It has been a long, but relaxing, drive from Jodhpur and we have just crossed Jaisalmer city. Suryagarh, my destination, is still a few kilometres away when the cab I am travelling in stops suddenly.
As I look around for the reason for the sudden halt, Partap Singh, the cab driver, announces grandly, “And here, madam, is your escort service,” indicating two turbaned men approaching our vehicle.
“My what?” I ask with some trepidation.
“Your escorts from Suryagarh. They will be leading the way to the hotel in an advance vehicle.”
The men approach my window and bow low with folded hands and say a warm Khamma Ghani, the traditional greeting in Rajasthan. I roll down the window and squeak out a Ghani Khamma in return with a answering smile and hope that my embarrassment at their unexpected “escort service” does not show too much.
The men, with their flaming saffron turbans, get into an open jeep and lead the way and within minutes the fort-like Suryagarh is visible in the distance. Rising imposingly from the flat desert landscape, it looks like the very desert has sprouted the hotel.
I almost expect my escorts to toot a horn or a blow a trumpet announcing my arrival, but thankfully they do nothing of that sort ! At Suryagarh, I am welcomed with more warm smiles, musicians singing Padharo mharo desh, a shower of rose petals, chandan ka tikka, watermelon juice… and am shown to my room in a matter of minutes.
The Suryagarh experience has begun… 🙂