We love saying that Shekhawati is not just about seeing its great havelis (mansions) and their fresco paintings. Unlike the princely palaces and forts, the heritage of Shekhawati belongs to its people – the Marwari merchants. So, as impressive as our havelis are (and we are proud to be doing one of the best guided tours of the “open art gallery” in region), the Churu experience is about the people – the merchants, the artisans, the farmers, the workers and so many more like us. Knowing these people, their stories, their lives is what makes it special.
Lal Singh – I am your expert on havelis and frescos, part time manager, street expert and so much more. Born in Castle Mahansar (near Churu) and brought up in a conventional family, I have closely seen rituals of traditional life of Rajasthan. Since my father worked in Churu as a lawyer, our family has always had a special connection with Churu. I am a post-graduate in History and my love for Rajasthani art, culture and architecture has led me to work a lot to unfold the remote and less-travelled villages and streets of the region.
While I used to think of myself as a tour-guide (that’s what I did for 15 years), my association with Malji has been different. At Malji, I am everything our guest would want me to be – but having said that our havelis are still my passion. And believe me, there is no other haveli like the one we run – it really is in its own zone.
A decade ago, I have been to some of the western european countries and visited their historical places. My wish is that we can make Churu like that – neat, clean, responsible and a treat to walk around with oodles of history to marvel at and a lot more color.
Suraj Mal Ji – A septugeneraian, I feel like a fatherly presence in property. I got here before everybody else did, right when restoration was started back in 2005. My first task was to get rid of the bats and pigeons that had made this property their home during more than two decades of abandonment. And of course that the illegal occupants of the premises do not make their way back inside the four walls. Now, as the eldest in team, I am the one to welcome our guests first, but you might see me around looking after our lawn and plants as well.
In my spare time, I still get to smoke my hukkah or chillam (pipe) or light a fire stove (sigdi) in winters. I know this doesn’t very much sound like a professional hotel doorman, but we have never considered ourselves a regular hotel. With all of our team still calling me “Tau ji”, it definitely feels like a second home.
Deepak: On my business cards and e-mails signature, I put “co-owner” as my title, but that is merely to draw enough attention in our country’s hierarchised business environment. That apart, you could think of me as the product experience owner where I try to bring my exposure of living and working in Europe (as a professional) into use and train our people into giving you a good experience.
Born and brought up in Churu, I am keenly interested to show various aspects of our buzzing town to our guests, and not just the havelis, So, I would be happy to take some credit for curating our walks, visits and every other out-of-property activity to make sure you see our place in the right way and have a good time. Other than that, all our marketing, communication, reservations, emailing etc etc rests on me. So, when you visit us and get a feeling…”ohh this place has to be marketed better…nobody knows about Churu”, you know whom to criticize or give suggestions to.
Having said all above, I quite love talking to our guests about Churu, about Malji and just about anything else that might pop-up during a conversation.
Narayan: I am younger to Deepak and kind of manage the property for its day-to-day operations. But even before we opened our gates to guests, I was significantly involved with all the restoration along with my father. You may not see as much of me every day, because I would rather let our people go about their work smoothly and work in background to make sure they are happy and are taken care of. My philosophy is that if we have employees who are happy and feel at home, they will make our guests happy too. Of course I do keep a close tab and rectify mistakes to make sure we learn each day.
In addition to running our operations, driving is a passion and I do accompany our guests on some of our Jeep Safaris and other experiences. My hope is that our effort brings more to Churu than just a good hotel – we continue to try and engage with other Haveli owners, administration and other stakeholders to hopefully revive the old town area and better showcase our wonderful heritage.