The silver doors of the palace were swung open by the smartly uniformed and turbaned guards to let Arnav's car in..
As the car ran through the long gravel drive, flanked by flowering trees on both side, Arnav gazed outside...his impassive face hiding the tide of emotions and memories raging inside his heart...
The car finally came to a standstill inside the portico, with it's high ceiling and carved marble columns...
As a doorman came forward and opened his car door, Arnav stepped out to be immediately greeted by Mr Sinha, the hotel manager.
"Welcome back to your home, Mr Raizada" he said shaking his hand..
Strict instructions had been sent beforehand to address Arnav as such...
The whole hotel staff was waiting in the portico..to greet him..And after introductions and exchange of pleasantries was over, the crowd dispelled and Arnav and Mr Sinha entered the grand lobby, former great hall of the palace..
"That's where the press conference is going to be held tomorrow.." Mr Sinha, a young man in his early thirties said..
Arnav looked around the still familiar, great hall...with it's ornately carved and frescoed ceiling, opulent Venetian chandeliers and the paintings of his ancestors on the walls...
He could almost hear his father's loud laughter as he greeted guests...
Mr Sinha interrupted his train of thought, " I am sure you would like to freshen up...before we start our tour..."
As he led Arnav along a maze of corridors, some of them unrecognizable after the renovation project...he recognized the way to her mother's chambers...
Memories of his early childhood flashed before him...Him hiding behind the heavily embroidered, velvet curtains as he listened to his parents shouting at each other ...his heart pounding as he saw his father's violent outbursts...and his hands shaking as he heard his mother's cries..
Mr Sinha stopped in front of a modern looking glass door that looked slightly incongruous when compared to it's surroundings...There was a large brass plaque on the wall that declared, "Do not enter...Section for private use by His Highness, The Maharaja of Mewar..."
Arnav raised his eyebrow at the plaque but decided to let it go...
" Of course, during hotel season, when we have guests, there will be a guard at the door.."Mr Sinha said.
Having decided to start their tour in half an hour, Arnav opened the glass door and stepped inside..
A well lit carpeted corridor led to a large embossed silver, double door...a plaque on the wall next to it said...Moti Mahal...Added to the palace structure by Maharaja Arnav Singh I...during his reign from 188O- 1893..
Opposite the silver door was another door leading to a small modern living room with a flat screen TV and comfortable couches...This was especially requested by Arnav, who found opulence suffocating..
He opened the doors and stepped inside to a large covered courtyard...with pristine white marble floor, carved marble pillars and high, spectacular marble ceiling..The ceiling was magnificently adorned with intricate carvings and inlaid with mother of pearls, colored glass and pearls to create complex, yet beautiful floral designs.
To his left were a series of arched windows with ornate marble lattice, generously letting in Sun and Wind from outside...Built on the edge of a cliff, this part of the palace, called Moti Mahal...offered a spectacular view of the Crescent Lake and the sprawling countryside beyond it...
In the middle of the hall was a pool...the hamam of yore that had been cleverly converted into a hot tub...Towards the right, a hidden door led to a bathroom fitted with all modern amenities..
Arnav walked past it to open the fragrant sandalwood doors that led to the bedroom...
A curtain of stained glass pieces made a chiming sound as he pushed it aside to go inside..
It was a large room with a king sized four poster bed in the middle..The bed was carved sandal wood with a heavy burgundy and silver brocade bedspread together with an assortment of matching cushions and pillows on it..
A sheer silver canopy lay draped artistically over the bed, supported by the four posters..
The walls were adorned with several 19th century miniature paintings and there were heavy burgundy, velvet curtains on the maroon and green stained glass windows..
A heavy, crystal and gold chandelier hung from the middle of the beautiful frescoed ceiling, whose colors had been carefully restored..
A door on the left led to a private terrace, that was perpetually wind swept and had a awe inspiring vista of ' Chandra Tal' and the surrounding plains.
Drawing back the curtains, he slid the glass door to step outside on the terrace..
Putting his hands on the parapet, he gazed at the view as the strong wind ruffled his hair..There was a strange, inexplicable, inexpressible melancholy in his heart...that had nothing to do with his recent fight with Khushi or even their brief separation...
He felt that there was a whole ocean of feelings, emotions caged inside his heart .
Emotions and feeling that he had carefully guarded inside his heart all his life and never allowed to escape...
Right now, with the old memories haunting him again, he felt suffocated..
However, being a practical man for most parts, he soon gathered himself together and decided to freshen up before going down to the lobby...
He sent a text to Khushi..." Reached safely...Missing you...how's your call going...call me when you get a chance.."
The Department of Tourism inspection went exactly as planned and expected by Arnav..He knew it was a mere formality and by the end of the day, Hotel Anand Vilas Palace was added to the list of the prestigious Heritage hotels of India.
After the inspection, he and Mr Sinha along with the officials went to have dinner in the brand new, hotel restaurant..called " Raj mahal" that was the former grandiose dining room of the Palace..
A set of french doors led to the sprawling, meticulously maintained gardens on one side and after dinner, Arnav excused himself and went for a walk..
Arnav went to the back of the Palace, where the mango and the pomegranate orchards were...where he and Khushi , as children used to spend a lot of their time..
As he trod through the familiar path, flanked by the mango trees, he stopped in front of a tree..
Hands in pockets, he looked up at a stout branch in the dim light of the dusk..There were marks on it still, from the ropes of their make shift swing grating against it..
He could almost hear the tinkling of Khushi's payals as she ran after him...He could almost hear her girlish, high pitched voice..." Wait for me..Yuvraj ji..."
He suddenly missed Khushi with an intensity that almost made him stop breathing..
He checked his cellphone to make sure that it was not on silent..
It was past 7 and Arnav was working on his laptop, in the small sitting area that was opposite the silver doors of his private chambers.
The room phone rang..."Mr Raizada, there is someone here who says, you asked him to meet you after 7.."
" Rajvir...yes ...send him to my room.."
Rajvir came inside the room hesitatingly and was surprised when Arnav got up upon seeing him and gave him a quick, unexpected embrace...and surprising himself in the process too..
Arnav sat down then and gruffly asked Rajvir to have a seat too..
Rajvir refused to sit in the presence of The Maharaja and just stood there with his tanned, weather beaten face wet..
" I said...sit down Rajvir...there is something I have to tell you.." Arnav said irritatedly..
As Rajvir refused again saying he can't sit in his presence, Arnav exploded.."This is not 19th century...for God's sake, and there are no maharajas in India anymore."
Rajvir sat down hurriedly..
Arnav sighed and took his cellphone out...After a few seconds, he found a wedding picture of him and Khushi that was sent to him by Ria..
He handed the cellphone to Rajvir quietly...
Looking at the expression on Rajvir's face, he was glad he had forced him to sit..
" Khushi ji...I mean Maharani..." he said incoherently...a bewildered look in his eyes..
" Yes ...she is still alive...I didn't know that either..."
As he watched tears of relief flowing down his face incessantly, he felt his eyes getting moist too...
If someone could understand what he was going through right now, it was he...
Hope you like this update..Looking forward to hearing from you...
Love reading your thoughts...please don't stop...it's a joy to read your comments..
Next update: Khushi comes to Mewar..
Link to the next thread will be posted here soon..
Buddy me for updates..
Edited by IPK007 - 23 January 2013 at 9:45am