India always brings colour and adventure into my life. The latest recent adventure was filming a BBC2 documentary called the Real Hotel Exotic Marigold in and around Jaipur. Inspired by the movie the Hotel Exotic Marigold, the BBC commissioned the TV Company TwoFour, to replicate the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel film, with a group of celebrities, in a series to be broadcast this January 2016.
The idea behind the series was to see if these celebrities could REALLY live here. As I am an ex-pat who has lived and worked in Jaipur for several years as a jewellery designer, I obviously know the reality of what it is to live there. I was asked to talk to them about my life there and give them an insight into how it is to live here as opposed to visiting, which are two very different things.
My favoured method of transport is in an auto with my trusty auto driver Billu, who knows every back street in Jaipur. So he took me to my first evening of filming with the celebrities . They were the singer Patti Labelle, actor Silvester McCoy, actress Miriam Margolyes, news broadcaster Jan Leeming, dancer Wayne Sleep, celebrity chef Rosemary Shrager, comedien Roy Walker and dart player Bobby George, and we all met at the gorgeous Bar Palladio in the Narain Niwas Hotel in Jaipur. It is a favoured ex-pat hang out, serves lovely italian food, hosts cultural events and is a centre for all of us to gather.
Jan Leeming was particularly interested in what real life was like here, and over dinner I explained that as I have an apartment inside a delightful Royal Indian Family home, I am very protected and mentored and have a whole Indian social circuit, which transforms my life in Jaipur. It means I get to go to amazing Indian weddings, birthday parties and celebrate the Indian festivals with them. And of course I have a maid and a cook which helps. I love life here as I am constantly inspired for my creative work as a designer and have a great team of goldsmiths who I work with. Also Jaipur is an alladin's cave for jewellery designers as it is a major gem hub and trading centre for gemstones from all over the world.
I decided after I had met them for dinner, that to give them a special taste of behind the scenes Indian life, I would invite them to an Indian birthday party. But this was no ordinary birthday party it was for- the Maharaja of Karauli.
The Maharaja of Karauli's family home is Bhanwar Vilas Palace, which is in the town of Karauli. This fabulous palace is situated in the golden triangle of India and is in an ancient, devotional city. The ruling family are considered to be descendants of Lord Krishna. You can also stay here as the family have opened it up as a hotel. I would highly recommend it, as it is one of favourite places in India. Full of charm and like stepping back in time. It is a gem of a place, with a stunning city palace in the centre of the town, which has some of the most amazing frescoes in all of India. I am very lucky as the whole family have adopted me into their lives.
So the celebrities arrived and much to their surprise and delight, were treated to feasts and dancing. But before the festivities started, The Maharani of Karauli, who deserves a nobel peace prize as an un sung heroine and a tireless social worker, took me Rosemary Shrager, Miriam Margoyles and Silvester McCoy, to one of the many villages she supports, where they met the villagers, and were able to talk to them about their lives and see the work she does there.
After the village trip, we came back and the nights events unfolded. Lots of the villagers came to wish the Maharaja happy birthday and the Maharani held court with the ladies.
As the night wore on the dancing started. Because the Maharaja is the 888th descent of Lord Krishna, the celebrations were to honour Lord Krishna.
Jan Leeming, Patti Labelle, Rosemary Shrager and I all enjoyed the festivities
When the dancing ended the banquet began. Patti Labelle sang for us and Roy Walker told us some yarns. It was very magical and special evening enjoyed by all.
The next day, we all headed back for Jaipur, and by then Jan Leeming was wanting to see my apartment, meet my landlady the lovely Sangeeta and get me to help her find some potential apartments to live in herself. So we spent the next couple of days doing that.
It all ended with a fabulous wrap party, in the magical haveli where they had all stayed. We had a rooftop, candlelit party, where we were entertained by the celebs.
Wayne Sleep danced a Bollywood number, for which he had been secretly practising....
Rosemary Shrager, Jan Leeming and Patti Labelle attempted to re in act some moves and songs from the Three Degrees...
A fabulous and fun party. The shooting had come to an end. Different celebrities had different experiences and views on India. You can watch them all and the story unfold shortly on BBC2 - the programme is called The Real Hotel Exotic Marigold and will be aired as a series in 3 parts, to be broadcast towards the end of January 2016.
To view Emma Chapman's jewellery you can visit her website