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Search for serenity

The city isn’t a restful place. Head out, a little away from the rush, to find the joy that lies in quiet retreats crafted for the stressed-out urbanite

TREK, READ, SLEEP – KALI TIGER RESERVE, KARNATAKA

A home in the middle of a tiger reserve—unheard, unseen. I am taken by surprise at this homestay in Kali Tiger Reserve, Karnataka. The sound of woodpeckers echoes through the passage that leads to Off The Grid. I am not prepared for an open-air kitchen, windows without doors and a mindblowing view of the forest. Tarzan, Mowgli—they all pop up in my head.

This is nothing like I had imagined. The mud oven in the shape of a leopard, the gurgling brook, the water heated and food cooked on wood, the guard dogs inside at night for danger lurks. This is a fairytale come alive. Solar panels and pottery unit on one side and a waterfall for swimming in the neighbourhood—this is a holiday that takes you beyond the ordinary to the extraordinary.

The brainchild of John Pollard, white water rafting expert and nature lover, and his wife Sylvia Kerkar, a ceramic potter, the homestay is a perfect detox getaway. Long before the area came under the reserve, they had bought this patch. Now they grow veggies, fruits and run this out-of-the-world experience. Solar heating, campfires, no digital devices– this is the retreat to catch up on your sleep and reading. Everything here has been made by the couple.

Every morning, I walk with my guide to find bear marks, nilgais, porcupine quills, leopard poop, snake holes, a place where the phone network works. We wade through streams, listen to the birds, wait for the leopard to show itself, cutting through the branches to make way. I sigh for all too soon, the three days are over. But maybe one day I shall be back to this wilderness near Castle Rock.

NATURE’S BALM – NIMBA NATURE CURE

My nape area is knotted—wrong postures, non-stop peeking into the smartphone and long hours in front of the computer have taken their toll. I am unable to lift my arm and Dr Shiny Benedict is listening to my woes with a calm expression. I am in a green and serene environ and the world looks promising.

The landscaped garden houses a labyrinth, nakshatra circle, a dedicated space for fire rituals to appease the elements and lots of flowers, trees, birds and a happy set of people. This is Nimba Nature Cure on the Ahmedabad-Mehsana Expressway. Well known as the largest naturopathy centre in Gujarat, it is a place to detox and distress.

Within the many acres are housed the cottages, gazebos, yoga hut, separate space for non-invasive treatments and a small model village. I discover cows, pottery, getting back to your normal self without the need for medicines, time on the swings, an outdoor gym and natural ways of staying fit. The doctors remind me that pain is a reminder by the body that it needs rest. Light, nutritious food, fresh air, some hot massages, restful nights and minimal digital interventions–after three days, I feel much better.

The centre is a blend of all that is peaceful. And the doctor has prescribed hot potli massage with head massage, Balinese massage the next day and Shirodhara on the last day. The day is packed with yoga, music therapy, chirping of birds, walks in the labyrinth to leave the confusion behind, finding the tree that matches my nakshatra and just enjoying the green space. There is no hurry, no pressure and no competition, just a balm that only Nature can provide for it doesn’t demand. The doctors recommend a 7-10 day stay, but in just three days I feel so relaxed.

A DATE WITH TIME – NIRAAMAYA RETREATS, KUKAS

As the morning rays play with the grass, a long-tailed bird hops around. The breakfast table is laid with crystal glasses, sparkling metal cutlery, bone china plates. Fresh fruits lie covered, a cheese tray next to it, fresh fruit juice in a tray of marigolds—a stay at Srinivas, a private residence by Niraamaya Retreats makes me feel like a queen. I haven’t moved a finger for anything except to click pictures. It’s difficult to believe I am so close to the city of Jaipur, just 30 km away, and not feel the pace. This is Kukas, close to Amer which is better known for its fort. As far as the eye goes, there is sky and Aravalli range, no concrete buildings mar the view.

Sitting amid the trees, eating with the birds, watching the ponies, and the joyful pet dog Luka, this is my ‘nth’ visit to the city. But with each trip a new vista unfolds. This location is as far from the world as it could be. This is the home of Maharaja Karanvijay Singh of Jodhpur. The heritage property has seven suites and each of them have a distinct character. I am staying in Tikka Sahib suite—this is where the royal family’s close friend Maharajah of Patiala stayed. No TV in my room, only fresh fruits, nuts, coffee machine and bathroom amenities by Kama.

Antique furniture, gorgeous chandeliers, four-poster beds, old-world hospitality, and I am transported to the days of royalty. Arrow heads, old trunks, hard-bound books and pictures of the family playing polo catch my attention. Trophies saved by the Maharajah’s mother line the cupboards. But it’s Luka sunbathing by the pool that melts my heart.

Each suite has a décor, matching its name–Maharaj Sahib room, Rani Sahib room, Kanwarani Sahib room, Rajkumar Sahib room, Bhanwar Sahib room, Tikka Sahib and Mehmaan room. Photographs and memorabilia of the royal times, Rajasthani architecture with a central courtyard, you could forget the world of high rises.

And to make things even better there is the authentic Rajasthani cuisine—I loved the churma, gatte ki sabzi, bajre ka sogra with white butter and hot chicken curry. And then a walk to the hillocks to enjoy the sunset and see the neighbouring village.

GOODBYE STRESS – NAAD WELLNESS, SONIPAT

Kurta-pajama is a night suit. Yes, and I love being in night suits because they are the most comfortable clothing on this planet. I don’t care about the colour–I don’t have to choose what to wear for three days! No laundry, no talk, no stress. I am sorted with many therapies and perhaps the greatest Ayurvedic diet decided by my doctor. Sonipat gave me a surprise in the form of Naad Wellness.

With its clean, green ambience, it is such a calming place to be in. Moreover, it isn’t ostentatious. There’s something very cosy about it. Voices are low and the aromatic corridors are so nice to walk through. This is where I am introduced to ragi halwa—mind you, its part of the diet chalked out by the doc. There’s also tikki and dosa and papaya juice, among other things.

The day begins with yoga, fresh juice, massage, more juice, lunch, rest. Then another massage, more fresh juice and dinner at 7.30pm. Bedtime beverage is a hot glass of milk with jaggery. This is life — I put my feet up and enjoy my aromatherapy massage, Abhayangam, Turkish Hammam, even a few minutes in the Himalayan Salt Cave. Between massages and good cuisine, there’s the green yin and yang walkway to press the points in the feet—natural acupressure. My stay ends with a Pure Earth facial. There’s a lot more on offer, and I am feeling brighter and happier now. Goodbye kurta-pajama till another day, another retreat and more relaxation for Delhi is sure to make me long for such quiet spaces.             ■