Finding the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
After watching the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel movie for a third time in 2015, it suddenly struck me that there were a series of extraordinary principles being acted out. These principles were serious concerns for many people who were closing in on their the 60s and 70s. The new generation of older people grew up in an age where retirement homes sounded like a death sentence; the last place anyone wanted to end up, and if they did it would be the last place.
This inspiration coupled with my years of personal development training and skill brought me to decide to actualise a personal development retreat specifically for this age group. I belong to this group too and know some of the challenges we face are ones that others are yet to arrive at.
With this in mind, in 2017, my wife Delaine and I set out to find a location that would be ideal to bring it to fruition. In the beginning we had decided on using the Indonesian island of Bali, and its here we began the search. We wanted the experience to be as close to the film location so we were not looking for a five-star hotel, but a slightly run-down one, and we hoped for a business partnership.
We started out with five months in Bali, plenty of time to explore the whole island. The first thing which was clear is that a retreat couldn't be in the heart of tourism, particularly the south coast, Kuta, Legian, Seminyak; nor could it be in the centre of Ubud. We went to the less popular north coast, which indeed is quite beautiful and quiet, but difficult to get there; five hours on decrepit roads.
Finally, we settled on the east coast spot of Candidasa, and a rather old traditional Balinese Ida Beach Resort, and we set about trying to come to an arrangement with the owners. As it turned out the hotel was the dream of a deceased man who's widow rather liked the plan, but as with most Asian cultures the final decision lay with the two sons. One of them would have liked to keep his mother happy, but the other was unimpressed seeing it might require investment and work on his part.
The longer the discussions lasted the sooner I became disillusioned with Candidasa itself. At the time the volcano Mt Agung had become active and closed down Bali's only international airport trapping hundreds of tourists. The local population was being evacuated from the surrounding districts through Candidasa, making it ever more obvious that there was only one main road and it went right through the middle of the town.
I started looking at what was the real requirements for a Marigold project, and it soon became clear that there needed to be access to a reasonable sized city, and at that point we abandoned Bali, at least for the moment. We returned back to New Zealand to review our plan.
In 2018 we were introduced to an Indian business man from Kerala who suggested that we would find the ideal on the Kerala backwaters, and he had introductions to a resort that would suit the project. So began the next stage of the search. As it turned out we explored the coast of Kerala from Fort Cochin to Kovalam but nothing stood out. What we did discover is that most of India's tourism industry is internal. Indians visiting other parts of India. Not only this, but there was hardly a developed service industry. Mostly we were treated offhandedly, and often mislead.
It was very hard to find any restaurants serving food suitable to the European palate, always too much chilli and spice. Even if you asked for “low spice”, and no chilli, the waiter would promise this was possible, the resulting dishes were hardly edible. It later became clear that when they said, yes to low spice, they meant they had heard that you wanted low spice, not that they were going to bring that. The reality was the food was prepared and the spices and chilli were already part of this. This, as it turned out became an important part of the search and the final selection.
Once we were back in the west, people often ask whether we “loved India”, which seems an anomaly because the real impression of India is intense! However, I get beyond myself. We explored all of south India..... Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Goa and Pondicherry, and throughout it was very similar. Beautiful exciting cities, extreme traffic, poor clogged roads and insane drivers, but throughout there was still an amazing quality that is extremely hard to put into words. Once again, the Best Exotic film comes back into focus, because it captured it.
After a bit of R&R in Auroville, and later at the Theosophical HQ in Adyar, we decided to fly to Rajasthan and see the actual Marigold Hotel which in reality is called Rawla Khempur. Up to this stage we had travelled by car and train, which turned out the train was more comfortable than the car, or at least the drivers.
We flew into the capital of Rajasthan, Jaipur, the pink city and found a reasonable guest house, which happened to be alongside the rail track. All night the trains stream past,blasting their horns as the passed over road crossings. It was extraordinarily noisey, at that is saying something against the background of noisey India.
There was an upside to this, which was a local novelty restaurant called “Vegetrainian” which delivered the food on the tray of a model train. This was one thing, but the food was designed for children with far less spices. It was a fun evening with edible food..... yum!
After trying to sleep with earplugs to no avail, we decided to find another hotel which took us to the old city, and a 300 year old palace off the main street. From there we planned our trip to Ravla Khempur, which Google says is in a small town called Mavli, which is about an hour from Udaipur. So we go to Udaipur and find a hotel to base from, and the next day we go to Mavli with no untoward circumstances it seems. Having arrived there, and relying on old father google maps we set off to walk the short distance to Marigold. When google tells us we have arrived it turns out we have arrived at the rusting old sign that tells us Ravla Khempur is 9km down the road, a little too far to walk.
Sitting at the corner is a guy in his car, eating lunch. We rock on over and attempt to persuade him to drive us. He's very reluctant, but eventually agrees and we jump in before he can change his mind. Actually, he has rung a guy he knows and we meet up with a beat up minibus which will take us to the place. Its all working out. Ten minutes later we're standing in a mini-village in the middle of the desert.... This is the location of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel! The most amazing thing is that after the minibus has left there is absolutely no sound at all. Almost an impossibility in India.
After wandering in an empty space, eventually the manager arrives to meet us and introduce himself. After we have explained our mission he takes us on the “tour”. It turns out that very little of the hotel is the movie, in the main it is all props and filming angles. Even the street market was erected outside in the dust. The only thing recognisable is the entrance. Ravla Khempur is in fact, a famous horse breeding stables for Marwari and Kathiawari horses, and the owner is a famous breeder.
Ravla Khempur is a hotel for horse people who want to go riding; it has eight rooms and sixteen stables. It does have a lovely big swimming pool, and is an excellent place to go on silent retreat; there is nobody to distract and nowhere to go, in fact the silence is deafening. The manager and staff are lovely and friendly but it was immediately clear this wasn't what we were looking for.
At this point it became clear that we had overlooked the obvious. The Ravla Khempur is a 300 year old palace owned by a Rajput family (descendants of ruling Hindu warriors), but the hotel we had found in Jaipur was in the same league, and far more like the Marigold in the movie than Ravla Khempur was.
Once we arrived back we began to test the opportunity and found that it was perfect. The hotel reception is run by Ali and his friend, Arif. Ali is very like Sonny from the film without the madness. A competent, friendly, calming influence capable of providing pretty much whatever you want. Remembering that India has it all. The hotel has been the Rajput family's home since its building in the late 1600s, and has only been a hotel for ten years. It is in the process of renewal as well as retaining its heritage, much like a metaphor for how we see the Marigold Retirement Plan. That is, people coming to renew their passion for life without losing their heritage or history.
After a very personable meeting with the current owner's son, who incidentally was the only person we came across in India who had been at university studying hospitality. In reality, the only person who seems to have any idea at all about the service industry. He showed us the whole of the hotel, including a secret passage that leads next door to his uncle's restaurant. The greatest surprise is that this restaurant is aware of European taste and so doesn't put spices and chilli in the cooking until after it is ordered so you get exactly what you want. They are also very willing to provide whatever food we request, which makes it easy for individual needs.
The meeting with the son happened on the very last evening in Jaipur, and so our trip to India ended by finding the perfect Marigold Retirement location.
What is BE-GREAT and how do you “be great”?
There are many thousands of teachers, speculators, instructors and coaches speaking about getting to a place of peace. Quite a lot of them actually know what they're talking about, and a lot of their audience think they know what their teacher, guide is telling them. The challenge isn't knowing but applying something.
Edgar Cayce was known as the “sleeping prophet” and in many of the readings he gave for people he would start with the phrase “know that each soul constantly meets its own self”. This is a very useful restating of the ancient adage of “know thyself”.
We hear a lot of theory being talked about, and models are brilliant and useful, but there are no words in being great. A number of years ago I had a fully fledged isolation tank. There was no light at all, almost imperceptible sound and only the slightest of temperature sensation. I would float on the surface of the Epsom salts contemplating inner space. One day I happened to consider that in the darkness I had no perception of space at all. I knew the walls of the tank were only a few centimetres away but I was suspended in an infinite world. Not only was I unable to sense the edges of perception but I had no idea whether I was floating above the ground or I was face down suspended from the ceiling. I could explore this in my mind but it was simply pointless because I had no points of reference, and then my mind stopped.
Not only had space extended into infinity, but time had become eternity. My heart was beating, that much was obvious, because I was witnessing the pulse. I could have put my mind onto something and conjured it up, but if not I was completely empty, a very rewarding emptiness. This was a space that had no location at all. If anything it was a core, a centre, the heart-space.
We are often encouraged to come to our hearts, and it seems as if it is the physical heart that holds this speciality, and from there jumps to somehow getting in touch with feelings and then emotions. So what if this heart-space is a centre beyond location, how will you discover it?
In this world of paradox, you have to define something before you can let go of it. You need to know exactly what it is that you're letting go of. You have to witness the thing, experience, pain, suffering, addiction or whatever, and then you have to witness letting it go, moving out of it. The two positions of witness are not the same. One witness is located in time and space and the other is located in eternal infinity. It is a shift in perception from Being to Being Great.
I have been researching consciousness all of my life, and consciously at least fifty years. Its a very long time, and I don't believe I have finished yet. Like all things the further you get the more subtle the distinctions and the more powerful they become. An early teacher of mine said something that has stayed with me. She said, “I can't show you how to get there, only the paths through which I have trodden”. Its such a powerful truth. Every individual is unique, and every path is uniquely their own. I can demonstrate techniques, offer prescriptions, and explore the signposts with you.
You are still a great spiritual being exploring consciousness on your own terms. Should you choose to ignore the signposts, turn back through fear, become lost in pride, or pity, it is your journey, your book you are writing.
Have you ever thought about your “Comfort Zone”?
“Comfort Zone” is a misnomer because its anything but comfortable, its simply a place which is familiar. The “comfort zone” is not where you can fulfill your bucket list.
Do you have a dream or a desire that you have justified putting off? What's the excuse?
- Fear that you can't do it
- You don't know how
- You are worried about the consequences
- Other reasons
One thing is certain, that is you don't have time! Young people often think they have plenty of time, but even this is not pre-ordained.
There's a lot said and written about Emotional Intelligence, which among other things, includes a willingness and the ability to try new things, along with a desire for growth and change. After birth there are two things that are inevitable, death and change.
Magic happens outside of the comfort zone. Magic is unexpected; you can prepare the way for it, set your mind for it, but it needs you to let go of the reins of control for it to happen. For the mind to stay healthy it has to stay open, and this means doing things you haven't done or experienced before, building new neural pathways and expanding the plasticity of the mind.
If you keep repeating what you've done before you'll always remain wondering. If only........ and there lies the challenge of wondering, longing, stuck, frustrated and still dreaming. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel movie offered a challenge that everyone but one took. Just one person was stuck in their old paradigm, structure, and prison of her own making. Will that be you? Are you able to say “Hell, No!”
So who is the you on the other side of the comfort zone? Do you dare to look?
The BE-GREAT Retreat and the Best Exotic Marigold Retirement Plan offers a once in a lifetime opportunity to break out of prison and explore outside the comfort zone in a safe, supported and exciting container. Simply bring yourself and your willingness, and let Magic happen.