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Book Review: On Philosophising, Philosophers, Philosophy and New Vistas in Applied Philosophy, by Dr. Sharmila Jayant Virkar

A little bit of context before you begin reading this book review. I have recently enrolled for an MA in Philosophy at the University of Mumbai. Philosophy is something I have been getting interested in, over the past few years, as those of you who have been reading my blogs and Instagram posts would know. During the pandemic, I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do next, and this is what I eventually came up with. It has been a challenge, getting back into academics as a student at this age, especially in a subject I have no academic background in. However, it has also been very exciting, especially thanks to my wonderful classmates (who, surprisingly, are of all age-groups, including some quite near my own) and my teachers, who have been very supportive and understanding. How well I will do is something that remains to be seen, but so far, I am enjoying this new journey and look forward to where it leads. Now that you know the background , you probably get an idea of how

My Suryagarh Experience

The early morning sun streamed in through the window, and I awoke to the muted strain of music. Eager to trace its source, I hurried downstairs, and was welcomed by the sight of a pair of peacocks ambling on the lawn, and a flock of doves waddling in the corridor! My morning at Suryagarh couldn’t have begun on a better note! Spotting the musician sitting in one of the window niches, I sat down for a hot cup of tea, wishing that every morning would be as picturesque!




I was invited to Suryagarh to experience the Monsoon Magic in Jaisalmer, along with other bloggers and travel writers, and it was a trip which showed me a side of Jaisalmer I had never even imagined existed!

One of the corridors..


At first glance, Suryagarh resembles a fort/palace, but it isn’t a heritage property. It has only been built a few years back, but in the local style, with remarkable attention to detail and an attempt to recreate for visitors, a typical royal experience. From the gorgeous rooms to the delectable food, Suryagarh gave us a taste of royal luxury, with a modern twist!

That's the room, or rather, the suite, I was in! 


Food is normally the last thing I focus on, while travelling, but the spread at Suryagarh had me drooling, and wishing Shankar and Samhith were along. They would really have done justice to the never ending courses that just kept coming on and on… at every meal! The Halwai breakfast, with kachoris, samosas, jalebis and sweets of every description was surely one of the highlights of the trip, and the lunch with local specialties had each of us asking for more! In fact, the Ghevar (a local delicacy) was so delicious, that I asked for some to be packed, so I could take them home for Samhith! (By the way, he enjoyed them so much that he now wants to go to Suryagarh so he can have some more!!!)

Coins from British India find their way to the wall 


Music is an important part of the Suryagarh experience, and they are making efforts in their own way, to preserve the musical heritage of the region. Whether it is the Algoza player in the window, the musicians on the dunes, or Kaki singing serenely in the courtyard, music was all around us, an innate part of the ambiance!


The Algoza player..
yes, that double flute he is playing is called an 'Algoza', and I know that thanks to Sudha Ganapathi :)


While the stay and the food were certainly a great experience, what I really enjoyed were the excursions into the desert. “Explore the Unexplored” is the motto that drives Suryagarh, and over the two days we spent there, I realized how perfectly they adhered to it.


Steps, framed!


Their trails took us off the beaten path, literally, driving off the road, over paths I couldn't even see, to ancient, almost forgotten temples, villages cursed and abandoned, and a fort I hadn’t even known existed!


A temple stands lonely in the abandoned village of Khaba


Our tour was themed ‘The Desert Remembers’, and we re-traced the path taken by traders centuries ago, on the Silk Route. Our paths took us to fertile oases created by ancient, albeit efficient water conservation systems, and I realized that the desert wasn’t all about sand!


Is this a sight you would expect to see in the Thar desert? 


We ate a communal meal under the starlit sky, on the sand dunes stretching to eternity, and I almost felt the past come alive. At night, walking through a village believed to be haunted, we found ourselves holding hands; and, standing amidst tombs of travellers during the day, I said a silent prayer for those long gone.  Clambering upon rocks to see a glorious sunset, I found myself getting as excited as a child, at the sight of those ancient rocks, which contained the memories of not centuries, but eons! I had been told that that these hills were rich in fossils, but finding one simply rounded off the trip perfectly!


