The Vilas on the Lake

Yes, it has been a hiatus of sorts… 2 weeks actually. And its not because i ceased to find beauty in the world or was not inspired enough by anything; it was simply because i was partially lazy and somewhat also busy in travel and other matters. Excuses aside, on a recent visit to magical Udaipur in Rajasthan, I happened to encounter two jewels… the first, The Leela Hotel where i stayed and the second, The Oberoi Udaivilas which I visited. Both are modern poetry in motion… both reflect a new Indian luxury… yet both are different. I’m going to start with sharing my visual journey of the latter, the beautiful Udaivilas and keep my next post reserved for the Leela.

Before I begin, I’d like to get something out of the way. All my travel photography is generally the end result of what i call ‘Phoneography’, broadly implying that the images were made on a smartphone. For my fine art Shows, I use a high end DSLR, so between the two mediums, I pretty much find my angst of creating images ably addressed. On seeing my smartphone imagery, I’ve almost always been asked by everyone about which ‘App’ i use. So time to set the record straight…’Apps’ don’t make images…. individuals do! If a large number of people were made to stand in a group and asked to look at something together from the same spot, they would all obviously see exactly the same view, and if they all then took a photo, they could all well be, not surprisingly and deceptively similar, with some exceptions. Therefore, creating images is not about what is seen at all, it’s about what is assimilated … it’s about what is absorbed…it’s about shunning the seen to be able to discover the unseen, its about having what is commonly known as ‘having an eye’, and herein lies the core difference. A good camera is a boon…A good App is a tool,  but both are not absolute essentials for great images. To create enduring images, we must learn to look beyond the obvious and allow the spirit, not the eyes, to sense the extraordinary. And then, eventually, it all comes down to composing that perfect frame. And yes, ‘Apps’ are modern photography aids that are meant to be used to make pictures come alive… they are the garnish that is often required to give that perfect recipe that one extra flourish… but always be aware that there is a thin line that divides effective imagery and gimmickry. Personally, for my smartphone photography (and as some of you know, I publish travel books based on such photography), I make and edit the images on the phone itself; they are then moved to a computer for layout and packed off straight to the printer for immortalisation in the guise of books.

Back to Udaipur and Udaivilas. I’m convinced that Udaipur, as a city, is Rajasthan’s finest destination. Pichola lake is the jewel in the crown and most of Udaipur’s luxuries are found either in this lake or around it. Add that to the basic topography of the city itself with its undulating hills and several ‘jheels’ and we have a sumptuous city retreat to scamper off to.

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Udaivilas, from what I could gather from my few hours there, is your typical Oberoi fare which essentially means that it is brilliant. The Oberoi chain has undoubtedly set several benchmarks of stylish perfection in the hospitality industry in India (and overseas) and this hotel seemed no different. I suppose, I’ll have more to write about this when and if i do stay there in the near future, but till then, i hope you get a sampler of that elegance from the images that I have posted above.

PS* If anyone from the Oberoi is reading this: Can anyone please explain the rationale behind the ‘NO PORCH’ approach being adopted across your hotels since the last few years? I somewhat understand the charm of a liveried gentleman escorting a guest to the lobby holding an umbrella over him/her, but i suspect that India’s climatic conditions (Heat, Dust, Rain) and your posh guest’s rather immodest expectations of a pampered reception may not essentially be in sync.

Just saying…

Copyright: JJ Valaya/ All rights reserved. All images are the sole property of JJ Valaya. No part of this post/publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of JJ Valaya. This applies to all acts of use, in particular such as the reproduction of pictures and text, their performance and demonstration, translation, filming, microfilming, broadcasting, storage and processing in electronic media

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The Ranas of Kachchh

I love India! Its the very basis of all the creative work that i do… yet, I also love multiculturalism and so I forever delve into other cultures and pick elements  from them and then infuse them with elements from India to create an all new experience. My current collection, THE RANAS OF KACHCHH is a medley of influences from the Ranas of Nepal and the Nomads of Kachchh (Kutch) in Gujarat, India. Thought I’d post some images of a recent couture shoot that we did in Jaisalmer, at the fabulous Suryagarh Hotel. I’ve written about Jaisalmer and the Suryagarh in earlier posts (so please do go back to them to learn more about both), but these images, which i thoroughly enjoyed making demanded to be shared. The clothes and the location both celebrate my core ethos, that of the Royal Nomad.

