Sunday, August 28, 2011

Mumbai weekend getaway : Hideout

I guess you have changed your plans said mom over the phone. I looked out, I could barely see the roads from home. It was pouring really hard. I told her I will try and talk Pari out of our plans to spend the weekend at Vikramgadh, our friend Hemant's farmstay called Hideout.

Seriously, I would have chickened out, had I been the key decision maker on this occasion; but T's excitement and Pari's determination did not allow me to. After a quick breakfast, we attempted to travel light. The plans were to spend Saturday there, and drive back by Sunday afternoon. We packed in a few fruits and some biscuits just in case....

Once the drive began, we realised that the rains were not in any way deceptive. They were there to stay. I was grossly uncomfortable, as my mind kept moving back and forth the pages of the daily newsprint - roads caved in, tree falls, potholes galore....yada yada yada. And each time, I attempted to think aloud, Pari reminded me that I need to have a slightly more positive bent of mind.

We drove past the Mumbai- Ahmedabad expressway. I unfortunately don't have a kind word for this highway. It is terribly maintained, no respite from traffic. The containers and tankers slant precariously while attempting to dodge the potholes. After spending ~3 hours on the Mumbai roads, we turned left at the Fountain hotel. Now we were on to better meandering roads, surrounded by lush greens, the rains beating at our window panes, the clouds rolling over the hill tops, and a constant pitter patter on the roof of our car.

The green patch under the trees was not visible on our way back coz of water logging

Closer to the destination, there was another stretch of ~20 kms which was as bad, but the natural beauty around, made the journey passable. Unlike what I had imagined, it was not the kind of farm which had level fields. The owners had purchased a teak cultivation few decades back. Hemant informed us that they had used what he called 'Ahimsa farming'. Barring a few, most trees and plants, had been brought in by the birds and bees. It's a friendly ecosystem, he informed us. When birds and insects realise they can survive in an ecosystem unhindered, without trouble, they frequent such spots and are responsible for seed dispersal and pollination.

Enroute to the waterfalls

Ever since we landed there, we only witnessed rain and more rain. We weathered it to explore Hemant's cultivated lands. We were excited to see teak, 24 species of bananas, Italian lime which in a typical season bears ~1500 fruit per tree. Pineapples, chickoo, jowar, lady's finger, amaranth, bamboo, papaya.... There is also a vegetable patch which was recently planted when a group of school children came in for an educational tour.

With the host
There were cashew plants too. An interesting learning was, freshly sprouted cashew plants (around 3-4 weeks old) when cooked taste like chicken liver. Ah! how does vegetarian liver sound?! While we walked into the thickets, we saw snails, earthworms, frogs, millipedes and loads of mushrooms, toadstools. The plantains offer a fibre which the family uses to make banana fibre bags and other products which they then sell to a leading store in India.

We also saw a tribal home made with jowar plant - woven together and then plastered with mud. The life of such a house is ~2 yrs, after which they need to rebuild it. You can see one such in the pic below.

Outside a tribal home
At Hideout they raise cows to provide manure. This helps them to regenerate the soil that is lost due to erosion. There were 2 wells on the lands.

Gau pooja - these cows are not milked to avoid weakening them

Another interesting quip, if a tube well runs dry, just dig a well next to it and it then flourishes. These are some of the learnings that our host has had over the last few decades of working closely on his land.

There is a resident artist, Dom, who is a jack of all trades. He is talented and has a sense of humor. He took a yoga session for us the next morning, he cooks - he's training to cook health food, he designs homes and he also helps entertain guests. He's trained in Italy at glass blowing and is a product designer for the stores viz Bombay store, Fab India etc..

Dom- seeks his inspiration

Our host has also tied up with a few spirited youngsters, who drop in on weekends and entertain guests, with games, dance, clay & other art/ craft workshop or even accompanying them to interesting spots like the waterfalls, nature trails.

At the waterfall, in spate

The kitchen is an open kitchen with an adjoining dining area. There is a dining table for those who like to have a sit down meal, and the more flexible of us could opt to swing while we had our tea or rock ourselves to sleep after one.

Gas-lanterns help conserve electricity

Only healthy foods served here, incl lime shots :)

Wooden chula used for cooking

The meals were served on time and were healthy and tasty. I simply loved the herbal decoction which had a blend of basil, ginger and lime with jaggery syrup. Piping hot, it went very well with the cold damp weather outside. T loved the corn soup with a hint of lemon basil. It had a zing to it. Oh! did I mention the lemon preserve. It was simply yummy.

Lanterns line the path to the individual mud houses

Attempting to play some music with the quaint instrument

We spent the night at the mud house, it is made completely with mud and bricks, and has NO windows. The windows are replaced by some eco friendly jute fibres bordering which is some printed silk. The roof top has mangalore tiles, suited to the rainy weather. Our 4 poster wooden beds were covered with net to make sure we did not get bitten by any insects/ bugs. We urbanites are extra cautious. While we lay with our eyes open on our beds it was pitch dark, with the sound of the rain on the roof top, the leaves and the little puddles; we evidenced a light display. No, nothing man made!!! simple yet beautiful. Only God could have created something as beautiful as that. There were glow worms doing a jig for us :) It was a delight to watch them. What we found exciting was that inspite of not having windows we did not have any intruders - wildbeests, insects/ bugs in our rooms. All we had for company were the natural sounds - the crickets, the pitter patter, lady bugs...oh! to go wild again.

Lil T had a friendly pet (dog) Tuffy for company, a rope ladder to learn her tricks, lil Ayaana who's full of beans.

A few kms away we visited some village folk who raised fowls, rabbits and some cattle. We were surprised to see a fawn colored calf, heavily guarded by the elders (buffalos). We always thought buffaloes were a dark shade of grey- black, not fawn or brown.

It was afternoon the next day, and the rains did not seem to be in any hurry to exit. The dam closeby had overflowed, and the the waters were now on the roads making it impossible for us to drive past. All we could do was wait for the Rain Gods to be kind to us. It was 3:30 pm the next day, and Hemant too had to get back to Mumbai. We decided to leave the farm together. His being a heavier vehicle made it past the overflooded roads, but we were sceptical. He waited at the other end for us, giving us directions and asking us to be patient. He said, given time, as the rain was now a gentle drizzle, we could hope for the waters to recede a bit. Thank God! we managed to get past the floods, with careful manoevering by P.

It was a fun weekend; which lil T termed FUN but too SHORT.


Gauri said...

Lovely and detailed descriptions.. gives the reader vicarious pleasure.. also noticed that this has been a botany class of sorts for l'il T.. am sure it will stay imprinted for much longer than any lessons learnt in future textbooks..

GP said...

Tnx for the liberal praise :)

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