Heir to India’s famed Munnu the Gem Palace, Siddharth Kasliwal trades jewels for memories in a small, spare farmhouse outside of Jaipur that his late father renovated and decorated.
I was just a boy when my father, Munnu, surprised the family by buying a farmhouse in the desert outside of Jaipur. He purchased it from a farmer and his family, who were living there in a room next to the cowshed. My dad loved the rustic structure and the beautiful setting in the foothills of the Aravalli mountain range.
The country home of the Kasliwal family — owners of the legendary Indian jewelry house Munnu the Gem Palace — in a converted cowshed on the outskirts of Jaipur.
Understand that this was the early 1990s, when a new India was emerging. The trend at the time was to build houses that showed your wealth, and to furnish them with chandeliers, Jacuzzis, swimming pools, and marble statues. My father went the other way, toward minimalism and tranquility. He dreamed of a place where he could sit with friends and family, enjoy a cup of masala chai tea or a cocktail, gaze up at the stars, and have a wonderful evening.
A pass-through space between the kitchen and bedroom is used as a living area. The chair is in mango wood and rope, the accountant’s desk is from the 19th century, and the antique dining table and cabinet were purchased in Rajasthan.
For him, less was more. That amazed a lot of people. Here was this jeweler, heir to Jaipur’s Gem Palace, surrounded by spectacular things — jewelry encrusted with rubies, sapphires, and diamonds — who chooses to create for himself a home that is the essence of simplicity.
On a terrace overlooking the pool, the charpoy — a traditional Indian woven bed — was designed by a local artisan.
Since he died in 2012 at the very young age of 54, I have followed in his footsteps. It’s my favorite place in the world. My father built our country home inside the farm’s original cowshed. He cleaned it up, added a second story, and painted everything white.
The bathroom’s walls, shelves, and vanity are sheathed in red Indian limestone plaster from Rajasthan. “It’s a very old, traditional technique that is easy to maintain,” says Siddharth Kasliwal. His father purchased the circa-1900 mirror from an antiques shop in Jodhpur.
The house is small, with just one bedroom. In fact, when I was a kid, my parents stayed in the bedroom, and my younger brother and I would sleep in the living room. There is no air-conditioning, just a couple of 1950s fans, and because we’re in a village, we only get electricity for 12 to 18 hours a day.
In the kitchen, the custom cabinetry was made by a local artisan; brass urns hold wheat, rice, and other grains.
The house today is exactly as my father decorated it. He furnished the rooms with pieces gathered on his travels throughout India and the world. The slanted desk in the living room is an antique that once belonged to an accountant at one of the royal palaces. It’s low to the ground because the accountants sat cross-legged on stools.
Kasliwal rides Mr. John, one of his Marwari horses.
My father found artisans to decorate the bathroom in red limestone, a typical Rajasthani material. All the other elements — the brass sink and hardware, the mirror — are vintage or antique. And yet he made everything feel so contemporary. The only addition I brought to the property was a stable for my horses. I love to ride and have two Marwari horses, a beautiful Indian breed that is tall and lean with a lovely gait.
A terrace overlooks the garden. The furniture, all handmade, has cotton cushions sewn by the family’s tailor.
People have always loved visiting here. The Rolling Stones were Gem Palace clients, and whenever they came to Jaipur, my father would bring them out to this house. Dinner guests have included Hollywood stars like Susan Sarandon and Pierce Brosnan, fashion designer Oscar de la Renta, and quite a few heads of state. But we don’t just cater to boldface names. Whether you are a hippie from the Himalayas or a European royal, young or old, everyone is equally welcome here.
Jana Pasquel de Shapiro, president of Munnu the Gem Palace’s U.S. division, is a longtime family friend and frequent guest at the farm.
Today, my mother still tends to the gardens. We have more than 2,000 trees on the grounds, including lemon, tamarind, jacaranda, mango, and acacia. There are orchards of guava and custard apple, and plantings of roses and jasmine for scent and color. We have a new cowshed and make our own paneer cheese from the cow’s milk.
Shelves hold vintage Indian photographs, old fans, and a chunk of rock crystal.
We are vegetarian and grow everything we need right here on the farm. A typical dinner might include organic lentils, peas, cauliflower, and okra, my favorite, which in India we call “lady finger.” I love to sit out on the open terrace with guests listening to live Indian folk musicians.
A daybed made by a local artisan and a Rajasthani cocktail table furnish a lounge.
As much as I enjoy entertaining, I often just come here by myself. Whenever I have a major deadline or work pressure, I’ll escape to the house — it’s just 12 miles from our home in the center of Jaipur — to work. It’s like entering a meditation hall or a spa. I immediately feel so relaxed. It’s an incredible feeling — all your worries are gone, and you are just living for the moment.
On a table strewn with flowers from the garden, the Munnu the Gem Palace belt is in 22-karat gold with a diamond buckle.
And on a more emotional level, I come here to connect with my father. When he died, I lost my business partner, guru, teacher, mentor, and best friend. I feel his presence in this home. It’s the best thing he left us — even more valuable to me than the Gem Palace and all its priceless stones.
The thatched-straw roof on the “indoor terrace” “acts like a natural air conditioner in summer and contains heat in winter,” Kasliwal says. The bamboo muddha chairs were made by local artisans. The ceiling beams are of eucalyptus wood, and the floor is red limestone.
You can’t put a price on a place like this, and that is its beauty. I learned from my father that you don’t need a 10-bedroom house to be happy.
Photos: Cyrill Matter
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