Bliss in the Amber Hills

In a city that is inundated with luring stay options ranging from modest yet authentic home-stays to the most outrageously luxurious palaces; Panna Mahal, nestled among the lush acres of Rashmi & Edward Dickinson’s picturesque slice of Amber estate, Parvat Surya, offers an entirely unique experience.

My wife Anuja, our daughter Krisha and I, were very generously invited by the Dickinsons, at the beginning of August, to stay at Panna Mahal, an outhouse on their property they have recently converted into a self-contained, 2 bedroom guest-house. In fact, this write-up is grossly overdue, prevented from being written because of various health niggles I encountered since that time. Better late than never though!

Back to the beautiful Panna Mahal. Surrounded by dense greenery, ensconced in the caressing embrace of nature, the elements come to life here. Everything that is natural, is amplified. The chirping of birds, the echoing of raindrops, the abandon of the many swings dotted across the property as one takes flight on them, reminiscent of a more fancy-free, simpler time. No television barking. No devices distracting. No neighbors interfering. Nothing. Pure, unabated, natural bliss.

An 8-strong army of the fiercest yet utterly gorgeous Dobermen, led by Toofan, bask, roam, and zealously guard the estate. If you are, and ONLY if you are a genuine animal-lover, they will sense it, and quickly become friends. Else, stay at a safe distance! With us, they instantly gathered around and two in particular – Toofan & Bhookamp, remained our constant companions through our stay, merrily sitting by our side while we were on the swings, as we walked and explored the ample flora and fauna across the estate, and while we sat at our lovely al-fresco table and ate.

On the roof of Panna Mahal, is a wonderful arrangement of a couple of ‘newars’ (a traditional village-style bed) and another small dining table and chairs. While we were there, there was more than a hint of rain and the entire amber area was engulfed in the most mysterious fog. To sit on the roof and take in the breathtaking views was absolutely mesmerizing. Irrespective of the weather conditions, the ample estate and the vistas beyond, including and of course the highlight, the Amber Fort itself; a feast for the eyes and all senses.

Food arrangements are managed by one of two options and one can do a combination. The guest-house has a small yet perfectly appointed kitchenette/pantry where the hosts are happy to stock basic supplies so one can cook oneself, or meals  are masterfully managed by a couple that lives close-by, a Mr. Sanjay Maheswari, who runs Kokum Bistro near Amber (whose number will be provided by the hosts). Mr Maheshwari and his wife cook delectable food, made to order, and bring it by to Panna Mahal for each meal. They are priced fairly, and their food tastes absolutely amazing, light, fresh, and is highly customizable. With my Cancer and my many eating restrictions, they easily accounted for all my needs and still gave us brilliant culinary experiences, breakfast, lunch and dinner!

The entire stay at Panna Mahal and Parvat Surya is punctuated by nature. It is truly ‘far from the madding crowd’. A lot of holiday options claim to offer an ‘escape’ but that is, I’m afraid, a terribly abused word whose meaning and essence have been diluted by making it merely a buzzword. At Panna Mahal, it is the plain truth. You escape not just the city and the rush, you escape within yourself, in your own mind, and submit to the bountiful fruits that the bosom of nature offers.

Perhaps the most admirable facet about the Panna Mahal experience is that Rashmi has decided to ‘gift’ it to the Creative World. The retreat will be a donation to Artists of all kinds – Writers, Poets, Painters & Musicians, to come, stay, be inspired, work, escape, rest, create. To serve as a respite & muse to those who beautify the world, to become a sanctuary to those who imaginatively chronicle truth! I personally can not think of either a more appropriate utilisation of this idyllic spot, or a better service to the arts.

For us, Panna Mahal was two days of complete joy. A quiet sort of euphoria that only natural bliss can provide. Rashmi and Edward, thank you, not just for hosting us but for each endeavour of yours, which is always inextricably intertwined with doing some good in, and for society. We love Panna Mahal and can’t wait to be back!

A Delectable, Picturesque AcQUAINTance

I had the pleasure today of visiting a new cafe in town. I’d heard about this mere-week-old place at Jawahar Kala Kendra, a place I’ve frequented since I was a little child, enjoyed many a dosa at its iconic original cafe. My intrigue then, when I saw pictures of this NEW cafe, completely different in its ambiance as well as its food (from what one had been used to at JKK), had grown! Normally I’m the first to arrive at most any new-food-place in town (starved as we in Jaipur tend to be of decent dining); traveling robbed me of that ‘first to be there’ pleasure. I’m delighted to report though, Jaipur, we have a wonderful NEW place to eat, and shoot the breeze!

Nestled in the already stunning JKK, this 1st floor little eatery called Cafe Quaint, is an idyllic spot. True to its name, it is simple, quaint, calming, zen, and utterly charming. It seems to believe in a rather simple mantra – great coffee and a few sweet and savory dishes made using fresh ingredients. I’m tempted to, but I am not going to spoil your process of discovery by listing what we ate, how it tasted etc etc. Suffice it to say that it is like a little non-vegetarian version of Anokhi Cafe, only exponentially prettier.

The two lovely young ladies Ayesha & Twinkle who have embarked on this journey are always present, welcoming, hospitable, vivacious. I wish them every success. And finally of the place.. Here’s what I have to say…

Winter days, al fresco, surrounded by art, culture, lush greens, murals, and mostly a whole lot of inspiration. It really is that little piece of paradise in which to reflect, write, create, be inspired, and feed one’s SOUL!