Fossils!! 


The Suryagarh experience, for me at least, lay more in these explorations, going off the beaten track, than the hotel itself. The Suryagarh GM, Karan Singh, while talking to us of the concepts and ideas behind Suryagarh, spoke of luxury, and how it meant different things to different people. To some, it might lie in the luxurious rooms, to others in sumptuous food, but to me, luxury lies in being able to explore, in seeing new places and listening to the stories woven around them. What I appreciate most about Suryagarh is the effort they have made, re-discovering the ancient sites and routes, and making it possible for us to experience them in comfort.


The peacock and doves at Suryagarh.


If there is one thing that made the Suryagarh experience extra special, it was the company I was in. Most of the travel bloggers – Nisha, Sankara, Srinidhi, Sid, and Ankita - I already knew, at least through their blogs. Those from the media – Kareena, Bhavna, Sonal, Priyal, Snigdha and Ritu – I didn’t know at all. We spent just two days together, but we got along so well, most of us wished we could extend the trip, just a little bit more! It was uncanny to see how fast we bonded, as if the desert had brought us together, for reasons beyond our imagination!


And that's our group... with the Suryagarh folks! 
Photo courtesy : Shrinidhi Hande http://www.enidhi.net/


A few stray thoughts, if you are planning a trip to Jaisalmer, and considering Suryagarh –

  • Most of the places we visited are deep inside the desert, and are only visited by locals. This is, as yet, almost untouched by tourism. Even the Suryagarh people, who go there regularly, had locals helping with directions, so I would earnestly advice any of you wanting to explore these areas, not to go off by yourself. It is ludicrously easy to get lost.

  • Communal dinner on the Dunes and Breakfast with peacocks, both were wonderful experiences, possible only due to the massive efforts of the Suryagarh staff. These are both Suryagarh specials, and may not be possible otherwise.

  • Please remember, when you visit these sites, that many of them are sacred to the locals, and behave appropriately. Above all, please maintain the natural cleanliness of the area. I appreciated the efforts made by Suryagarh to bring back most of the garbage with them, so even if you go with others, please do the same.

To get an idea of our Suryagarh experience in its entirety, please do read some of my other blogposts, as well as articles written by my fellow travellers. Here are some links:

My posts:

Some posts from fellow bloggers:

  • Ancient irrigation system around Jaisalmer, by Sid (Sid is probably the only one among us to have written an exhaustive series on our trip. Please do go through his blog to see the rest of his posts. His photos especially, are amazing, and he has his own version of the Chudail trail, which is a must read!)
  • An exhaustive review of Suryagarh, from Shrinidhi (Shrinidhi’s Go Pro was the hero of the trip, and never have I figured in so many selfies, or ‘Go Pro Selfies’ as we called them! He has even made a number of videos , so go check them out!)

Articles from the mainstream media writers who accompanied us:
I haven't been able to find links to the others' articles, so if you guys read this, please leave a comment with the links or send me a mail, please! 

Comments

  1. Great post Anuradha...made me remember the entire trip :) I think we were a group of super fab people, together for a FAM :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Sid! we were certainly a fab group of ppl, for a fam!

      Delete
  2. Nice post! Looks like you had a wonderful time.

    ReplyDelete
  3. What a great wrap up post Anu! I relived the entire trip. :) And yes, ours was a super fab group. :)

    Wish we travel again to some destination.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Great set of write ups. Thanks for the mention

    ReplyDelete
  5. You seem to have had a whale of a time! Enjoyed reading about it and looking at those wonderful pictures :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh yes, Usha, I really did have a whale of a time! Its a place you must certainly go to! I am sure you will enjoy it just as much!

      Delete
  6. Nice post mam first of all your work is superb and your experience is awesome.

    ReplyDelete

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