Blessed to be born in India… I never have to worry about running out of inspiration… ever!

 

Copyright: JJ Valaya/ All rights reserved. All images are the sole property of JJ Valaya. No part of this post/publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of JJ Valaya. This applies to all acts of use, in particular such as the reproduction of pictures and text, their performance and demonstration, translation, filming, microfilming, broadcasting, storage and processing in electronic media

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Tijara. Part 2

 

The last post tells all about this one, yet Black and White imagery almost always adds a new dimension to what is already known! Our eyes see colour and so colour images are easily understood and the affinity is familiar…Black and White (and loads of shades of Grey) imagery on the other hand shows the same composition in a new way, often with intrigue and a certain degree of awe. Personally, I’ve always been a huge fan of Black & Whites and so, I had to share a Part 2 of Tijara, devoid of its multihued palette yet replete with its regal splendour.

Copyright: JJ Valaya/ All rights reserved. All images are the sole property of JJ Valaya. No part of this post/publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of JJ Valaya. This applies to all acts of use, in particular such as the reproduction of pictures and text, their performance and demonstration, translation, filming, microfilming, broadcasting, storage and processing in electronic media

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Tijara. Part 1

Oh Rajasthan! How I love thee!

That said, this post moves away from the ‘much cultivated and much loved’ ideology of the exotic Maharajas of Rajasthan (and their palaces) and veers instead towards the fakir of Rajasthan (as he vehemently insists on calling himself). My dear friend Aman Nath, the chic fakir who’s obvious passion (and business) is to take over forgotten forts and havelis and breathe new life into them invited me last weekend to what’s kept him busy for the last 10 years of his life: Tijara Fort. A short drive away from Delhi (considering you’d take more time in getting around locally in large Indian cities), Tijara is a labour of love and one that, in parts, continues to be love-in-progress. Be advised though, Tijara is no Ritz Carlton; it is a subdued homely version of subtle luxury as typically understood and interpreted by Neemrana hotels … it’s the sort of place that offers you a much needed doze of soulful solitude in a ‘home meets history meets hospitality’ environment. Its USP, the interesting rooms created by art, fashion and design legends are indeed a unique concept.

Do make a trip and discover more. (Go in an SUV though because the love-in-progress applies to the drive up to the fort too.)

In my rather short, but lovely 90 minute visit to the property I managed some interesting images. Going to break them up into 2 parts… starting with colour and then moving into black & whites… Enjoy!

 

Copyright: JJ Valaya/ All rights reserved. All images are the sole property of JJ Valaya. No part of this post/publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of JJ Valaya. This applies to all acts of use, in particular such as the reproduction of pictures and text, their performance and demonstration, translation, filming, microfilming, broadcasting, storage and processing in electronic media

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Jaisalmer. Part 2

First, the history lesson: Jaisalmer is a city in the Indian state of Rajasthan, located about 500 kms. west of the state capital, Jaipur. It is also known as ‘The Golden city’ because the yellow sand and the yellow sandstone used in the architecture of the city giving it an amber tinge. Once known as Jaisalmer state, it is a world heritage site. The town lies in the heart of the Thar (the great Indian desert) and stands on a ridge of yellowish sandstone, crowned by a fort, which contains the palace and several ornate Jain temples.

