a bid to redeem ourselves somewhat, a few of us set off on bicycles, for an hour long ride on country roads, winding our way through fields.
It’s amazing what life’s simpler pleasures can do to wipe out some not so pleasant memories, or so we think to ourselves!
Minutes later there’s a cloudburst and the 5 of us gallant gents – miraculously, the only people riding at the time – are all but drenched!
It is past dusk as we make our way back, and the hill fort beckons like a beacon from afar. Closer up, it appears equally enchanting in the wet as it does in the dry!
The rain ensures that there will be no festivities tonight – no folk performances, singing or dancing. But that does little to deter our collective Derawal spirit – our group may be smaller in size but our raucousness knows no bounds 😉
As the night wears on, and a table for 17 awaits, we are, as always, the last ones to eat!!
Time flies rather quickly when you’re on holiday with loved ones – probably quicker than the time it took you to read this post 😉
As we prepare to leave, the same gentlemen who serenaded us on our arrival 3 days prior, now looks away in sadness.
His get-up, posture and expression will be an enduring memory, no doubt, as will our love for the state to which he belongs, and his village in particular.
It may not be Rajasthan the next time, and we’ll probably never repeat a venue again, but the tradition will and must go on!
A full set of pics from both trips can be seen here.