Last Friday morning I braced myself ready for 3 days of lavish entertainment. I’d blithely accepted an invitation from a friend of a friend to an Old Etonian reunion weekend starting at Narlai somewhere equidistant between Udaipur and Jodhpur. I’d received an email with a list of 50 names – didn’t know a soul on it, BUT the programme of events read like something out of a 1930’s extravagant social diary and was far too intriguing to turn down. Here’s how it went….
Friday: 5pm arrived at Rawla Narlai hotel where I was shown to my luxe tent next to the pool. As our host explained, ‘Rawla Narlai is a 17th century fortress which was developed into a hunting lodge and presented by Maharaja Umaid Singhji of Jodhpur to his younger brother Maharajdhiraj Sir Shri Ajit Singhji. It is in the middle of a small picturesque village and close to a gigantic granite Rock, 350 ft. high dotted with caves and temples and offering spectacular views of the surrounding Aravali Hills. It is crowned with a statue of a white elephant erected by Maharajah Umaid Singhji to commemorate the saving of his life when charged by a rogue elephant in Africa. ‘
8pm: After a G&T (no room for shyness) and 49 introductions all of us were literally carted off in a procession of rudimentary wooden bullock carts (lined with immaculate white cushions) from the hotel gates through the village under an almost full moon to a 1100 year old candle lit step well where trays of watermelon martinis waited. Magical!! We walked through to a clearing lined with what looked to be the ruined remains of a chain of small temples where we were met by the spectacle of 30 white sofas spread out in a massive semi circle, each with a table in front of it laid up with a dinner setting for two. First rate!! . Once seated, (I bravely sat down on my own sofa between two friendly couples and was shortly joined by a rogue Etonian) we looked on at a fire pit and past that to a group of Indian musicians and dancers. My dinner companion was entertaining but sadly not Prince of the Dawn I draw the line at 27 year olds (just). Later the band stopped playing abruptly, I didn’t think anything of it until I was told the next morning that a cobra had appeared on the rock behind them. Not fully grown but who gives a monkey’s?? I’m squeezing this in between appointments back in Jaipur and will follow up asap with the next installment of Jolly Boating Weather tomorrow.