Now, the facts, and I’m going to keep it short and simple: Do not visit Jaisalmer as a tourist but imbibe its true flavours instead as a traveller. What’s the difference, you may ask…well, essentially that means ‘dump the predictable itinerary of the tour guide’ and instead, choose to make your own … In my opinion, the real fun lies in exploring this small city on foot. The ‘gullies’ (streets) are narrow, follow considerably low standards of hygiene and cleanliness (welcome to most of India) but manage to magically throw surprises at you at various turns! Expect to encounter some of the finest hand carved Havelis, hobnob with locals with moustaches meant for the Guinness book, shop for fine handicrafts, puppets and embroideries at a bargain, dodge an assortment of cows and bulls, take in a variety of dancers and singers and finally, revel in the grandeur of the fort (which incidentally houses half a city within its belly) …and if this is sounding more and more like a surrealistic film setting, its because it nearly is (specially at sunset)!

So what do I like about this city?  It’s actually the size itself…its intimacy makes it easily discoverable and once you’re done with the city, there’s much to take in around the city such as the dunes of the great Thar, a drive on the legendary Silk route and the rumoured-to-be-haunted village Kuldhara.

The mystery beckons… don’t hold back.

Copyright: JJ Valaya/ All rights reserved. All images are the sole property of JJ Valaya. No part of this post/publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of JJ Valaya. This applies to all acts of use, in particular such as the reproduction of pictures and text, their performance and demonstration, translation, filming, microfilming, broadcasting, storage and processing in electronic media.

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Suryagarh. Jaisalmer, India. Part 1

To call India a mere country would be grossly inappropriate; for it is indeed, a continent within itself where one can and will, observe incredible changes in almost everything (People, Food, Architecture, Weather, Language…) if he or she were to travel East to West and/or North to South. As an Indian, often, I’ve even found myself awe-struck by the sheer diversity that this country offers! I do hope that within this lifetime I am able to witness as much of this magic as i can, and in turn, get an opportunity to share such moments with you. Today, i thought i’ll visit (with you) a beautiful property called Suryagarh located in one of India’s most tourist friendly states, Rajasthan in a city called Jaisalmer.

You’ll find plenty of flowery reviews and oodles of praises about this boutique property online and offline and almost all have obviously gushed about how special it is. And though most are accurate, it is my firm belief that hotels become noteworthy not because of the way they look or due to their EQ (Exotic quotient) but more importantly because of how they make you feel and how connected they themselves are to their surroundings, and all this without trying too hard.

And that is where this hotel scores! From the time you hop off the flight in Jodhpur (subconsciously dreading the 4-5 hour drive to Jaisalmer that is to follow) and spot the chauffeur waiting at the airport to receive you (his subsequent pampering takes good care of ridding you of all your fears linked to the haul) to the warm reception you recieve at the hotel itself…From the smiles of the liveried staff to the unpretentious luxury of the rooms… From the expanse of raw topography that surrounds it to the manicured elegance of its gardens…From the delectable quality of the local-inspired-gourmet cuisine to the lonesome crooner’s haunting voice in the courtyard… Everything seems to come together in a surreal manner to almost make you feel as if you belong there and simply never want to leave. (That said, i suspect, a lot of credit goes to the owner Manvendra Shekhawat’s vision and to the perfection of a very charming gentleman who treats this hotel as his home, Karan Singh).

I’m going to leave it upto the internet to tell you more (in case you desire to know more i.e.) and I’m sure it doesn’t take much to realise that i highly recommend a visit here to all who plan to venture out to Jaisalmer.

And yes, whilst you’re there, try and indulge in the comfort of the Jaisalmer Haveli, with its private infinity pool and other privileges, its your very own oasis in the midst of the mighty Thar.

More on Jaisalmer, the city in Part 2.

Copyright: JJ Valaya/ All rights reserved. All images are the sole property of JJ Valaya. No part of this post/publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of JJ Valaya. This applies to all acts of use, in particular such as the reproduction of pictures and text, their performance and demonstration, translation, filming, microfilming, broadcasting, storage and processing in electronic media.

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