maharajah of the road

Day 13

Maharajah of the road

Muscle cars


Day 13

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From Khimsar to Jodhpur

Jodhpur is the second largest city in the Indian state of Rajasthan.

Jodhpur is a popular tourist destination, featuring many palaces, forts and temples, set in the stark landscape of the Thar desert. The city is known as the Sun City for the bright, sunny weather it enjoys all year. It is also referred as the Blue City due to the indigo tinge of the whitewashed houses. Jodhpur lies near the geographic center of Rajasthan state, which makes it a convenient base for travel in a region much frequented by tourists. The old city of Jodhpur is surrounded by a thick stone wall. Jodhpur was founded in 1459 by Rao Jodha, a Rajput chief of to the Rathore clan. The climate of Jodhpur is generally hot and arid. Temperatures are extreme throughout the period from March to October, except when monsoonal rain produces thick clouds to lower it slightly. As of 2001 India census, Jodhpur had a population of 846,408. Men constitute 53 percent of the population and women 47 percent. A flourishing cottage industry exists for the manufacture of such items as glass bangles, cutlery, carpets and marble products. After handicrafts, tourism is the second largest industry of Jodhpur. The Indian Air Force, Indian Army and Border Security Force maintain training centers at Jodhpur.

Wednesday 28th 2009 January

All timings according to Indian Standard Time – IST


The day begins early today, as we hope to reach Jodhpur soon. The Grand Finale of our fabulous road trip is in Jodhpur, and a grand celebratory parade has been organized. The plan as informed is that we try and reach the Lake Palace Heritage Hotel in Jodhpur around 12:00pm, so that we have a good 2-3 hours to plan out the grand entrance. The final plan for the entrance is still a mystery to us, and rumors are flying around about there being a procession of over 50 to 200 camels, etc. What we do know is that we are supposed to reach Jodhpur, and have lunch at the Lake Palace Hotel, and then allow the film crew to prepare for the final Procession.


We are leaving Khimsar now, the fort at Khimsar is a re-done fort, wherein the foundations of the old fort are a basis for the re-design of the new palace hotel. A vast expanse of land, now converted into a heritage hotel, Khimsar with its major variations of texture, and character, is a perfect balance to the fact that today is the second last day on this road-trip. Everyone feels like the time we have been given at this fascinating location is way too little, and we would all have liked to stay here longer and find out more about this place.


Last minute technical repairs on the vehicles delay us, so currently we are waiting for the Mustangs, so that everything is fixed to travel soon enough to stick to the schedule. As the mechanics ensure that all the cars are in as good a condition as we can manage to get them in, so that nothing untoward happens during the entrance ceremony, we give them their time.


Finally we leave. The travel time today is lesser than usual (less than a 100km to go), and we all are looking forward to the final ceremony. So, on the road again.


We have reached Lake Palace Hotel, Jodhpur. As we all marvel at the size and magnitude of this place, we wonder at what would the past of this palace have been like. However, the 2 hours of wait that we were given has all been spent trying to finish the art work on the yellow car that we all fondly refer to as "Dhanno".


