Apr 02, 2009 at 04:40pm IST

Walk through: Smriti Singh's Rajput villa

Smriti Singh's passions are her home and hearth. "… and just as lovingly as I have set each piece in its place, I devote equal attention to the guests that have booked with us as home-stay visitors," she explains.

If you think Smriti is just another house proud housewife, she's not. She also runs an NGO Aalingan and has under her wing 10 boys and girls of various ages.

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"I worked with these abandoned children for quite sometime on the railway platform. Bringing them together and trying to give them a quality life has been my priority. They are going to school now and my effort has been to make it as normal as possible for them, as they are being treated for HIV and AIDS. My home-stay program where I am registered with Incredible India and the Mahindra Homes, is the mainstay for my financial resources."

BEAUTIFUL HOMES: Staying true to the tradition of excellent hospitality and care-giving, is Smriti Singh’s home-stay in Jaipur.

This trend in hospitality has gained momentum in Rajasthan, and Smriti, in true Rajput tradition, has thrown open the doors of her country villa, which we feature here.

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Set at the foothills of the Aravalli range and seven kilometres from the main centre of the Pink City (Jaipur), Smriti’s home is neat and practical. Picturesque french windows lead from the verandah to a split-level drawing room, which is enchantingly cool after the glare of the desert sun.

The ivory white of the low, comfortable sofas, the deep-seated armchairs and the curtains shading the french windows set the tone for the room. The delicate carved curtain rod shows up the looped curtains to good advantage.

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In this picture: The sculpted glass chandelier hangs from the ceiling, while the hunting trophies gaze down.

The teakwood sofa set is more than 50 years old and has been in her husband’s family for as long. Smriti has placed family portraits around, adding to the sense of intimacy and belonging, coming as she does from a line of rulers of the former princely states of Panched and Sirmathura.

The tradition and culture of the rich past finds an echo in the head of a deer high up on the wall, a witness to the history of the place. The deer was shot in Dungarpur somewhere in the 1930s, and as there is no more shikar, this is a well-preserved trophy.

"Shikar in those days was not just to satisfy that primeval hunting instinct but also to maintain a balance in the eco-system of the forest, which would have been upset owing to over-breeding," Smriti reminisces.

"It was understood that if the ruler of one state overstepped into another ruler's boundary while on a hunt, he would extend the same courtesy to his counterpart and invite him to hunt on his land. There was much gallantry and there was also chivalry."

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The miniature waterfall set in stone has decorative foliage, which gives welcome relief. I didn't miss the small wine-stand with its collection giving a wholesome touch to the room.

"I have guests from all corners of the world. This is just in case they feel hesitant about drinking in a traditional Rajput home."

In this picture: The seating arrangement in the drawing room has a 50-year-old sofa set which is still clad in 'original' fabric.

The main bedrooms -- the master bedroom and that of Smriti’s daughter -- are located on the first floor.

In this picture: The master bedroom with the lovers' seat by the window overlooks the lobby.

The first thing I notice when I walk into the master bedroom, is the discreet bay window which overlooks the hall, calling to the mind the days of purdah, when the ladies could covertly view ceremonies taking place, arrivals of guests or just any activity, through such apertures overlooking 'public' areas.

The open terrace on the other side looks down on the manicured lawn. Smriti's weakness for white is obvious from the colour on the sofas, the duvet and the curtains. "It's an easy colour, and very soothing on the eyes in high summer."

In this picture: A view of the green surroundings, with its garden furniture, as seen from the entrance.

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I peep into the bathroom thinking I should merely check the amenities and the colour scheme, but here it is a mermaid's idyll. The white tiles by the sunken marble bath with its shell and pebble encrusted edges simply point to the aesthetic taste of Smriti, and her love for beautiful surroundings. "I like my creature comforts," she quips.

In this picture: The sunken bath inlayed with pebbles and the wooden bangle stand (partly seen), with its colourful array of shimmery glass bangles -- all point to a very feminine tone.

The landing outside the bedrooms is not what you would imagine a landing to be. She has used this area to place her puja sthaan. I ask her why she thought of this place as her place of worship. "Because this is the heart of my home. And the spiritual vibrations emanating from here should touch every corner of the house," she reveals.

The puja sthaan forms the core of the house, from where the strains of aarti emanate.

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I look into the guest bedroom and can't help thinking that the guests who stay with the family must feel pampered. The house has four large bedrooms and the guest bedroom downstairs is richly done up in shades of leaf-green and muted gold. "I have worked for sometime in an export house, and I thought it would be a good idea to put to valuable use the leftover fabric," says the lady of the house.

In this picture: The guest bedroom with its soft furnishings in pleasant tones of green and yellow, is spacious and well-lit.

Smriti admits that most of her shopping has been from all over Rajasthan. You can see the heavy metal urns filled with water and the floating candles

on the verandah. "On special occasions, I put rose petals and sprinkle a few drops of aromatic oil." Enchanting, in the dark of the evening, and a welcome sight at the entrance.

In this picture: The discreet bay window which overlooks the hall, calling to the mind the days of purdah, when the ladies could covertly view ceremonies taking place.

Beautiful homes call for beautiful people but here, obviously, beauty isn’t merely skin-deep.

This feature has been sourced with permission from Better Interiors.

Photographs: Ravi Dhingra

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