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Culinary Travels in India: Sharpura Bargh

I traveled by car again, to the sweet haven of Sharpura Bargh. A private boutique guesthouse halfway between Udaipur and Jaipur. Shaturgeet and Maya Singh, the owners, greeted me like an old friend.

Maya’s warm welcome was lovely and personal. (Royal butlers can get a bit much after a while.) A warm embrace in the simple countryside goes a long way. Though my visit to the palace “god-realm,” had been fun for a while. I felt at home in this 120-year-old country residence on 45 acres, surrounded by gardens and lakes. It had the magic combo for me of elegance, simplicity, genuine hospitality and good home cooking from an organic vegetable garden.

Sat, the photographer Prince, took us on a jeep safari of his grandfather’s land, the late Rajadhiraj Nahar Singh of Sharpura, who mortgaged the family’s private property and jewels to bring water to his people. In the end, he created 250 acres of wetlands, defying all odds that he would be able to build the right dams.

We rode through the town slowly as everyone bowed respectfully to Sat. He of course waved back kindly. The children were so polite! Maybe because we were with him, we did not encounter the usual hands out asking for candy or money. Instead genuine smiles from the children. I asked him how was that possible? What was different in this town? And he replied that they take good care to empower the rural children with books and educational grants. He seemed well loved by the villagers and he told me, ‘I love to walk down the street with my camera and take photos, but some of the village men say, ‘Your highness, the King, your grandfather would not approve sir. You can drive in your car and get out take a photo, but you mustn’t just walk down the street, sir.’ Sat said he realizes that they still live with that respect and he with all humbleness, obeys. It said something about honoring an old system that still seems to be intact, rather than elitism.  Continue reading…