Friday, November 17, 2006

speaking of royals...

I just got back from a trip to a heritage hotel near Udaipur called Ravla Khempur, where I had a fantastic time. (I'll post the Outlook Traveler article on the subject when it appears). One of the things that struck me about the place was the attitude of its owner, Hemant Deval, whose family were once the jagirdars of the area. Hemant's been mad about Marwari horses for about a decade now and is one of the country's top breeders (see my Smithsonian piece on the Marwari for more details about this issue), but he hasn't been caught up in the nouveau feudalism that affects some thakurs, and vocally bemoans the fact that recent horse shows have begun to "give the prize to the person, not the horse." "That's why there were no good mares entered in the Pushkar show this year," he told me. "Everybody can see which horse is the best, but the owner is a farmer so they give the prize to somebody from the noble class."

I'm sure that Hemant, like me and everybody else, still has his prejudices. But I was glad to see he didn't suffer the delusions of grandeur that affect some of his "royal" superiors.

Oh yeah, his cook also makes the best Rajasthani food around--no menu card, no multi-cuisine restaurant. A great place to relax and ride (or write), a total relief from Delhi and even (theoretically) more laidback Udaipur, where rickshaws, touts and tourists can drive you batty. Ravla Khempur also should act as a tutelary example for rip-off artists like Neemrana. (1) Meals are included in reasonably priced packages and the food is delicious and authentic, unlike at Neemrana, where you're compelled to eat an overpriced buffet and that too at set times more strict than a boarding school canteen's. (2) When you rent a room, you actually get a bedroom, not a servant's quarters or scullery that's been tarted up and equipped with a specially constructed oblong bed.

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