Saturday, 3 December 2016

A Back-to-the-Roots Experience: The Dadhikar Fort

Just like that he popped this question, “any plans for this weekend??” I said “not really, but I just want to go somewhere..take a break.. disconnect from everything!” Hardly had I known that I would be taken by surprise, not by his plan but by the place he has in mind!!

The Dadhikar Fort in Alwar, Rajasthan turned out to be a blessing in disguise, a terrific place to unwind and relax. I have to admit I don’t get euphoria every now and then, but the kind of feeling that gripped me when I first stepped my foot on its entrance is something I won’t ever forget!

It took us roughly 2-1/2 hours to reach the fort by road from Delhi and thanks to the GPS, it was a fairly smooth and traffic free drive with the exception of the last few kilometers of rough stretch through a village leading to the fort, quite a kick to my adventurous soul.

As we reached the fort, I was simply jumping inside, as what lay ahead of and around me was sheer beauty. The fort sits right at the center of the splendiferous skirting of the Aravalis. The gigantic main entrance, the décor and that first feeling when you stand and breathe in the surroundings while check-in formalities are being done, it is all so beautiful!

I could feel the crude, tranquil atmosphere taking over me as we headed to our room, Kalanjar, pathways surrounded by the fragrant Plumeria (Champa) trees and colorful Bougainvillea, treat to the concrete-sick eyes. Our folksy room took us back in time while did provide the privileges of modern amenities like mini fridge, AC, rain shower. Thanks heavens, there was no TV or wi-fi and we spent some real time connecting with nature and with each other. The entire resort was quite airy and light with a number of places to curl up with a book, grab a cup of coffee and soak in the beauty of the Aravalis!

After a quick freshening up, briskly we headed to the restaurant. Food is served buffet style here, but we were a little late for that so we had a waiter at our disposal, one of Team Dadhikar’s several niceties. The food was served in the trademark big Rajasthani thalis, filled with authentic regional flavors and surprisingly was super-duper hit with the always-drooling-for-junk kids!

All fueled up, we left to explore the fort. Running after the kids on those inviting stairs, reaching the terrace was a remarkable sight with a bunch of people flying kites and several others screaming and clapping, the splendor of the place coming to a greater high at this height. I just couldn’t control falling in love with the rusticity omnipresent in the fort.

It wasn’t a surprise seeing crews of cameramen and photographers shooting for pre-wedding shoots and for magazines, the picturesque fort turns out to be a hot destination.

High tea awaited us in the outer part of the fort with a captivating sunset view to witness. It was a warm evening, at a place not crowded much, but still people with friends, kids and couples cozying up. Jangal mein Mangal sort of feeling!

There was a cultural show later in the evening. Only a handful of people were present. It was neither crowded nor secluded. The show wasn’t something that I hadn’t seen earlier but the way the guests were made to participate in the dances and entertained did make it extra special giving it all a personalized touch. And yeah, kids did get awestruck by their fire and balancing antics. Came out to be a night of revelry!

Dinner time! We headed off to the restaurant with the hunger clock ticking badly. Again a lovely spread was laid out at dinner, nothing being repeated. Kids loved having pasta while we again gave in to the delectable Rajasthani flavors. Though not much of an ice-cream enthusiast, I simply loved all the flavors and yes they were all made in-house.

Next morning, as planned we both left for an early morning walk around the fort while the kids were asleep. It was an unforgettable experience with the mesmerizing views, cool fresh air brushing past the skin and the magnificence of nature where you discover how small your identity is and how overwhelming and overpowering nature can be. There is so much more to life than the business of the routine zindagi, instantly making you realize that there is something larger than life throbbing inside of you, what an immense blessing it is to be alive!

Just when all these thoughts were crossing my mind, we walked past our car in the parking area and then suddenly he walked a few steps backwards with horror on his face as if seen a ghost or something, pulling me back to the physical world, there was a pool of engine oil under the car, flowing downhill..!!! Lo beta.. ho gaya happy birthday!! Mechanic kahan milega.. Aur aayo jungle mein..!!!!

Much to our surprise, the staff turned out to be very helpful in a situation like this where they took it on themselves to get the car fixed, it’s another thing that our till-now-smooth trip came to a halt and my guy had to accompany the vehicle to the workstation, stranding us at the fort, err… rather he was the one to get stranded ;)

Our trip to Abhaneri stepwell and Sariska wildlife sanctuary as planned got stalled. But that’s life, nothing goes as planned! It was quite a vexing situation but we tried to be a good sport and take it in stride.

A little dim on our spirits, we went ahead for breakfast, there were families with kids to newlyweds to a group of boys looking forward to an adventurous trek in the hills. The sight that I loved the most was of a group of ladies in their 70s having that all girls time together. It was a delight watching them eating and chitchatting, going sightseeing, again reassuring that age is just a number, one should have the right kind of attitude to live it!

Afterwards, kids went on a photography spree around the fort, played carom board and hide and seek taking full advantage of the place where within a few meters a staircase goes up to the terrace while few others down to the basement. It was a pleasure watching them play happily in the outdoors, for once I didn’t have to play referee!

We had to check out because they had a pre-booked-houseful, no doubt it was weekend. At the reception, I came across Mr. Ram Kaushik, founder of the fort, busy taking details from the staff. Just while exchanging greetings, he asks me if our car has been fixed yet leaving me stunned! How the hell does he know about the car or for the matter of fact that it belonged to me!! Leaving me to my own synthesis how closely he is involved in the affairs of the fort and especially involving the guests. Do you expect an owner of a resort to do that kind of a thing??!! I was speechless and touched. Later on, I was informed that the lunch was on the house for us!

Meanwhile, I got quite intrigued and was lucky enough to have a word with Mr. Kaushik and what I learnt about him and his life is a story full of inspiration and determination.

The Dadhikar Fort stands as an epitome of courage of an ordinary man with an extraordinary approach towards life. The place, remnants of the royal property, was bought and brought to life by Mr. Kaushik himself, the visionary behind the idea of The Dadhikar Fort. A post graduate in Hotel Management, he has formerly been associated with Neemrana Group for 18 long years which shows in the way he has managed the entire place complying with all the functions of a luxury hotel and what has made me write this is somewhere connected with this man’s humble attitude and his involvement coupled with an observant eye in the daily activities of the resort.

He has been the architect and designer for the fort himself. He surveyed and researched almost 100 odd forts to get the intricacies right, bringing the essence of an authentic fort to Dadhikar, with an idea to recreate the aura of the old times.

It hadn’t been an easy path for him, breaking the social obstacles which always turn a normal man down from realizing his big dreams. He used to visit the place through the jungle on a motorbike. There was no electricity or even a road to reach the site. Getting all the required resources at the point of construction and convincing the construction workers to work in a place untamed like that was quiet a task too. His family and especially his wife stood by him putting everything possible in realizing his dream. In fact, the fort turns out to be quite instrumental in creating rural employment, lighting up the lives of the nearby villages.

Whoa! Looks like a Bollywood story, isn’t it!!?? With the car now back, we left around 3 pm for Delhi. Vijay Mandir was an enthralling sight on the way out to highway. Siliserh lake and everything else in Alwar, laters baby!

The little time we spent there left me with so many feelings and emotions that I revel in reliving it in my mind time and again as often as I please! Nature has that effect on me and I guess on every human being which makes one think, reflect back, purify and I think it is very important for all of us to take a break from our daily routines to connect with ourselves and our lives in a better way.

Just a weekend had been a really short time! Heading towards Delhi felt like moving away from a cozy den, as if some part of me had been left behind. Well, I am surely going to go back and figure out what it was!!

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