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Playing host to Madonna

Last updated on: January 09, 2008 14:49 IST

Madonna and Guy Ritchie began their visit to India with a few days in Rajasthan. January providing them ideal weather to explore the state, the pop megastar and her family started out her stay at Udaipur's regal Rohet Garh -- a 17th century heritage resort -- by camping in two luxury tents at the resort's wilderness camp, 17 kilometers away from the resort itself.

 

"She went riding everyday," says Thakur Manvendra Singh, the owner of the hotel. Madge has always been into horses, despite having broken three ribs from a fall back in 2005. "She rode to the different settlements, to the rural areas where the Bishnois and other local communities live. She rode all the way to Loni Fort, and each ride was about 25 kilometres."

 

The family -- Madonna and Ritchie came with children Lourdes, Rocco and David -- are very private people, says Singh, not wanting to divulge much personal details. "The security was very tight, and they didn't want anybody to know about the visit.

 

"She's a reserved person," Singh says of the 49-year-old legend. "It took her a little while to open out. After which she was very nice indeed. Her husband is very nice as well."

 

Rajasthani food, heavy on spices, takes some getting used to, especially for foreigners, but Madonna dove right in. "Oh, she was eating only Rajasthani cuisine, with a few minor exceptions from time to time. It isn't about the stereotypical Rajasthani dishes, she was having proper family food prepared at home with all of us, and loving it."

 

While in the resort, there was no exposure to the media. Not that the paparazzi was throwing in the towel, of course. "She went riding and the paparazzi stalked her in a jeep and took photographs of her," marvels Singh. "They just don't give up.

 

"It is a demanding experience," Singh admits after having hosted the Ritchies. "You have to be on your toes. They are high profile guests and you have to be prepared for any unexpected demand they make."

 

The Ritchies enjoyed their Rajasthani sojourn considerably, though. While Madge's son Rocco and David played football with Singh's grand-nephew and the local village lads, the star herself made the most of it with the Singh's annual traditional evening. This is a lavish event involving the Singhs' personal family and close friends, and the Ritchies were invited -- and had a blast.

 

"One thing I can say about her is that she is an incredibly good dancer," Singh grins, not surprising anyone with his statement. "She took one look at the traditional folk dance steps and joined right in! It isn't easy to pick up the dance, and she did that immediately! It was fantastic."

 

Photograph: PTI

Raja Sen