Living in mumbai and looking for some peace and quiet...
I stumbled upon the verandah in the forest in matheran.
And its exactly what its name says...a quiet,
grand verandah...reminiscent of the
British bungalows of early 19th century...
In peak summer, when the whole of mumbai and beyond is rushing to matheran in a pointless point seeing frenzy...this was a welcome respite and more...
After being greeted with a refreshing lemon ginger drink (highly recommended ), on arrival at the verandah...I took some time to soak in the colonial era
furniture...something I had childhood memories of at my grandmothers place..
The old style chairs and the marble topped tables...the wrought iron chairs in the garden...and the old world cupboards with globular door knobs...all crept up from the crevices of my memory.
I suddenly realised how I had forgotten the days in the eighties when we slept lulled to the sound of the fan in the summers..after a busy day of playing outside...
Funny how even ACs do not provide the same
level of calm nowadays.
The rooms had huge ceilings, which gave me my much needed space,
the bed was a four poster especially relevant for the couples ;)
Neat, cool & clean.
Ours was named Peerbhoy,
each room is named after a Parsi gentleman.
The osciallting cinni fan from the 60s with its typical sound....
made me feel like we were right back in time.
The lemon ginger neem soaps and toiletries only further strengthened the
association of neem ginger with the place..
After a refreshing bath, we had a really lovely lunch as the long trot
up to the place on some moody unstable horsies had really made us hungry.
The lunch is on the verandah...overlooking the mini forest...
Id highly recommend the mutton gravy dishes there...subtly spiced, very soft and super yumm. They take a lot of care in preparing the menu and you can tell each item is prepared with a lot of tender care...(more info here )
The biggest factor that will bring us back to the place is service..
Understated, quick and caring service, from the manager, who used to quietly put
on the fans above us as we lounged on the lovely chairs,
to the waiters...who appeared as if by magic when your
chapatis or toasts finished, to offer some more.
What it gave a traveller is space...own space to lie back, reflect and get in tune with life..and what better way than on a hammock...under a canopy...slowly being lulled to sleep by a cool breeze.
Our demands like buttermilk - chaas (watered down yogurt with subtle Indian spices) for dinner, were met with a smile and quick service.
The main room of the bungalow is stunning, with its painted glass windows, the huge cathedral like high celings and old world charm.
The other factor was relaxation...nothing formal...lounge around in your favorite old shorts and an old tee, reading away or looking on at the trees swaying in the breeze.
Also helped me indulge in my tam bram fixation of licking my fingers after having some yumm thayir chadam (curd rice), Id recommend u have curd rice with the mutton gravy served at lunch, yumm is the word.
As you walk around the place, you realise why the place is different...because its the exact way in which the early Britishers lived in the early 1900s
If you ever plan on visiting India...you can experience how the early English men "braved" the famous Indian summers.
Although this bungalow was owned by the Dubashes, furniture for the most part is (almost) the same since the time the place was built in the early 1900s.
I can easily guess why its a hit with the current day embassy people, who prefer to spend most of their quiet weekends in this Sylvan retreat.
I was told by the managers how post monsoon everything was repainted and restored (and remember, you can only get supplies there on horseback, vehicles are not allowed in matheran! So everything required to run and refurbish the place was all brought on horseback!)
Children (and adults too ;) can have fun climbing the
little tree house, and having your tea there...away from it all, or simply
indulge in your own space.
All in all, excellent service, quiet solitude...and an old world charm...is what describes neemranas verandah in the forest.
And when I see the current trend of demolishing old structures to make way for new high rises, just taking a walk thru this painstakingly restored and well maintained bungalow is value for my money and peace for my soul.
We took the cheaper route of travelling by train till Neral station.
Only Karjat and Khopoli trains stop at Neral Stn.
So do check out the train timings in advance as the trains arrive only once an hour.
Cross over to the next platform, and ask people about
the taxi stand for going to Dasturi.
Charge is Rs.50 per person to Dasturi. the ride takes about half an hour.
Alternatively you can travel up to matheran station by the beautiful mini train, the ride takes 2 hours.
Once you reach Dasturi, you can take a horse (Rs.150 per person, do bargain!)
You can also call up and inform the neemrana people in advance, who can keep horses waiting for you at dasturi.
We didnt tell in advance and had to pay 200 rs per horse after a lot of bargaining.
You can also visit the various points in matheran which offer stunning views of the Deccan mountain plateaus and valleys.
You can visit the places on a hand pulled rickshaw or on moody horses, which are prone to sudden spurts of galloping on seeing other horses go by.
Hold on to your mares!
The Neemrana folk will arrange for all such point seeing activities.
Half of Gujarat, another half of maharashtra including my neighbours,
our street dogs, and the rest of the local populace were aldready
present in each of the points. (kidding)
This was peak summer season!
We ocaasionally glanced at a valley or a mountain range thru the hordes of uncles auntyjis in saris, who were more engrossed in having the bhelpuri than taking in the view.
You have the the option of some soul gazing at the nearby lords point,
which is just around the corner from the verandah, where the dusty red path,
typical to matheran, suddenly opens up and springs upon you a grand
panoramic view of mountains and valleys, reminding you with its quiet
simplicity that you are atop a mountain plateau after all.
The forests in Maharashtra have a typical old wood, eucalyptus kind of smell which I associate from childhood with the forests here...
Whereas the forests in coorg...are different...a more fresher pine deciduous smell (make sense of it if u can!)
While coming back from lords point we also got a chance to glance at
Gary Richardsons bungalow "keepsake"
Man youre a lucky guy, the house overlooks the valley with a stunning view.
After coming back to the verandah we walked about the place and I would recommend you see the before and after pictures of how the Verandah in the Forest
looked before being done over by the neemranas
( a typical Ramsay brothers bhoot bangla transformed to victorian elegance )
All in all, post verandah, mumbais life rankles a bit less...the world seems a lot more mellow, and as wodehouse would say, theres a lot more spirit and high ho as we go about the hum drums and nonsense of daily life.
Ah bien, this is the life.