IT’S THE FIFTH of December, 2021, the anniversary of Mozart’s death. Prasannarajan, the editor of Open, has asked me to write on the music from ruins: the Neemrana ruins from the thirty-odd properties that we woke up in the last three decades. So I must look back on all the dead ruins that came our way and we began to walk their graveyards with Vishvakarma’s wand to wake them and make them sing. Almost forty of my seventy years were spent doing this. Even before the Neemrana Fort-Palace was attempted, the charming Khohar Haveli which I purchased on October 31st, 1984, the day Indira Gandhi was assassinated, came alive in 1984. There were suddenly two kinds of people: those who’d been to the haveli and those who hadn’t. The Hermès and Conran families, painters like Raza, Gérard Depardieu, the Bissells, Vikram Seth…an endless list of people came to enact their dramas.
So where does this music come from? I don’t play music in my home, nor in my car for there is enough humming in my head, forever echoing under the most incredible scalp-dome that the creator made. I much prefer silence for creation. Books, poems, buildings, travels, photography, constant learning, building a library of slides in my memory. My eyes are always open, even when I dream. Long before that marvellous moment of Brahmamuhurta, 92 minutes before sunrise, I am wide awake in mind, body and soul, receiving design templates from the cosmos. Almost on my first glimpse of a sad or splendid ruin, I can see it finished. I’ve never needed anyone to create a virtual walkthrough for me to either get my bearings or see how it may actually look when ready. Each of us is born with only one of the two senses I was told: a Time sense or a Space sense. My sense of time is close to zero—perhaps because I studied history? Or because I think of it broadly, cosmically. I never recall when I first met someone or how long I’ve known the people with whom I connect instantly.
Then the provocative ruins of the Neemrana Fort caught my eye in 1986. It wasn’t easy to goad friends or acquaintances to participate. Finally two likeminded friends acceded to my requests and we brought a small part of it to life by 1991. A longer list of those who had visited the poetic ruins of Neemrana and didn’t dare to extract its music includes some Jaipur royals, Jacqueline Kennedy, the Khemkas, Arun Singh, Rajiv and Sanjay Gandhi—all with their spouses. But it needed more an innovative mind than an overflowing wallet. Every ruin needs a dream vision, backed with untiring enterprise, a simple sense of aesthetics—without getting into an overdrive on a wasteful budget.
The concert for me began when the heavy millstone first churned the rough lime mortar into a softer slurry. The rumbling music may well have sounded like Johannes–Chrysostomus–Wolfgangus– Theophilus–Mozart! Indeed, it had poetry in the rotation as red gravel, white lime, sand and water metamorphosed. But these were only the notations of the music score being written with an open mind. In 1984, sitting by a circling dervish camel, I didn’t know how far these ruins would take me, but this music plays on for me and for all those who come into this arena of awakened history, this time machine which takes the Neemrana guests back seven centuries to bring them back to the reality of today—something they don’t always want to do willingly. But, as you look at the ‘before’ and ‘after’ photographs, you can just imagine the history that was enacted in so many Neemrana spaces before they fell silent. Today, these monumental spaces continue to produce music for those who wake up within the walls of these non-hotels.