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Published: November 27th 2018
It is time to leave Poshina. We are currently the only guests and Hanu seems slightly reluctant to have us leave. We go to the private balcony to settle up and his father the Maharajah is there to greet us again and to chat. He is a charming gentleman of indeterminate age but somewhere in his 80s one would surmise. He assumed the headship of the family aged seven when his father died young, on which basis he must have been an absolute ruler of the princely state of Poshina at the time of Parttion in 1947, albeit still only a child. What a link with the past! He tells us again about the “good old days”- when the British ruled India (“They ruled it properly, not like these damn corrupt politicians now”), and left the Princes and Maharajahs and Nawabs to rule their own fiefdoms with justice and fairness. He believes that everything that is good about India is the legacy of the British – the Indian private schools, the discipline and organisation of the army, etc. We told him we had watched a documentary on TV about Doon School in Dehradun which was run by an English headmaster and
modelled on the English system. “Ah yes, good school, but that is a school where the sons of the army officers and the senior public servants went – not one of the proper schools where we aristocrats went to be educated. But we all enjoyed the discipline and everyone knew his place. Not like these days.....” Marvellous!
We say farewell to the dusty main street of Poshina. The jeeps are already busy bringing in their loads of human cargo and their wares for sale. It is about three hours drive to Dungarpur, through hilly undulating country. We cross back into Rajasthan at a checkpoint where the policeman waves us through with a lazy gesture. They really aren’t interested in commercial vehicles with foreigners as they know their paperwork will be up to date and their road tax paid. We are going through the Polo forest, laid out along a steep sided valley which is home to a lot of sloth bears, but there is no apparent way to go looking for them. The reason for going this way is to visit the ruined Jain temples in the forest. However, the river is in flood and is coursing over the
access road, so regrettably we have to give them a miss.
We stop off in a city on NH8, the trunk road that runs from Jammu in Kashmir to Mumbai, for a cup of tea with Mr Singh's family. His wife is staying there with his mother and his two sisters for a few days holiday. Smiles and selfies all round, including with his niece who has never seen foreigners and looks at us somewhat wide eyed.
Dungarpur town is set on a modestly sized but rather pleasant lake. It is also the cleanest town in Rajasthan. It has no rubbish and almost no animal poo on the streets, it has municipal rubbish collection and apparently a sense of civic pride instilled by a local wealthy businessman who now runs the town council. It has pavements and the streets do not stink. Most pleasing.
We check into the Udai Bilas Palace, our hotel for three nights. It is an early 19th
century construction built in blue green granite situated on the lakeside a couple of hundred yards from the town. It is very peaceful, even deserted, but there is a very helpful retainer who shows us everything
we need to see. We are shown the Maharajah's vintage car collection – cars are clearly an obsession of the Indian aristocracy – while the Man Himself is busily revving his Jaguar XJS up in the yard. It is pristine and spotless and clearly would never be risked on the roads outside! There is an organic farm and lots of types of rare chickens and fowl, and a family of emus (why??).
We have an octagonal shaped room with a dome that is at one end of the palace and a balcony that overlooks the lake and the Jai Mandir, a beautiful little temple in the lake. We sit on the balcony and Sara says she feels a little chilly – that is a first for the middle of an afternoon on this trip!
We meet a Swedish couple in the hotel. He tells us at 615pm hundreds of fruit bats make their way across the front of the hotel from the mango orchards to roost in the trees in our garden. Sure enough, exactly on time they come, swooping low, huge creatures with a wingspan of about a meter.
Dinner is served in an open air
courtyard. The dining table is a long rectangle marble affair decorated with marigolds and candles with a “pond” in the middle of it. Halfway through dinner Jacuzzi jets are turned on and the water bubbles. Well it's different for sure, clearly a previous Maharajah's indulgence.
Next day David is feeling better so we decide to take a walk into the town. Our new Swedish friend has recommended we head into the old town, which is the Muslim quarter, so that’s what we do. There are old houses and temples and mosques, all crumbling with age, interspersed with more modern constructions. One especially narrow alley has houses that are barely 2 feet apart at first floor level. We find what was once of the gates in the long disappeared city wall. Dungarpur gets very few tourists, so we’re a bit of a curiosity, and they're a friendly bunch with lots of people keen to say hello. We eventually retrace our steps back to the main road, where we find a watch and clock shop that replaces David’s watch strap for a mere 120 rupees.
An hour and half is long enough for David, so we return to the hotel
and settle down for a restful day, sitting on our balcony overlooking the lake, and reading.
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