ONE : Envy & FOMO
You’ve seen photographs on the Instagram feeds of friends and acquaintances. You’ve heard their experiences. You’ve been checking the hotel’s website and the hotel’s Instagram page. You’ve been wanting to visit FOREVER.
TWO : Excitement of Booking & Anticipation of Arrival
You’ve finally booked a room for yourself, you’ve booked flight tickets ( or arranged a cab – or even decided to drive in your own vehicle ). Now you wait. The anticipation of finally arriving at THE destination in Bikaner is exciting and you’re having sleepless nights imagining all the fun you’re going to have. Because you ARE going to have a lot of that.
THREE : Grand Arrival
From the moment you land at the airport and are welcomed by the Narendra Bhawan Magic Wagon ( the hotel car that will take you to the hotel ), to the time you arrive inside the hotel gates, at the reception, when you check-in and when you first see your room, everything is GRAND. Keep your camera ready at all times because if you miss something, the only way you’re going to capture it again is when you come back – which you will.
FOUR : The Luxury of The Stay & Experiences
Now that you’ve settled in, there’s a multitude of things to do even if you do not leave the hotel premises. Whether it’s the swimming pool, the spa, the gym, the most friendliest of dogs, the different dining experiences, you will have the luxury of having days as busy as you want them.
A sundownder by an exclusive lakeside? Highly recommended. A private dinner at Laxmi Niwas? Exquisite dining rooms with gold-leaf work & stunning architecture and dinner in candle-light. Also highly recommended. Guided Conversations around a meal? Very interesting – again, highly recommended.
The city isn’t as open as it used to be because of the pandemic but there’s still some experiences that the hotel manages, keeping your safety in mind.
FIVE : Madness of Partying
If you’re up for it, there’s a party every night. Whether you find yourself at a dive-bar, or at a lakeside, or inside a room at the hotel itself, it’s one big party. You will be having a quiet conversation with your partner and an invitation will beckon. You choose to join the crowd. Out of nowhere, a tequila shot appears. You down it, thinking, “Well…why not! I’m here to party!” And then another appears. And another. You wake up the next day wondering when you got to bed and whether there will be another party tonight.
In some of these parties, you might even get to experience a world-famous, exclusive to Narendra Bhawan DJ. And you might use their playlist even when you’re back in the city where you live and are back to living a normal life. Life WILL feel normal once you leave NB. Life at NB is anything but normal. It is MADNESS! The fun kind.
SIX : Conversations With Travelers
You will hang out at this table on at least one evening. I call it the “Martini Table” and the hotel calls this area “The Gaushala” ( where the erstwhile royal household maintained their precious cows ). You will enjoy cocktail hour and meet other guests who will also converge at this table. Stories will be exchanged. With complete strangers. Over drinks. What happens in Bikaner, stays in Bikaner.
I have met so many people and made so many acquaintances at this table. A few friends too. It is, arguably, my favourite spot at the hotel.
SEVEN : The Sadness of Bidding Adieu
You will realize that it is time to go back in a couple of days. You will walk around the hotel and try to capture everything. The sunsets, the pool, the spa, the flowers, the spots you sat at and read a book, the spots you sat at and enjoyed a drink – whether in solitude or with company.
The sadness will creep up slowly. You will tell yourself that you could always come back, so there’s no need to be sad. That it was a good break and that everything comes to an end.
But the melancholy will linger. The final day of departure will arrive. In the bustle of packing and saying goodbye and airport security checks, you will avoid the full feeling of the sads. At the back of your head, you will try to understand why you have a slight nagging feeling at the base of your tummy.
All the hotel staff will smile and tell you to please come again and you will say “Why yes of course!” while thinking “Hey! I’ve already been here once – I’d much rather experience a new spot!” But the niggling feeling that you’re lying, will not leave you. The truth is, you would actually like to come back. And soon.
EIGHT : Rehab & Nostalgia
You are back home. Back to office. Back to work and your normal life. You will realize how mad the trip to NB truly was. You will enjoy the quiet and your own kitchen. You will have conversations with the usual suspects. You will catch up on your sleep and get back to your disciplined routine. You will not miss taking your supplements. You will drink enough water throughout the day. You will sleep early and wake up early.
You will catch yourself looking through photographs of NB on your phone. As the days go by, the nostalgia will creep up slowly but surely. “Oh! That day was just brilliant!” You will talk about NB with your friends. You will attempt to persuade them to go there. In the hopes that you might get to go with them as well.
You will start seeing more and more of NB on your Instagram feed. Other people are still traveling there. You visited in Summer – how would the experience be in Winters? Wouldn’t you like to know?
NINE : Relapse
You will be back at NB and you will go through the same cycle all over again. You will never tire of it. Like some of us, the NB bug would have bitten you and you will go back again and again.
Going back to Narendra Bhawan is like finding something that you’ve been searching for. You’ve always felt it in your bones that that something exists. You just know it. But you have not been able to actually hold onto it – or specifically point a finger at it and say, “Yes. This is it.” And then you stumble onto NB and that something can now be reproduced whenever you want. NB is like a magic-trick. Except, there is no trick.
The photographs above are from my visit in November 2020.