On the outskirts of the city, lies a dusty service road. Not much lines the way, except for thorny shrubs, signs pointing to the Kukas Dam, and oddly a satsang bhavan. But as you drive on, an oasis appears, hidden by lush swathes of bougainvillaea. In the middle, a black gate, with a golden sun, daydreaming.
We are at Srinivas, an exquisite private residence which has been lent out by Maharaja Karan vijay Singh of Jodhpur. Singh, a well-known hotelier and polo player, is part of the city’s Rathore dynasty, and also runs the Ranbanka Palace hotel, some 350 kilometres away. But Srinivas is a notch above.
We get the feeling the moment we step in—priceless antiques inhabit the living room, and beside the snooker table, waits a silver throne. But it’s not rusty memorabilia. Every hall, staircase and suite has a cold quietness, as if longing for its rightful inhabitants. I entertain the thought of a vengeful spirit visiting us at night, peering down from the jaali above the central courtyard. Perhaps it’d find solace in the fact that I would be sleeping in the Rathores’ ‘Mehmaan’ suite.
Designed in fuchsia and gold, my weekend abode comes with an ensuite bathroom, gilded frames bearing former kings and swanky dogs, and a sigh-inducing view of the bougainvillaeas outside. I adore the room’s small touches—polo boots, upright against a table; fresh rosewater and multani mitti for some gentle cleansing; and chocolates and a handwritten note, left on my pillow at night.
Each of the seven suites at Srinivas reflects the personal likings and idiosyncrasies of a member of the royal family. Linens and books are handpicked in one room, while another has a turtle- shaped clock, a foldout mirror and a tin full of collectables. The former maharani’s suite is one of the largest, showcasing her grandkids’ polo trophies (a sweet reveal into the stoic), while the king’s retreat is themed entirely on hunting and Africa. All of Srinivas’ four-poster beds are fitted with electric blankets, allowing the most snug wintertime sleep you can have in the desert.
We are served breakfast on manicured lawns outside, the biting cold broken up by mynahs and the smell of chai. Given that the experience is meant to show royal life away from the public eye, I assume the food will be overwhelmingly showy. But it’s simple, farm-to-table fare.
I slather butter onto fluffy parathas, sip fresh-pressed juice, and demolish a veggie omelette and croissants. The butter, we’re told, comes from a cow a few yards away, while the fruits and veggies are from the garden. The lawn, with a view of Karanvijay Singh’s prized horses (and a few donkeys, he’s an animal lover), is a dreamy expanse for afternoon tea, or a sleek sundowner. Local painters paint murals on a wall, much like the ones inside Amer Fort, as a restoration expert watches on.
Most of our time at Srinivas is spent lounging on the ground floor, so we are reminded that there’s a terrace upstairs. Mirrored mosaics line our path to the minimal, red sandstone area, done up with canopied charpais and wrought- iron furniture. We go up at 7am, so naturally, it’s yoga time. The Rathores’ personal instructor takes us through the surya namaskar, and a few pretzel-like positions. I try the sarvanga asana with some success, until my rickety back advises to rein in the ambition. Cut to sunset, and it’s another folly—dinner on the roof, in what must be single-digit temperatures and strong wind. We did drinks earlier (and some Bournvita, I have no regrets) but it doesn’t seem to help much until the staff lights up two bonfires on either side of our table.
Kebabs, papad ki sabzi, ker sangri and lamb are quickly polished off, but I long for the warmth of Kachnaar Ghar, the indoor restaurant which has its own fireplace. The chef, adept at both Marwari specialities and European classics, whips up a mean fish with lemon sauce and ratatouille. The pearl millet raab, warming but unpleasantly astringent, is an acquired taste.
Horseback riding isn’t possible during our stay, so we march up to the Persians and mustangs in the stables, explore subtle corners (new things keep popping up!) and chat up the courteous waitstaff. Some are longtime Amer locals and have been with the family for years, so do poke their brain for an insider’s look into the city. We wander into Srinivas’ study, and spot Game of Thrones in the royal library. My friend wonders what season they’re on.
We then head for the warm living room, ready to touch, see, photograph and draw this sensory overload of a hall. If one were to take a top-down picture while standing near the couch, you’d see ten different, lavish textures in one frame. Understated isn’t a concern here, nor in the dining hall: chandeliered, with crystal stemware, daffodils and silky covers. We take one seat on each side and grumble about weary road trips, landlords and the government. Little did we know that it’d be one of the last, most indulgent holidays we’d see for a while.
The property has 7 suites.