R. K. Jalan was also very famous as
a wonderful host. He made sure his guests were always given the best treatment,
as every Indian is supposed to provide, as per the hallowed tradition of Indian
hospitality. This was the case whether guests were staying with him, in the
four-bedroom Italian marbled guesthouse, which he had especially built,
projecting over the river Ganga, or on a simple museum visit.
It was because of this inviting
nature of R. K. Jalan’s and of his successors’ that the house had the honour to
host innumerable luminaries such as three Prime Ministers of India, Jawaharlal
Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Morarji Desai; four Viceroys; the actress Mary Pickford;
author and economist J. K. Galbraith, during his time as U.S. Ambassador to
India under the Kennedy administration; and three Presidents of India.
President Rajendra Prasad, in
particular, was a very good personal friend to the family. He remains the only
president of India to have served two terms, and hailed from Bihar himself.
R. K. Jalan and Jawaharlal Nehru
during one of the latter’s visits to Quila House
Nehru’s first visit to Quila House
in 1941 is mentioned in one of his letters to his daughter, future Prime
Minister Indira Gandhi. This letter is included amongst those published in the
collection “Two Alone, Two Together” by Sonia Gandhi. The Jalan family keep
their own memento of Nehru’s visit, in the form of a broken chair:
broken by Nehru when he climbed onto it to look more closely at one of the fine
clocks in the collection.
Other luminaries to
have visited Quila House include Field Marshall Manek Shaw, hero of the 1971
India-Pakistan war. He was so impressed by Napoleon III’s bed that he had
himself photographed with it. The same happened to a visiting Russian
ambassador. Such is the draw of the collection, that a prince of Quwait is said
to have flown out straight to Patna, only to see it.
Field Marshall Manek Shaw peruses the collection,
accompanied by late Shyam Manohar Jalan
Above, R. K. Jalan with a Rana of Nepal.
Below, the Rana with his Nepali entourage, looking out from the balcony
of the guesthouse over the Ganga
R. K. Jalan’s list of friendships
with Maharajas of Indian states and the royal family of Nepal also had them
enjoying the beauty of R. K. Jalan’s nature and open-hearted house. The Nepali
royal family, in particular, were regular visitors, coming to stay in the
guesthouse over the Ganga practically every year; their arrival heralded days
before by a truck from Nepal trundling up to the front gates
with their personal effects. One royal cousin was even married from the house in
the 1950s, and another passed away while on a visit, thus adding to the tales of
ghosts that are supposed to haunt the main house.
Mark Shand's first visit to Quila
House is memorably narrated in his book “Travels on My Elephant”, complete with
his elephant, Tara, knocking down the front gate as negotiations with the
gatekeeper fail to gain them a speedy enough entry. The book also describes his
visit to the Sonepur Mela and the Chhath Festival, two of the highlights of any
winter itinerary through Patna and Bihar. Since then Mark Shand has become a
royal brother-in-law, his sister Camilla Parker Bowles having married HRH the
Prince of Wales, heir to the British throne.
In modern times, the house has also
welcomed the adventurer and writer Mark Shand, and the internationally renowned
photojournalist Don McCullin.
Former Chief Minister of Bihar
Laloo Prasad Yadav
trying out a Tibetan sound bowl, watched by B. M. Jalan
Nowadays Quila House continues to host visits by well-known politicians,
including sucessive Chief Ministers and Governors of Bihar, former
Vice-President Bhairo Singh Shekhawat and actor-turned-politician Shatrughan
Above, Shatrughan Sinha greets B. M. Jalan, and
Nikhil Jalan and his wife Preety.
Below, former Vice-President Shekhawat
surrounded by the Jalan family
Quila House has been blessed to host
many religious visitors and holy people over the years. These include Osho,
better known inside and outside India as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh,
Shankracharyas past and present, and Anandmayee Ma. The latter stayed
for several days in the guesthouse, and during her stay she had the Ras Lila
from Vrindavan, the play on the “Dance of Divine Love” of Krishna and the
gopis, performed in the house.
Shankracharya of Singeri performs puja
in Quila House in the 1980s,
attended by (counter-clockwise from bottom left)
late S. M. Jalan, Satya Bhama Jalan
and G. M. Jalan ...
... and Shankracharya of Badrinath visits Quila House in 2009
Anandmayee Ma (sitting, in the white shawl) in the
guesthouse with Hira Lal
In the ‘50s and ‘60s, famous
Bollywood stars came to Quila House: Sunil Dutt, Prithviraj Kapoor, Raj Kapoor,
Nargis, … But, funnily enough, without the family fully measuring the popularity
and adulation enjoyed by their guests in the city outside their walls. Thus,
when Raj Kapoor and Nargis came to Patna for the premiere of their movie, and
tried to make their way to Quila House in the family car, once again made
available as per the family tradition, the expectant mob were so desperate to
get close to their idols that one of the windows of the car got smashed.
The car in question was a
Rolls-Royce, the only one of its model available in India at the time; which
rarity drew even the Rolls-Royce people themselves to come have a look at it.
During his lifetime, R. K. Jalan always insisted that this was the car that his
guests should use, and the tradition was kept even after his death.
Unfortunately, the car was then lost.
(How can a car be lost, you ask me?
Well, it was sent to a garage to be serviced. Some time later, when the family
started wondering why they weren’t seeing the Rolls being driven around anymore,
someone suddenly remembered where it had been sent. The family went looking for
it, ... and found no garage at the place, let alone the Rolls-Royce. Fancy
The Jalan family are particularly
proud to be able to welcome repeat guests. Histories abound of people looking
over visitors’ books to find their comments and signatures from previous visits
20, 30 or even 40 years back, and of first-time visitors pledging themselves to
return at least once.
The family also cherish having
several generations of visitors from same families. Grandparents happily bring
along their grandchildren to gawp and gaze at a collection that they may
themselves have discovered at a similar age. Many Patna schoolchildren come to
Quila House on school visits, rounded off with a picnic on the grounds. As an
outing, it is considered an especially safe environment for girls.
Quila House also played a great role
in the establishment of the Brahma Kumari Sanstha, whose
University, with courses on meditation and spiritual knowledge, is based in
Mount Abu in Rajasthan. This special relationship is still maintained by the
Brahma Kumaris to this day, by their coming to the house to tie rakhi
It is undeniable that there is a
special energy to Quila House, a quality that strikes repeat guests and
first-time visitors alike. This is perhaps not unrelated to the many ghost
stories that circulate about the house; although far from us to class such
distinguished visitors as those mentioned above alongside the lady in white who
once stunned the night guards by asking to be let into the house, and then
promptly vanishing into thin air.