Sometimes, the past is closer than it seems. It had been a decade since I last visited my family’s ancestral home, a traditional Marwari haveli in Bagar, a small town in Shekhawati, 180km from Jaipur. Marriage, living abroad, pregnancy, two young children and a busy husband provided what seemed to be genuine reasons to postpone the long (and bumpy) road journey.

But I remained keen to visit Bagar and stay once again at the haveli. I also wanted my husband, children, in-laws and our nanny to experience our family’s roots and the well-known Shekhawati landscape and cuisine. It was important to me that our sons, then aged 5 and 2, be exposed to a different world—a small town with far fewer amenities than the countryside holiday resorts they had visited before. Finally, a string of public holidays in the last week of March provided the perfect opportunity for our trip.

The biggest surprise for me was how accessible it was—a short flight to Jaipur, a 4-hour drive on a smooth highway, and there we were: standing in the courtyard of a pillared, tiled and frescoed structure which didn’t seem to be a decade older.

They ran up and down the stairs to the terrace in their pyjamas, to see peacocks in the mornings or the moon at night. We celebrated Holi in the garden with organic colours, hosepipes and water guns (“lots of water and lots of grass", my older son remarked). It was an entirely outdoor holiday—drawing or colouring in the courtyard in the afternoons, playing with sand at any time of day, walking through the fields behind the haveli or visiting temples (at least one a day).

Visiting the homes of our staff-members was also a novelty. Our cook’s home is now urbanized, just a few minutes away from a main road, but our driver’s home is still very rural. Both boys were fascinated with his farm animals, especially the goats and their babies. For me, it was a close-up glimpse of shy women in ghunghat sitting at wood-fired cookstoves, with very few young girls in sight.

My children are still quite young, so I didn’t share too much of my family history with them, or expect them to relate to the haveli in any special way. But since we’ve come back to Mumbai, my older son has started asking me questions about his great-great-grandfather.

FIELD SEARCH

Ø Plan the trip like a regular holiday. Make sure there are enough activities for the children, as historic architecture and scenic beauty are usually lost on them.

Ø Don’t expect your children to necessarily forge an instant connection with the place or the property. Consider including other destinations to make it an interesting holiday.

Ø For young children, animals, festivals and other children to play with are always a draw. In the case of older children, you could draw up a family tree to get them interested in the trip.

Aparna Piramal Raje writes the monthly column Head Office for Mint.

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