One of first concerns is the main entrance – a gigantic and rough archway which seems familiar the rest of new buildings, employs stones carried from nearby hillside. “When we started digging to build the main entrance, we found a wall which now matches with the main gate’s line and by instinct, it guides us in right way” Aman said, because he and his workers has discussed the entrance’s width (it has to be large enough for a Volvo to go through easily).

Aam’s diligence has spread all around. He pointed at a hoard storing half-broken arches (“from a palace that was older than Tijara and collapsed at Bikaner”). He tried to collect 7 trucks of what I cloud see as rubble. Yet it is the talent of Aman and Francis – they know exactly where everything is going to join together. “Half-broken arches are all left-facing so we hope to join them in a way that half of the arch is curved outside while another half is done inside. After then, they will be used to form a pavilion showing 27 arches to combine with outside bar’s area”.

Description: The arches

The arches

We walked to Rani Mahal – a wonderful space, high ceiling with dark corridor covering a small yard inside. In four directions, tracks were leading to gloomy small rooms which are changed into guest rooms. ”They used to be warehouses. We will install windows and jharokhas to open them” Amam said.

“Let me guide you to swimming area,” he shouted and jumped over many steps to get higher on the stair and from here we could see a huge pit. “I have intention of making a waterfall pouring onto these rocks. Alongside will be carved arches that open to the pool. Oh, do you see that opening space? It is where lawns will be grown and outdoor bar giving free look to the countryside. How about these alongside troughs? We are going to plant bougainvillea…” Wherever he pointed at, all I could see is soil and rubble that are mixed into a large terrain which had just been dug. He pointed at the technical drawing for more detail. It was useless. To understand, I might get back.

Description: Terraced lawns

Terraced lawns

August 2011

Six month later, the monsoon turned the dirty track into a sticky swamp. This time, I sat in a small car which was struggling desperately to get out of that dense mess while Aman’s SUV had surpassed mine. We took it onto a mound when the car got a flat tire and it was distant from ¼ of our way. Having to hike the rest of the road, I was rewarded with splendid view during my walk to the summit. We were greeted by an impressing entrance. “It is from Jodhpur”, Aman explained. He was with his companion, Naynaa Kanodia painter who belongs to 20th-century class. Painters, they have own galleries (“I want themed room and I wonder why not celebrate our artists?”) Amrita Sher-Gil, Anjolie Ela Menon and Bharti Kher are among names whose works were hung on walls.

Things have changed. Main entrance (from Punjab) was still there. A boundary wall appeared nicely. “We always pay attention to old castles, such as in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan” that are being ruined and we collect then recycle as much as possible – main access, windows and especial stone. It is why our restoration seems real, of course it real”.

On way to Rani Mahal, terraced lawns were expansive, below lay spa, kitchen and laundry rooms. In the middle, a pavilion had been built with arches whose half is left-facing. In Rani Mahal, the inner courtyard showed promising sight with growing vegetables. 4 storehouses on ground floor delivered fresh sunshine through brand-new window frames. In upper courtyard, 2 suites (Anjoile and Bharti) seemed nearly completed. They were big and not symmetrical, with cozy and quiet corners giving intended attractions. “One of our issues was installing ceiling fans; we didn’t realize that we would deal with 2-foot-thick ceilings”. They also tried to keep bathroom of adjacent rooms close or one on the other’s top for operating well pipes. “But when it is impossible, we do what we can to curve the pipeline at minimum length”.

Entering further into courtyard, Aman informed one of the rooms had been restored. It was Rani’s early storehouse where there were thick shelves running alongside with walls to keep her dowry. “We pulled out shelf and watched. The space is wide enough to turn into a guest room. It’s Neemrana’s philosophy – restore for better use.” To illustrate his view point, he led me into a wet shaft. “It used to be for old stair and now it is perfect for an elevator”.

Another remarkable change was the swimming pool. The muddy pit was replaced by a cement surface hemmed by plastic pipes. Stoned steps spiraled down the hillside from where the pool was created led to a pool. “The pool’s entire base will be covered by glass finish so that light will go through it and refract” Aman said. “The effect is about to be significant”.

One more thing Aman was urgent to show us since we arrived, and Yashas and I allowed ourselves to go downstairs and pass Hawa Mahal. Going up to an obsolete stair, alongside a cold corridor, Aman stopped at a dark cave’s mouth. He lit a torch and a wall, which was painted with characteristic strokes of Anjoile Ela Menon, suddenly got into our sight. “It is one of my favorite aspects” Aman talked with joy. Finally, there would be an area for sunbathing, surrounding a water fountain and troughs.

Description: The past hotel (up) and the present one (down)

The past hotel (up) and the present one (down)

March 2012

Quiet introduction of Tijara fort-palace has been launched. The government did agree for some money to fix the whole dirty track. Rani Mahak’s 3 floors have been almost done. In ground-floor’s courtyard is a garden with over-grown vegetables. Lawns are terraced, luxuriant and well cut. There’s no arid land, like before. Flowers are blooming. The history has been made again.

Tijara Hotel is in Alwar district, Rajastha, distant from Delhi-Jaipur highroad (NH-8) and it takes 2-3 hours driving from Delhi. The hotel is due to open in September 2012 and it first servers 20 guest rooms. A room’s cost starts at $215, including breakfast.

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