Posts Tagged ‘The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’

Letter From New York 04 01 15 Lunching in a Maharajah’s Naveli…

April 1, 2015

As I begin to write this, I am looking out at a lake across the road from the Trident Hotel in Jaipur where I have checked in. A small balcony is attached to my room and from there I have a clear view of a lake and the palace that sits in the middle of it. The story goes that the palace was built five stories tall and was a place for the Royal Family to picnic. Then they decided they wanted a lake, so they built that and now only three stories of the palace rise above the water.

It’s good to be Maharajah.

Speaking of which, I had lunch this afternoon at the Royal Heritage Haveli, a boutique hotel owned by the current Maharajah, even though they don’t officially have Maharajahs anymore. He still has the title and property. The State of Rajasthan has been encouraging the old aristocracy to turn their residences into hotels for the sake of tourism.

Pradip Singh, who runs the Royal Heritage Haveli, is related to the Maharajah through is wife. Once a very powerful politician in Ahmedabad, he retired from politics when he got on the wrong side of someone and came to Jaipur and took over the renovation of an abandoned villa into a glorious boutique hotel. Go take a look:

It is a magnificent building, now restored to its old glory; each room is unique. Brilliant blues and startling whites are common accents; each room has a magnificent modernized bath almost the size of a studio apartment in New York.

Most have sitting rooms with contemporary or traditional furniture and it is all a stunning feast for the eyes.

We lunched, starting with a pea mint soup, followed by a superb quinoa salad, and then had chicken with gravy and a mousse for dessert.   It was easily the best meal I have had in India.

The Royal Heritage Haveli was used in one of the scenes for “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” currently in release in the U.S.

We drove down this morning from Delhi, with Joginder at the wheel, accompanied by my friend Sanjay, his friend Andy and his colleague, Angelia. They are here prepping for two Cultural and Culinary tours they are leading this fall and next spring.

We made good time despite the traffic and were in Jaipur by noon. Most of the ride, I did my best to sleep. It seems the best way to cope with Indian road madness. We slowed once to a crawl as we threaded our way carefully through a crowd of holy cows inhabiting the center of a two-lane highway.

Seeing them reminded me that I hadn’t seen many cows in Delhi this trip.

We passed a female mahout upon her elephant and carts drawn by camels, making their way slowly up the roadway.

Driving back from the Royal Heritage Haveli, Sanjay asked me what I was thinking about what I was seeing. It occurred to me that I was just taking it all in, hopefully not making judgments but simply absorbing what I was seeing.

There is great beauty, like the sight outside my window, and there is bone-grinding poverty though it doesn’t seem as bone grinding as it did twenty years ago. Shelters of brick and tin, sturdier in the monsoon season, have largely replaced mud huts with thatched roofs.

Tomorrow a guide will come plus a car and driver and I will do my best to see all that Jaipur has to offer.

In the meantime, I glanced at the headlines and the marathon talks in Lausanne continue between the P5 + 1 [US, France, Russia, China, Britain plus Germany] and Iran continue even though the self-imposed deadline has passed. Congress doesn’t return until mid-April, giving Obama and Kerry a little breathing room.

Netanyahu is unhappy.

Misao Okawa, the oldest person in the world, died at 117. Her secret to a long life? Eight hours of sleep and sushi.

In a positive sign, President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria has conceded defeat to his opponent, Buhari. It looks, thankfully, that there will be a peaceful transition of power in a country where not much has been peaceful lately, thanks to the Boko Haram.

The world ticks on. IS and Iraq are still duking it out over Tikrit. Yemen is bleeding badly. There are more than three million Syrian refugees scattered across the Middle East.

Here in the subcontinent, I am going to post this and then head for dinner at what is supposed to be the best Chinese restaurant in this part of India.

Letter From New York 03 04 15 Dazed and confused?

March 4, 2015

It is a grey and damp afternoon in New York City, warmer than it has been with a weather advisory for tomorrow indicating we will have as much as six inches of new snow. Once I have finished a meeting tomorrow around noon, I am going to scamper back to the cottage to finish prepping for the annual income tax adventure.

I have just returned from lunch with my old friend Jeff Cole, who is the Founder of the Center for the Digital Future at USC in California. He is one of the foremost thinkers on the future of media. We’ve known each other for over twenty years, since we were both working on The Superhighway Summit for the Television Academy. He travels more than anyone I know and is off to China, Australia and Columbia the week after next.

We talked of media, as we always do, but wandered far afield over our two-hour lunch.

We discussed an article in the New York Times yesterday about the plight of Afghan women who have fled their families. Women who leave their families or their husbands seem to be fair game for honor killings. We also discussed an interview done with a man in jail in India, sentenced to death for the rape and murder of a young woman two years ago. He resolutely feels the whole thing was the victim’s fault. No decent woman would have been out past 9:00 PM, he said, and besides, she fought back.

These are stark reminders that we live in a very different world from much of the rest of it.

In Iraq, General Qasem Soleimani of Iran seems to be guiding operations in the assault on Tikrit. The Iranians, who are Shia, have been arming and supplying Iraqi Shia militias that are joining the Iraqi army in the assault against the Sunni IS. There are fears from many, including some here in the US, that the Shia will take their revenge on Sunnis who have been living under IS control for the deaths of many Shia soldiers who lost their lives when Tikrit fell to IS last year.

In what is a masterstroke of irony, we find ourselves on the same side with Iran in the desire to defeat IS. There is no formal coordination.

The Boston Marathon trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has begun on a surprising note. The chief defense lawyer declared in her opening statements that, “It was him.” He did it. He killed and maimed those people. But he was under the influence of his older brother. She is not trying to get him acquitted; she is trying to save his life.

In another terror trial here in New York, Abid Naseer, was found guilty of providing support to Al Qaeda while planning to detonate a bomb in the New York subway.

While declining to press charges on Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, MO police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown last summer, the Justice Department at the same time condemned the Ferguson Police Department of widespread racial discrimination. Attorney General Eric Holder has called for “immediate, wholesale” action to counter this.

The speech by Netanyahu yesterday continues to provoke responses. The BBC used the word “scathing” to describe Obama’s response. Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House Minority Leader, thought it insulted the intelligence of the American people. Republicans have hailed it and it seems to be getting a mixed review back in Israel. It was good if you like Netanyahu and bad if you don’t.

Also provocative was the ongoing fallout from Hillary Clinton’s decision to use a personal email account during her tenure at the State Department. This revelation has caught many Democrats off guard and scrambling to respond. Their fear is that it will strengthen the perception that she is secretive and controlling.

The US Supreme Court heard arguments regarding Obamacare today and seems sharply divided on the issue. Chief Justice Roberts, who may be a deciding voice in the matter, said very little today. A ruling will come in June.

And in yet another dizzying turn of events in Alabama regarding gay marriage, the State Supreme Court has ordered judges to stop issuing marriage licenses for gay couples, in direct contradiction of a federal ruling that to do so is unconstitutional. Is it any wonder that judges in Alabama feel a bit dazed and confused?

Not feeling dazed and confused, I am leaving shortly to attend a screening of The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a follow-up to a film of nearly the same name, set in India and starring Maggie Smith [Downton’s Dowager Countess] and Judi Dench.