“You are going to Jaisalmer for a weekend? To experience monsoons there?” asks my brother, his bemusement loud and clear over phone.
“Yes,” I reply.
“Last I knew, Jaisalmer was a desert and it doesn’t rain there,” he says. “Has climate change brought about rains there?”
“Very funny,” I retort.
“But seriously, people come to Mumbai, your city, to experience the rains, and you want to experience monsoons elsewhere ?
“It will be nice to experience the rains elsewhere for a change.”
“It has to rain in the first place ! Besides, weren’t you in Jaisalmer just 5 months back? Why do you want to go back so soon?” my brother persists.
I had asked myself these questions when I received an invitation from Suryagarh in Jaisalmer to host me and experience the magic of monsoons in the desert. A luxury boutique hotel, Suryagarh wished to showcase “a representation of a unique way of life, carefully preserving the traditions of…[the] past [and] framing them in a modern idiom”. The invitation also invited me to “celebrate the exuberance of Monsoons with us… [where] Jaisalmer transforms its barren beauty into inimitable patches of green pastures, lush oasis brimming with water and newness in all forms of life”.
I was tempted. Very tempted to say yes immediately, particularly as this was an invitation for a visit over a weekend which meant that this wouldn’t interfere with my office work. But I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go back to Jaisalmer, a place I had visited earlier in February this year and had come back with mixed feelings. While I had loved the old world charm of the Jaisalmer Fort, its havelis, wall art and Jain temples, I found it hard to ignore the unimaginable filth all over the city and or the overwhelming sadness and grief that I felt when I visited the royal cenotaphs. But then, another part of me (the one that wanted me to accept the invitation) said that this was the chance to see the many places that I had missed out on seeing and of course experience the rains in a different setting and context.
I rarely say no to an opportunity to travel, but this was a difficult choice to make. So, I decided to take the help of good old Google and get some information on Suryagarh which would (hopefuuly) help me decide on whether this invitation was worth it or not.
A search on Suryagarh threw up the usual links and glowing testimonials on various sites (including blogs), interesting trivia (an episode of Season 2 of Masterchef India was filmed here), many photographs, and quite a few links leading to the owner of Suryagarh, Manvendra Singh Shekhawat. This is turn led me to the “I love Jaisalmer” campaign, which was initiated in March 2013 by Manvendra, and something I was unaware of till then.
As I read about the campaign through various updates on its Facebook page, various news reports and videos, it was with an increasing sense of delight that something was being done to clean up Jaisalmer and give it the chance to really claim the title of the golden city. After reading all about the campaign, I knew I had to visit Jaisalmer again and I accepted Suryagarh’s offer to host me without too much of a hesitation.
And that is how I spent the weekend of August 3 and 4 at Suryagarh, and experienced travel from a very different and unique perspective. I also got the chance to finally meet with some fellow bloggers that I had only interacted with on social media before — Mridula, Shivya and Anuradha — and also those with whom I had not — Supriya, Anita, Ruchika, Neelima and Preeti.
“Well, I’m going back to Jaisalmer because I want to,” I say. “I want to see all that I had missed out on last time. I want to see if the city has really cleaned up. And I want to experience the rains in the desert…”
“Okay, okay,” my brother says. “I hope you get to experience at least one drizzle there.”
“Oh I think I’ll experience more than just one drizzle.”
Second chances, second time or revisits to places that I have travelled to earlier is something that I had not experienced before. Till this visit to Jaisalmer, that is. It is a visit that I made the most of, saw some new places, saw some places I had visited earlier in February, enjoyed local cuisine, music, and so much more.
And did I experience the magic of monsoons in Jaisalmer? Well, you’ll just have to come back and read the posts to follow. 😀
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Read my other posts from the Suryagarh series: