Rajiv Arora’s Jaipur

The co-founder of Amrapali – one of India’s leading jewellery brands, which employs more than 2,000 craftsmen – is also one of Rajasthan’s ministers of state

Rajiv Arora in Jaipur
Rajiv Arora in Jaipur | Image: Gauri Gill

Saturday is a working day for me. I start with half an hour of yoga at home, followed by a walk in the deer park. I am joined by my business partner, Rajesh Ajmera, with whom I started Amrapali in 1978. Early mornings are generally calm, so we get a chance to exchange thoughts and ideas. Once the frenzy of a day in Jaipur begins, this is often difficult to manage.  

I then spend a few hours on my social and political work, meeting constituents, to hear grievances and give guidance to youngsters. Politics is a complex game requiring a personal touch.

I always try to have lunch in my office with Rajesh, over food prepared by his mother – the best cook imaginable. She makes Jaipur specialities, which are all sattvik, easy on the stomach. But I have a sweet tooth, and often round off our meal with ras malai – made of cheese, saffron, milk and nuts – from Natraj, a shop renowned for its authentic Indian sweets.

In the afternoon, I might go to our factory to meet our design team. I see what they’re working on and we pull out our stock of gemstones and discuss new ideas. Or I might visit the City Palace Museum, one of the most important architectural sites in Jaipur. I go there for inspiration and contemplation, and to look at the exquisite antique textiles, intricate daggers and old carriages.

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Saturday evening is the time to meet friends, designers or artists, or colleagues from the Jaipur Citizen Forum. I like to take people to 1135 AD, a restaurant in Jaipur’s 16th-century Amber Fort, owned by a dear friend. At night, all lit up, it looks like a jewel in a crown and you can see the old ruins of Amber, the original capital of Rajasthan, and the glittering skyline of Jaipur. The food is delicious and the chef prepares a special Rajasthani thali for us on a huge silver platter.

On the way home, we often stop at Pandit Kulfi, near to the famous Hawa Mahal, the Palace of Winds, for hand-churned ice cream made from condensed milk. And no Indian meal is complete without paan, the palate freshener of betel leaf, betel nuts and spices, which we get from Murli Paan Bhandar, a Jaipur landmark in Tripolya Bazar.  

Alternatively, I’ll go to the Peshawari restaurant in the refurbished ITC Rajputana hotel, which serves the best Mughlai and tandoori food; its kebabs are the best in town. Although Saturday evening might also find me at one of the many weddings, fashion shows or book readings I get invited to. I could receive 20 wedding invitations for a particularly auspicious Saturday. Many events are associated with Jaipur festivals that I’ve helped to instigate, such as the literary festival that takes place in January.  

On Sunday morning I spend time with my wife Neeru, and my son Tarang and daughter-in-law Akanksha – both of whom work with me at Amrapali – and my daughter Tanvi. For breakfast, my wife prepares south-Indian idlis and dosas, and I order lassi from Lassiwala. Its yoghurt drink is so much in demand that it will often be sold out by 2pm. Then, I’ll go to Anokhi, a store popular for its block-print clothes and textiles. There’s a nice café there, too, and I might have a lunch of salad, ginger tea and carrot cake. I also love watching cricket on Sunday afternoon during the Indian Premier League season, and polo in the winter.

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In the evening, my favourite place to relax is Steam, a restaurant in an old royal steam-train coach at the Rambagh Palace hotel, where I order Lebanese food or pizza. Inside, it’s like the Orient Express. The ambience is fantastic and you are pampered like a king. It is the perfect preparation for me to start a new week with new energy.

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