The second of my posts on Mumbai’s eating out experiences, this lunch was very different from the afternoon spent at LPQ. It’s right next to Flora Fountain, this treasure called Kitab Khana, a bookshop and cafe, the best of both worlds of reading and eating, housed inside a 150 year old heritage building.
Run by the Somaiyas, who own the building as well, the shop was a treat to walk into. As an architect, I was fascinated and proceeded to ask a zillion questions and take many pictures. I learnt about the seepage problems the building has, the problems of renting out heritage spaces and the sheer amount of money and effort it takes to maintain a shop like this. Yet, in the manager’s eyes I saw the pride and the sheer love for what he does. The staff is old-world and affectionate, as I found out from the little chit-chats they had with the kiddos.
The cafe is small, but served an excellent selection of pastas, sandwiches, salads and desserts (couscous salad and blueberry cheesecake recommended). We were catching up with dear family friends and Aadyaa had spent the entire morning with them. Though the lunch was planned so that we could get Aadyaa back with us, she had had so much fun with her new-found friend Radha that she went right back home with them! The cafe at Kitab Khana seemed like an extension of home and the two girls danced, sang and chatted their way through the meal. For the rest of us, it was catch-up time as well. For Udai, it was serious food time and he also had the opportunity to buy the next book in the Percy Jackson series. That one needs his reading fuel to be uninterrupted, or else we are in trouble!
We made a few navigation errors while returning from Dausa to Gurgaon, routing through smaller roads rather than the faster highway. No regrets though, for in Alwar district around Sariska, we saw some more architectural marvels as well as some of the most scenic views of the Aravallis I have laid my eyes on. I hadn’t set up any expectations, so I was delighted indeed!
Ajeybgarh loomed up before us, a seemingly lone fort atop a hillock. Then we saw some submerged monuments in a lake. We turned the corner and there it was before us, an entire town of abandoned, ruined structures. Now I know from various sources on the Internet, that Ajeybgarh is a fortified town built in the 1630s by Ajab Singh Rajawat, who was the grandson of the founding ruler of Bhangarh, Madho Singh. The family was closely related to the Mughals as Madho Singh was the younger sibling of Maharaja Mansingh, who was the General of Mughal Emperor Akbar’s army. In fact, the famous Jodha Bai was a grand aunt of Ajab Singh and both Akbar and Shahjanah were guests at Ajeybgarh.
Interestingly, Bhangarh which we did not see but isn’t too far from here, is one of the most well known haunted spots in India! Legend has it that the town was deserted overnight when an evil magician cursed it and no one is allowed to be in there after dusk. I can bet that has piqued your curiosity for this area! Mine is, for sure, but more so because it is supposed to be a magnificent heritage and archaeological site.
Later, we also passed through the town of Pratapgarh, which also is dominated by the fort that towers over its daily activities. We lost our way here, so we criss-crossed the town a few times and each time, the fort framed our views. Unfortunately the sunlight was blinding and the photographs are only silhouettes.
I’ve been to Sariska a very long time ago and to Alwar only for family weddings. The vignettes I saw on this drive certainly make for a more relaxed trip to Sariska, Alwar, Bhangarh, Ajeybgarh and Pratapgarh. I would say it would be comfortable to do this on a 3 day weekend. Alwar is only a few hours away from Gurgaon where I live. Sounds utterly doable and mu travel diary is filling again!!
Rajasthan is undoubtedly the most successful state in India in terms of attracting tourists and retaining their interest. The people of this state genuinely take immense pride in their culture and heritage. Their natural sense of hospitality and humility adds to the experience and numerous travelers have returned with the fondest of memories.
Being married into a Rajasthani family has given me a personal peek into the state’s rich culture, an experience I treasure and enjoy with every interaction and visit. Rahul’s village is located in Baran district in Rajashtan. This region, popularly called Hadoti deserves a longer, more relaxed visit and it’s been a long time wish of mine to trawl this region for lesser known heritage and natural sites. For now, I caught some short but delightful glimpses that I share today.
For background, Hadoti is a region in the southern part of Rajasthan bordering Gujarat comprising the districts of Kota, Bundi, Jhalawar and Baran. This area was consolidated in the 12th century by the Tripta Hada Rajputs, a branch of the Chauhan clan and they rules for several years. Many delightful forts are still visible today as we drive around this area and even the most ordinary village can offer the most delightful heritage treasures if you go looking!
We were fortunate to pass Bundi, which is undoubtedly the jewel in Hadoti’s crown as far as heritage tourism is concerned. From Kota to Jalwara, we passed Palaita, which is a fort right on the banks of the Chambal, a lovely location indeed. We always see it on our drive to the village and each time, I long to stop and drop in. Next time, surely!
Our own village Jalwara has some a small ruined fort and our home abuts it, so we literally live alongside this quaint structure. The village has an adorable little baodi (step well) and this time, I took the time to take some pictures here to document it, just in case we go back another time to find it’s gone!
One our drive back towards Dausa from Kota, we also passed Indragarh, another imposing fort that the Hadas built and rumored to be quite a vibrant heritage town with a nice kund (water tank). Another place that begs to be looked at with some time on our hands.
Besides the rich heritage, this region is blessed with plenty of natural beauty as well. A combination of the River Chambal and its tributaries, many wetlands and marshes, plus some bits of the Aravalli range means interesting landscapes and many migratory birds. More about that later. All in all, I am definitely planning a more leisurely visit to Hadoti sometime next year. I need more research on places to stay and more background on the family histories in this area to make the visit richer and more insightful. With the way the tourism industry is expanding, niche tourism to a less explored area like this is definitely something I would like to contribute my experiences to!