Adventure isn’t always about risks or hazards. One doesn’t really have to hang dangerously from a precipice or step into perils to taste it. Adventure is all about finding yourself, finding life… or as Forrest Gump famously said, ‘Life is a box of chocolates’ where every bite is going to be full of new and yet unscaled peaks of joy. The sort of adventure that we dived into at The Fort in Unchagaon is what is really an ‘exploration of unknown territory’ that is both ‘unusual and exciting’.
We had barely reached the place when InderPal came up to ask in a low voice, ‘Would you prefer exploring some interesting bits of history connected to this place?’
‘Yes,’ I said… and that was when we began turning the pages of history that had tigers with their roars frozen playing hopscotch with old forgotten books, a large snooker table pregnant with stories that will be decades old, furniture that used solid wood and designs that reminded me of the Raj, intricate jaalis composing poetry on walls, door handles and knobs that are eagerly saying, ‘Hey! The Englishman who touched me first came to collect lagaan from the farmers.’ Morris chairs, davenports, armoires, Windsor chairs, and love seats from the past years wait patiently in large rooms that open on to broad aisles… history, architecture, and art meander at a relaxed pace and has the potential to connect anyone with his own true self.
Yes, Unchagaon has this fascinating Surya Mahal with an all-white façade that gently merges into large lawns that lead to the massive gate opening into the stables and parking zone that has not just the main gate on the far side that is as imposing as the word suggests but also a secret tunnel somewhat to the right as you come from the fort and one that goes under the road that leads to the village and eases into the heart of an orchard and a small open-air swimming pool embellished with blue mosaic. Now imagine yourself sitting in this pool and imagining the aristocrats from the past years play a game of croquet or trying their skills at the pitch and putt golf course. Leisure descends slowly dressed as a maze with clues that encompass an entire century. This is the sort of adventure that surrounded me at Unchagaon… and I loved every bit of it.
‘This 19th century fort was inherited by the present Raja Surendra Pal Singh in 1927,’ said Inderpal, as we sat on wrought iron chairs that were a replica of the chairs that were originally in wood, ‘and the story doesn’t end here. Raja Sahib has one grand-daughter and his sons have decided not to have any other child.’
‘Why is this so?’ I asked.
‘Ah! Traditions too have intrigue built into them,’ he replied, ‘the third generation can no longer own and must give away this property to one who will not directly inherit. And so this grand-daughter is now going to be the new owner. Grandsons would have led to…’
As I said earlier, there are stories waiting to be discovered here and they are what make life one big adventure… one that makes finding yourself so much easier.
For those who are already wondering where this place really is, let me add that even the drive to Unchagaon is one that brings in a holistic mix of sturdy worldliness, fragile ambition, and urban disgust willingly give way to organic philosophy, realistic nature, and a realisation of what freshness means. This place is barely 130 kms from Delhi by road… but beware, the road goes through Ghaziabad and the traffic density until Garh Mukteshwar can be rather unnerving even for veteran drivers. There is a pleasant drive for some distance as you hop from the national highway to a state highway that is going towards Bulandshahr… and it is at Village Siyana that you turn left on a village road that goes on for around 20 kms right next to a nahar! Ah! This is when it suddenly strikes that you are nowhere in the vicinity of urban madness and that some sort of an adventure has already begun. An adventure where you may finally find yourself…
The complete secret about ‘finding yourself’ will go on revealing itself layer by layer as you read the other posts in this series…
Finding yourself – what the jaggery-maker said
Finding yourself – raas-leela with pulses and a holy river
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15 November 2016