The Fort we fell for

My husband can nose out unique locations for offbeat travel experiences. Before Malhar was born we
did some really cool trips. One of them was to Surajgarh Fort in the eastern most part of Rajasthan. The tiny little hamlet is also known as the gateway to the region of Shekhawati.
He surprised me with one evening with the information. We would be visiting a fort in a Rajasthani village. My romantic mind immediately started conjuring images of rulers, queens, princes and ramparts to fence the enemy off… We couldn’t wait to set out…
While the drive was a tad tiring, everything about our stay will be special. The intricate wall art, our lovely room, the warm staff, the dal bati churma and laal maas and the endless hours of sitting on the courtyard and ramparts staring at the stars dotting the inky sky while strains of Rajasthani folk music wafted from the settlement nearby…
That would be the first, but not the last time, I
would step into Surajgarh Fort, a strong instance of how a decaying mansion can be restored back to glory. Tikkaraj Aishwariya Katoch, the scion of the royal family of Lambragaon in Himachal took over this property and pored over the blueprints with a team of restorers to revive the building. His desire to craft a luxury getaway near Delhi gave birth to this beauty bang in the middle of the small town of Surajgarh, near the Shekhawat region that is famous for intricate wall paintings. While the husband and I walked around the village next day capturing vignettes from the villagers’ lives, we noticed how the place was marked by pretty doors and old decrepit mansions whose walls showcased the paintings.
Even through the washed-out depiction, we noted how beautiful and detailed each fresco was. I bought plenty of lac bangles on the trip and continue to wear them from time to time.
I insist you do take the camel cart ride around the village. Despite it being a little bumpy, you shouldn’t be missing out from seeing the local temples and structures that are very old but have a certain picturesque quality about them. Every place is stuffed with trivia and stories. And of course there are these kachoris and chaats to keep the foodie happy.
During our stay at Surajgarh we did notice Tikka
arriving with his wife (Tikkarani Shailja Katoch) and son. Eventually, I went on to write about the family and grew close to them. Even as I pen this, Shailja and Sir are back after leaving their son, Ambikeshwar, in Europe for his higher studies. We have plans to catch up after Diwali. The bond with the Katochs…of warmth, trust and deep camaraderie, has grown stronger with time.
I keep going back to the fort from time to time. The property is stunning, the service is warm and the air is relaxed. But the best thing is that it reminds me of not only the lovely time I’ve had with the Katochs but also the wonderful moments I’ve lived there as a young bride. 


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