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Monday, 21 May 2007

Peacock dance at the Tiger's den

There was a special host greeting us on our arrival at Nawab Pataudi's Palace. One of the most beautiful creations of nature, the peacock gave us a spectacular welcome. Their blue-green wings spread wide in a circle, two peacocks were dancing away to glory as our car wound up to the entrance.

Frankly, I had never seen a peacock dance. So, for me, this was one of the most enchanting sight. Well, quite a royal welcome, I thought as I got down from the car.

But the bird turned out to be quite smart and immediately recoiled its feathers even before we could take out our camera. We are sure there will be many more here, we consoled ourselves as we offloaded from the vehicle.

Tiger's Palace

Such was our fascination towards the bird that we did not even bother to examine the place where we were supposed to shell out so much cash just for a day and night stay. So, after the peacock resumed its daily chores, we finally found the time to look around.

The Pataudi Palace is a huge white structure overlooking a large expanse of greenery. The double-storeyed marble like building has a distinct touch of heritage.

The white pillars all around reminded me of Delhi's good old Cannaught Place. Could someone ever had stayed in this huge palace, I wondered! Well, apparently the Pataudi couple now visit the palace rarely was the information provided to us by a maali who was busy pruning the garden.

Before the Neemrana group took over in 2005, the palace was run like a hotel by Nawab Pataudi's family. The lobby of the palace is adorned with beautiful antique chandeliers.

Photographs of Nawab Pataudi with his pretty wife Sharmila Tagore are all around the place. Decked up in the seemingly Nawabi style, Sharmila makes for a beautiful picture even in those black and white frames.

There were also photographs of Patuadi's cricketing days which gives you a glimpse of what the Tiger was all about in his hay days. Interestingly, there were no photographs of Saif and Soha, the star son and daughter, after whom the family is now known.

According to me, the beautiful garden which nestles the palace was the main attraction. It was unbelievable that a place which is just 75 kms away from Delhi could be so peaceful. The well kept garden was bustling with activity when we reached. About 5 to 7 gardeners were busy watering the lawn and pruning the plants.

Apart from the peacocks, the palace was home to many different species of birds. Even in the scorching sunlight, we couldn't resist a small walk in the garden. Flowers were in all bloom and there were all kinds of birds surprising you from the bushes.

We would surely take a longer walk in the evening, we promised ourselves. Little did we know that just one day is not enough for this wonderful place.

Play time

From my school days till now, I have never been able to learn any sport. So when my husband said he wanted to try a hand at snooker, I immediately decided to shift my focus to the TV.

A few hours had to be passed before we could check in to our room. So while my husband burnt his calories in the provided time, I decided to be a couch potato. The TV lounge in the palace was quite a cosy place.

While the billiards board occupied most of the space, a small TV was kept in the corner with comfortable sofas right opposite. But I couldn't concentrate for long on the movie Kashmir ki Kali, in which Sharmila Tagore incidental made her bollywood debut, as I was thoroughly enjoying the game of pool between my husband and a kid from Holland.

The kid of course was much smarter than us as he tried to teach the nuances of the game to my husband. "You also join us," the Dutch boy told me passing on the cue stick. I was just about to plunge when I read a sign saying a damage to the board would cost Rs 40,000 to any guest. Well, I was instantly back to my movie.

We yearned to take a dip into the swimming pool in the middle of a garden but without proper costumes it was not possible. So, we tried to distract ourselves with a game of table tennis. Frankly, I tried very hard to gently hit the ball but whenever I would lift the racket, the little ball would zoom past me. Sports can never be a part of my hobby list, I realised.

Our haven

Ayesha Sultana. Does the name sound familiar? It happens to be the name adopted by Sharmila when she married the Nawab. Sharmila seemed to follow us even when I could'nt give her the attention she deserved in Kashmir Ki Kali. Ayesha Mahal was the room allotted to us.

In terms of size, it wasn't a mahal but for us, this peaceful den was no less than a paradise. Our room was compact with two large single beds. The window had yellow coloured glass which kept our room lit up through out the day.

The high ceiling gave it the perfect ancient touch. Once inside the room, we were in our own small world, oblivious to the happenings around us. The long spells of silence were broken by the occasional cry of a peacock. This was the room which gave us one of the best night's sleep in ages.
I was curious to explore Saif Mahal but never got a chance to do that.

This was our second experience at a Neemrana property (also read A date with a 14th Century Fort) and this time too, we found it a gastronomical delight.

The appropriately titled non-hotel hotels of Neemrana are masters at personalising services. So the three meals of the day were served at three different places in the palace. While lunch was a typical tasty North Indian meal, it was the dinner that we found was worth every penny.

Served at the poolside, this was one of our best candle light dinners together. I indulged in the yummy cheese and spinach rolls, according to my husband, the chicken was the best he's had for ages.

Enchanting feathers

My husband was a restless soul at the Palace. The camera forever in his hand, he was constantly on a lookout for the beautiful bird which refused to be captured dancing in the frame.

Peacocks were in abundance at this place (about 50, according to a worker). Surprisingly, there seemed to have been no attempt made to familiarise them with the human face.

A peacock, which would be busy dancing would immediately fly away the moment we went near. So initially, we decided to be silent spectators. Just when the bird thought the human being was away from its territory, its wings instantly spread out.

Delicate and lovely, the dancing peacock was a magnificent sight. We spotted another one right next to it, hastening to join in the dance. I looked up at the sky but there was no rain.

Just then I chanced on a female pea hen standing seemingly unaffected by the dance. Oh ... so this was the wooing time! At least I could not make out any difference between the two dancing beauties since they both looked so out of this world.

So now we knew how so many songs and poems are written on the peacock. I was also itching to take out a pen and paper and document that beautiful sight.

I couldn't understand how can someone have the heart to kill or pluck away its beautiful feathers? I can't imagine it looking good at any other place except the peacock's back.

As the two danced away to impress their lady love, they were quite unaware of the two humans enchanted by their astounding beauty.


We rarely feel sad when we head back home after a holiday. But while we left the place, we had a compelling feeling of getting back to Pataudi Palace soon. The peacocks, the garden, the swimming pool, the snooker table ... everything was calling us back. There was so much more to discover, so much more to talk about ... Yes, we will come back.

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