Joanna Lester-George

The Farm - Review of a Unique Rajasthani Resort

The KOKOindia Facebook page | March 7th, 2014 | Visit the original article online

The farm shot

If you’re planning a KOKOindia trip to Rajasthan and would relish the chance to experience a truly unique place to stay, The Farm must surely be one of India’s most extraordinary hotels. It is both an art resort and a luxury home stay, a peaceful country escape just thirty minutes outside busy Jaipur and set amongst the quietude of traditional Rajasthani rural life.

There is nothing hugely traditional about The Farm, however, aside from its shared ethos of warm hospitality with this famously friendly part of India. The property represents a fabulous hand-stitched quilt made up of avant-garde design, art installations and a highly innovative use of space. It was so totally unlike anywhere else I’d ever stayed and it wasn’t long before I wished I could stay longer.

When my car dropped me off, I was greeted with open arms by owners Ritu and Surya in the open air Reception, a communal space which also serves as a Lounge and a Dining room. Designed so that guests can choose their own favourite spot to eat and hang out, the eclectic seating arrangements ranged from heirloom antique sofas to trendily designed neon chairs. Each little area was encircled by an assortment of curios, mannequins and oversized birdcages – an enchanting setting only possible to exist where imaginations are free to run wild.

The same space is also the ‘Outdoor Office’ - and as the best Wi-Fi connection is uncoincidentally to be found here, it’s a great place to catch Ritu and Surya poring over the latest design and art projects for their resort. The Farm is home to the couple and their bright spark of a son, Vihan, (who had a gold safety clip artfully pierced through one ear) and it is a place they clearly love to share with their guests.

Unsurprisingly, The Farm tends to attract a pretty hip, artistic crowd, along with regular ol’ guests like me, and is the ideal spot for those wishing to simply dip into Jaipur’s hectic sightseeing scene or to bypass it altogether. It is a sprawling and beautiful retreat, set amidst twenty acres of green fields abundant in wild flowers and gnarly old trees. The huge lawn is the size of a football pitch, perfect for quiet strolls or for kids to run around and let off steam. I especially loved the oversized hammock, strung between two ancient trees and perfect for lolling around and daydreaming, and the outdoor dining table fashioned from antler-shaped pieces of driftwood.

Tucked away in the grounds of The Farm, there are six Garden Suites surrounded by luscious greenery, and three Guest Rooms facing onto the swimming pool. It is without doubt a fabulous place for families to stay, especially as the pool facing rooms lie directly across from the Reception-Lounge-Dining Room-Office, so Grown Ups can enjoy a post-prandial drink whilst Little Ones sleep safely nearby.

My own pool facing room had a highly unusual looking façade woven from the white Nirvar rope used to make charpoys. It provided total privacy for my verandah, a whole extra living space equipped with antique table, comfy chairs and huge wooden chests where I could keep my books. There was also a private Mediterranean-style sun deck at the back that overlooked the grounds and where guests can soak up some rays during hotter months. Inside, the bedroom was supremely spacious and with cool, original art work tastefully lining the walls. The huge bed was decked out in the finest quality Rajasthani linens and the adjoining bathroom suite housed a sunken tub and a separate shower room. The Farm is a place for creativity and reflection and therefore none of the bedrooms feature televisions. (There is actually one TV available ‘in case of emergency’ in the huge communal lounge-library).

Each of the rooms and suites are individually styled around themes inspired by the owners’ varied travels and interests. My favourite was the Automobile Suite, which incorporated a motorbike as a table base and was kitted out with a quirky assortment of trinkets, old photographs and automobile-associated décor. Whichever room you choose to stay in will bring the feeling of living in an exclusively private space, and with trailing vines of flowers at the entrance to remind you it’s in the very heart of nature.

For those seeking somewhere to enjoy some proper downtime, there is a limitless number of interesting spaces to choose from here. The integral theme here is ‘Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose’ and this ethos has been executed in the most ingenious of ways – from the architecturally designed nooks and crannies to the flower beds created from sunken green bottles. In addition to their own evident talents, Ritu and Surya also regularly invite artists and artisans to lend their personal vision to the space. There are philosophical musings and poetry quotations painted onto the outside walls, and there is always something unexpected and eye-catching everywhere you look.

The Farm is an ever evolving project and one which draws cleverly on Ritu and Surya's personal ancestry, from the eponymous family farmland itself and also from their family’s noble backgrounds. I was to learn more about this when I was invited to join them for drinks in the Reception-Lounge-Dining Room-Office that evening. A chill was in the air and so a roaring fire had been lit for us in an angeethi, a traditional brazier used for cooking and heating outdoor spaces in parts of South Asia.

We sat and chatted for hours over enormous goblets of red wine, with candlelight flickering in golden birdcages all around us in the cosiest of atmospheres. Dinner was cheerfully served without fuss or formality and was utterly delicious, with most of the produce coming directly from The Farm’s own garden. Travelling a lot for work, as I do, this was a welcome opportunity to relax into the feeling of dining in a new friend’s home, and I couldn't get enough of hearing the owners' fascinating stories.

Surya told me how this farmland had been in his family for centuries, and he remembered playing there as a child. He is a seventh generation 'Rajput '- the legendary Hindu warrior caste whose historical duty has been to fight and protect society during wartime and govern over it during peacetime. Surya’s main family residence growing up had been a fine old palace close to the city of Udaipur, but in the 1970’s it was sadly flooded by a new dam.

The contents of the palace had to be quickly dismantled before being placed into storage where they lay for many years. When Surya and Ritu began their bohemian style project at The Farm together, they had an inspirational blank canvas to fill with all the many concepts and objets they treasured so passionately. The family artefacts were thus retrieved from storage, and had new life breathed into them with a fantastic contemporary twist.

After the most peaceful night’s sleep I could remember in a long time, I ventured out the next morning into the crisp February air. One of the ever smiley members of staff immediately ensured I was handed a soft cashmere blanket to wrap around my shoulders and the chef got busy whipping up breakfast for me in the outdoor kitchen. It was a simple yet delicious start to the day - a dish of green gram (moong beans) cooked with chilli, fried eggs, toast and fresh orange juice – and it ticked all the boxes.

I spent the day taking a leisurely wander around the grounds trying to spot peacocks, reading undisturbed in the hammock, eating more yummy homecooked food and chatting with young Vihan. I also spent quite a lot of time walking around the curious and immense metal structure being constructed in the grounds and which I was told would serve as both an artist’s studio and a party venue. Ritu and Surya clearly adore the peaceful location of their country home - but they are also tremendous fun and love to share their space with their (no doubt) equally fun and fabulous friends.

When the time came to leave, I was genuinely sad to say goodbye. The blissful ambience at The Farm and the generous, easy going manner of its hosts had made this particular and inevitably flying trip to Jaipur a wholly refreshing experience. It is an experiential style of ‘hotel’ for which a conventional label does not exist. How rare to find a place that need know no boundaries in its overall vision — a precious discovery in a part of India where tradition still reigns supreme. With such an exciting and ever evolving future ahead, guests will want to return here time and time again, secure in the knowledge that they will always discover something new.