Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Chokhi Dhani- A mere deception?

It’s Thursday morning, 9 A.M. and thanks to shutdown, I have the luxury of lazing around right now, curling my feet on my cosy bed. Life’s good (mostly) these days with lots of time to do the lot that I usually want to. I went on a short trip to Jaipur with my friends last weekend. Though, I did manage to enjoy owing to the company I had, the trip offered few major disappointments. A big spoilsport being Jaipur’s scorching heat, there was another bigger let down. The main item on our Jaipur itinerary was Chokhi Dhani- a much heard about place in Jaipur. Almost every now and then, I hear Delhi’s much of the elite heading towards this place and I well, was quite tempted to check this out. All that I feel about it now is that it’s evidently more of a fad than anything else.

Chokhi Dhani is a resort in Jaipur which tries to capture the cultural heritage and charm of Rajasthan and its village life. The question here is, why do we even need this? Ain’t places like Chokhi Dhani a dime a dozen in a country like ours which inherently is the “land of villages”. Even today, the Gandhian belief that villages should remain the main building block of Indian society stands so true. When roughly 750 million of India’s 1.1 billion population still continues to live in it’s 680,000 villages, Do we actually need these village kind setups?

I guess the only people who get actually benefitted by these places are it’s owners. The place is way overpriced and considering the crazy hordes of people who rush there every weekend, I bet, the owners have their hands, all in black. But what does it actually offers to an average middle class Indian like me?

Imagine the plight, a place jam-packed with minimum 1000 people, scorching heat, dust all around, and after literally an hour of waiting in a queue, I get to have the so called traditional Rajasthani food, which again was just average considering the other places that I tried in Jaipur.(Here’s a tip: We tried a place called LMD in Johri Bazaar. It did assuage the disappointment that Chokhi Dhani offered. ) By the time our turn came, half of the dishes were simply not available. It was evident that they were just not able to manage the large number of people who have turned up but still we had to pay a whooping 350 bucks per plate for a disappointing meal.

India is a land of diversities. With more than 29 languages spoken by more than a million native speakers, and radical cultural shifts every thousands of kilometers, India sure has lots to offer. I would like to see and experience every bit of it in it’s actual manifestation rather than by paying thousands of bucks to some rich businessman. The owners of Chokhi Dhani have surely done a great job in bringing multiple facets of Rajasthani culture at a single place. Such places do nicely mimic the whole village set ups but they can never capture the essence of India’s ethnicity.


Sandeep M said...

I really liked you candid opinion, enjoyed the conclusion you derived from your visit. Very true for a common man. However there are things are I would like to talk about:

"I hear Delhi’s much of the elite heading towards this place.." -- Very true.. The place is more directed towards the elite audience who don't get to see the villages. Specially, foreign tourists.

Places like this at least reflect some degree of Indian heritage apart from being a safe place to visit.

People who know about Rajasthan surely find this place as bland. But for me.. It was my first visit and to me it was a nice place considering I get to see the bright side of the state in one place.

We cannot do much about 1000 people wrestling and rumbling and trying to get in. We are 1.1 billion as you said. So you can expect rush. Rs. 350 is surely overpriced but I guess that what you will end up paying in any other part of India for any other activity., e.g. Essel World, Bombay. I do agree, food was nothing more than ordinary.

Nevertheless, it always fun to read a post from Yachna.. every now and then... in true yachna ishtyle.

infomaster said...

I am equally benefitted and hurt from your candid remarks and i would like to take this moment to share my personal experiences about the place. chokhi dhani has been a place which my family most of all my children love. and it is all because they feel at home to do the most unheard and silly acts. be it climbing and sliding from all kinds of slides and machans or the strange structures look alike of huts and cottages. the animals have been a high factor for them every time. and the price is peanuts. an elephant ride in jaipur would cost me not less then 300 bucks but here it costs simply 40 bucks same holds true for the camel and bullock cart rides. but yes the crowd at times is a great mela feeling but at times it is hurtful to see so much crowd which is seemingly taking away my share of happiness. but then the crowd is all that makes chokhi dhani a place to savour. had there been no crowd the mela feeling would not have come. food is an equally delectable affair and the manuhaar at times hurts but makes you feel good as a whole.

i know the place is a means of right kind of enjoyment for the youngsters but we adults fail to see that because we are used to so much comfort that the malls and multiplexes create more comfort.

Vishal - The Vince said...

I would like to share my point of view.

You liked a place you have a right to say yes you did. I disliked a place and i sure have to right to say i didn't. What is the kind of pleasure that is take away by someone disliking the place you liked.

Also lets not point fingres at the owners, the guy just has great sense of business.

