Nawalgarh

Up early to repack our bags and get ready for our journey to Nawalgarh. We were introduced to our driver, Thulsi (?), yesterday and we had arranged to set off at 10am. A few delay meant we didn’t set off until after 10:30. The going was slow as we made our way through the ever chaotic traffic in Jaipur.

As we left the city, the traffic and landscape changed, with a higher proportion of camel carts and jeeps on the road and the rows of shops and houses giving way to open scrubland.

Further into the journey, most of the cars were the Indian-made Jeeps, usually loaded to bursting point with people. Many had people hanging on to the outside or even sitting on the roof.

During the journey Thulsi was very quiet, and we realised that this was because his English wasn’t verygood, though it was still better than our ability to speak his language!

We finally arrived at Nawalgarh at about 2pm, but our driver didn’t seem to know the town or the location of our hotel. After numerous stops to ask directions, we arrived at another guest house owned by the man who owned our hotel. It was only a short drive from there and we finally arrived at Apani Dhani Apani Dhani (meaning “our hamlet”) is an eco-lodge, providing food and accomodation to visitors on a working farm. The hot water for showers is heated by home-built solar panels, and photo-voltaic cells provide some of the electricty for the accomodation which consists of several traditionally-built huts with thatched roofs. It was a big change from the Hotel Diggi Palace but we had stayed in similar huts during our two trips to the Maldives.

We were greeted and shown our room before going to register and chat with the manager about local sights etc.

We rested for a while before heading out in the car again. The manager Apani Dhani gave our driver instructions on how to get to the Poddar Haveli / museum, but the lack of road signs or names meant that we were soon stopping to ask for directions again. Thulsi had picked up ona amention of Roop Niwas Palace during the directions and so took us there. It’s a hotel and so wasn’t really much use for sight seeing. After 10 minutes there we asked to go to the musuem and after backtracking 1km or so did finally get there.

The museum also serves as a charity school for around 1,000 boys and 50 girls, taught in two shifts in the upper rooms of the haveli. Whether the proportions are indicative of most schools in Rajasthan, I don’t know, though the guidebooks do say that the literacy rate is low, and the mortality rate high for women in Rajasthan.

The haveli has been restored by the Poddar family who are merchants who now operate successful businesses in Mumbai. They also pay for most of the costs of the school. The entire building is covered in colourful frescos, many of scenes from Hindu mythology, but also others of typical Rajasthani scenes and paintings of trains, British soldiers etc.

There are several galleries of objects of which our accompanying guide gave us a comprehensive tour. time was drawing on so we had to return to our lodge, this time without having to ask directions and only taking one wrong turning.

Our evening meal was taken with two Belgian ladies who were staying in the adjoining hut. The meal was traditional vegetarian fare, starting with a cauliflower, spinach and pumpkin soup, followed by dry potatoes, dall, spinach and rice, with a rice pudding dessert. This was all served on plates and bowls made from leaves which could then be composted.

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