We seem to have finished with all last minute beautifications and painting, and look ready to leave. The next destination is the grand Umaid Bhavan Palace Hotel. The cars all drive up to the palace gates and we halt for a few moments, to ensure that everything is perfect for the Grand Finale Entrance. The few moments we have here, let’s try and find out something about this imposing monument that we are going to be entering soon.
Speaking to some of the helpful staff people, we discover that the Umaid Bhavan Palace Hotel is run by the Taj Group of Hotels, but the ownership still remains with the Royal Family of Jodhpur. We are surprised to know that the Umaid Bhawan Palace is not only one of India's most imposing palaces but also among its most recent. However, this lavish art deco monument to royal living had an improbable conception: it was built as a public relief and employment project during a long period of drought in the princely state of Jodhpur. How unique! The building was finished in 1942 under the orders of His Highness Sir Umaid Singh Ji, of Jodhpur, with the help of the architect Mr. Henry Lanchester of England. Umaid Bhavan stretches across over 32 acres of land. As we know, it was begun with the noble intention of proving food and employment to the victims of the great famine of 1914, Umaid Bhavan is a maze of passages and architectural innovation. Built in the distinctive Art Deco style prevalent in the 20's to the 40's, Umaid Bhavan Palace was built far ahead of its time. Having the first cooling system in place in the country at the time, formerly, Umaid Bhavan Palace was cooled though a set of chambers with slabs of ice placed within it, with fans blowing over the slabs, creating waves of cool air that billow into the many channels; thereby taking them to the various rooms of the palace. Umaid Bhavan Palace was built according to the Vasstu style (a lot like the Chinese Feng Shui system; which regulates the flow of energies and life forces within a structure), and it is know to have a very positive influence on its inhabitants. Another interesting fact about Umaid Bhavan Palace is that it was built by interlinking the stones. Each stone has an identification number, and plays an important part in laying the foundation structure of this palace. Over one million square feet (90,000 m²) of the finest marble was used in the construction of the palace. A special type of sandstone, called Chittar sandstone, has been used in constructing the palace and this gives it a special effect. For this reason, it is also referred to as Chittar Palace by the locals. Its style of construction, with beautiful balconies, charming courtyards, green gardens and stately rooms, makes it a fine example of Indo-Saracenic architecture. The project employed three thousand artisans over a period of 15 years (1929-1943). The palace is named after its builder, Maharaja Umaid Singh (1876-1947), who was incidentally the president of the British Royal Institute of Architects. In 1977, the palace was segmented into the royal residence, the Heritage Hotel and a museum. It has total 347 rooms making it the biggest private residence in the world, out of which 98 air-conditioned rooms are elegantly decorated with antique furniture as well as all the other amenities for a five star hotel.
Wow, isn’t that something… Just imagining the life of the Royals, living in fabulous palaces that the rest of us only read about in our story books, is a humbling thought. Perhaps that is what keeps alive the never ending fascination of the world with the Royal lifestyle. This scale, class and heritage; a lifestyle that can’t just be bought so the wealth and money of the Royals actually didn’t have everything to do with it. It was something else. Something magical, and mystical… Something which is now fast fading. But their stories will never fade. These stories will last forever; in true fairytale fashion.
Enough said about the past. As we had realized earlier on this trip, this state is a complex knit of stories. Of intrigues, betrayals, bravery, heroism and brilliance. With so many diverse threads of character interwoven, the fabric that it finally forms is a beautiful quagmire. And it will suck you into itself with its enticing, and never ending tales…! So with great effort, we pull ourselves out of the warm embrace of the past, and step back into the present. Back to the Grand Finale!


There camels, and horses, and the trumpeting parade of musicians have all lined up on either side of the road. The fleet of Mustangs that we have all come to know and love over the last few days on this trip will all be driving through them. Photographers, cameramen, and the film crew will all try and capture this grand sight to the best of their abilities. This Grand Finale has been the culmination of 15 days of travel, planning, hard work, and let’s not forget, FUN!
What with situational, natural and mechanical problems challenging us nearly everyday, it is a wonder that these cars have made it back to Jodhpur in such a fine condition to parade into the Royal Palace. It is a credit to the mechanical team, and the participation of all the guests, who with their knowledge and experience have repeatedly got on their hands and knees and made miracles happen with the cars. As much fun and excitement this trip has garnered, it is also a strong testament to the will power of those involved, to make it happen, and complete it at all costs. This is truly their moment.


After the grand reception, and the informal cocktails in the palace lawns, we all troop back to our rooms to prepare for the dinner party later on tonight. This party in many ways is almost a pre-party to tomorrow’s grand dinner, wherein we will be showcasing the art car; that Camilo and Kyle have been working against the clock to complete in time.


The dinner tonight is being held at an informal lounge in Jodhpur, called On the Rocks. It’s a change from the lovely palaces and forts that we have all become accustomed to these last few days, but a welcome change it is. Almost like a return to the present time! It being Camilo’s birthday the day we all fly back home (day after tomorrow – 31st), we have all decided to celebrate it today! So a cake, aptly shaped like his beloved Dhanno Sweetlime (Yellow mustang 67’ stock) is wheeled in, and the whole group breaks into cheerful strains of the Birthday song.


So leaving tonight’s story at the party, let us part for the moment, to return to the Maharaja’s road tomorrow. A bittersweet day; tomorrow. Celebrations and Endings are always a difficult combination, and after experiencing so many wonderful sights together, tomorrow seems almost unreal. As if the end cannot happen! As if we will all continue to drive around, discovering new things every day. But let us leave such thoughts for tomorrow. Goodnight!

Maharajah of the Road

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