Back to colonial times

Updated: Nov 13 2005, 05:30am hrs
No television, no telephone, old four-poster beds, beautiful old Edwardian and Victorian furniture and chopped wood all ready for the fireplace your room in Fort Unchagaon can indeed lead you to think you are in a different century altogether. The resort may have just opened its doors to the public, the buildings and its surroundings are anything but new. Situated about 110 km from Delhi in west Bulandshahr district of UP, it is actually a grand old zamindari haveli spruced up for modern times.

The resort is owned by the family of a former king, Raja Surendra Pal Singh, who is also a former Union External Affairs minister. Today, his grandsons, Rupendra and Rajendra Pal Singh, run the place, along with the Leisure Hotels. The entrance is through a grand gate, flanked by cannons. You enter through the pathway leading from the outhouses to a triangular garden before the palace. The house has been with the family since 1959, when the British gave it to our ancestors as a reward for backing them during 1857, Rupendra says.

What was a mud fort then is today a sprawling estate, spread over about 7 acres. The main building was built in the 1930s-40s. Built with an amalgam of architectural styles, 17 rooms today are ready to welcome guests. Each room can actually fit a small metropolis apartment. And the interiors match, right up to the furnishings, which the Singhs say they have done up themselves. And they are not identical. So while visiting do check out some of the other rooms, and you might think up of excuses why you need to change your room!

The atmosphere harks back to the colonial era. The walls are full of photographs, and an occasional painting of the current ancestors exploits in hunting be it tigers, crocodiles or bears. Today, however, the sport on offer is different from badminton courts to a golf course, squash and croquet courts, a spa, jogging tracks and horse riding. The last tiger was shot in about 1971, before it became illegal to do so, explains the younger brother, Rajendra, who is looking after the resort.

He says perhaps the only way to preserve such structures is by converting them into heritage resorts. We do not want to be a typical hotel, but a weekend getaway, he says. He also admits that there are challenges. Western Uttar Pradesh has never been known for its favourable law and order situation, though Rajendra says there is no disturbance in the area.

The connections to the place may wreck all plans to develop the place as all approaches are in a pathetic condition. Improvement of roads is on the cards, explains Rajendra, saying the recent local elections in the state had delayed work. There is promise of rich wildlife along the Ganga, just a few kilometres from the resort. But you have to reach at the right time to be able to catch a glimpse, whether it is the Gangetic dolphin or egrets, storks, ducks, or other birds.

Steer clear of the occasional dead bovine creature floating on the river surface if you are going for a cruise. Set amongst lovely gardens and surrounded by lush fields, the resort seems a veritable oasis surrounded by a typical north Indian village on the verge of urbanisation.

The place is steeped in modern history too. Jawahar Lal Nehru visited the place and inaugurated the first bloc of the region here. Many other leading dignitaries have taken breaks here, so you might just be in the same room once occupied by the powers that were.

The visit was sponsored by Leisure Hotels.