And lets not get into the debate of Indian-ness please. Also we all pseudo's sitting in comfortable positions in your city residences should not talk about villages either.

Aman said...

Let's take up some "VERY RAW" calculations about Chokhi Dhani:

Approximate visitors on weekdays: 500 (per day)
Total visitors on weekdays: 5x500 = 2500

Visitors on Weekends: 1000 (per day)
Total Visitors on weekends: 2x1000 = 2000

Total visitors per week: 2500 + 2000 = 4500

Entry Fee: 350
Tips and rides: 400

Total earning per week: (350 + 400) x 4500 = 33,75,000

Total Earnings per month: 4x33,75,000 = 1, 35, 00, 000 (! crore thirty five lakhs!!!)


Few questions to ponder on:

1. Why can't they build an organized parking space so that we don't have to slog for an hour, not get into arguments with the local shopkeepers on the road and not have to walk for a mile to reach Chokhi Dhani after parking our car?

Please note that by the time you reach Chokhi Dhani after parking your car in front of an open shop after a battle with the shopkeeper, you'd have already had the appetizer - a ton of dust in your mouth, just before ultra pathetic dinner!

2. Who can savour the village surroundings and the rides after spending an hour looking for parking and another waiting for food (yeah that makes it minus TWO hours) - Please raise your hands!

3. When charging 350 bucks per person , food quality and availablity should be given prime consideration. It was not even a close contender to food we had in LMB which was much much cheaper.

4. A sign board at the entrance of Chokhi Dhani reads "please avoid tips"- definitely a prudent tip by management. However, the enforcement needs to be checked upon. After having food you go to "jaljeera" stall (which is supposedly free) and the dude will tell you "Sir jaljeera toh khatam ho chuka hai. Aap kuch koshish karo toh mein bhi thodi si koshish kar sakta hoon"... what is this supposed to mean??? It simply means, shell out a ten rupees note to get glass of "free" jaljeera!!!!

The management should be wary of such things happening under their nose and preventing them, instead of making lame excuses when questioned!!!

Undoubtedly, it was one of the most pathetic tourism experience we had and we will never ever go there again, unless things are organized in future. I would also advice others not to waste their valuable time and hard earned money in first reaching Jaipur and then visiting Chokhi Dhani... there are much better places around

Yachna said...

With no offences to anyone or any place, this was simply my personal account of the experience I had. Places like Chokhi Dhani are undoubtedly apt for foreign tourists and the so called elite class who want to experience the colors of Rajasthan without any qualms. Our disappointment doesn't stems from the whopping prices or what Chokhi Dhani offers, instead our grave concern here is the poor management. We would not have mind paying the same price or even more for food had it been worth it.

Sue said...

I have always longed to visit India and have friends who travelled there not too long ago, but, like South Africa, I believe it's a country where you have to know where you're going to be safe at all times and to (most importantly) really appreciate it to the fullest. Seeing the typical tourist traps do not interest me, I think they are a lie of what a country has to offer. A pretense of what life's in really about. For me, it's the small villages and the culture of the every-day-man-in-the-street that really grabs my attention. To sit in a tiny restaurant and chat to the locals. Unfortunately, I'm way too nervous to travel alone, so it's a trip that will have to wait a while. Thanks for sharing!!

Sue x

Yachna said...

@Sue: That's so true..Nothing can be better than knowing the culture of place via every-day-man-in-the-street. Do plan ur visit to India.Its incredibly diverse and I guess u'll like it. And lemme know when u do, will be glad to show u around :)

Sue said...

Hi Yachna,

No plans to visit right now, but it's definitely on my list. It would be amazing to have someone to show me around, so I'll keep in touch and keep you posted!!

Sue x

Anonymous said...

We are visiting Rajasthan next May and we intended to go to Chokhi Dani to see some folk dances, but now after reading your post I am hesitant because it sounds like too directed to tourists, isn't it?
Do you know of some other place where we could see authentic folklore?
Thanks :o)

Mehul said...

@iñakito Let me tell you one thing that everybody has their own opinion,I live in Jaipur and I must say it is a great experience for a person who wants to experience Rajasthani culture.I have been to that place like 100 times and I will say that you will not experience a culture like that and you might not have seen anything like that before,the owner has really worked hard to make it to a 5-star resort,and now look there are 9-10 Chokhi Dhani"s all over India.I will not say that you will like the food or not because it is rajasthani food,which is spicy and does not suit to everybody,specially the foreigners.But paying Rs.400,it is total worth to experience the different culture.And as being there lot of times I have also experienced bad food and service sometimes,Hey now which place is perfect at all times.I have also stayed in the hotel and its great the rooms are really 5-star standard and I think everyone should make a must visit.
Thank you.