Over the last five months, I’ve been called ‘blessed’ umpteen number of times. To be able to live amidst the mountains during the lockdown has its own perks, and I truly understood the importance of this experience when I celebrated my birthday at a homestay in a quaint village. By Japleen Kaur
A day before my birthday, two of the closest people in my life along with me were contemplating how to make my day special. I’m a sucker for birthdays, and that means every year the celebration has to get better.
Luckily, I was in Mashobra for some work and upon researching, we came across this beautiful property called Meena Bagh Homes nestled inside the woods of Ratnari, three hours away from Mashobra. And when I say inside the woods, it’s an understatement, because we couldn’t see a single person for miles from the homestay.
We were the first guests to visit this property during the lockdown and that made the owner, Sanjay Austaquite, skeptical. But a few convincing calls later, we were on the road towards Ratnari, of course, with our sanitizers and masks in place.
Soon, we were parking our car and taking our luggage out from the boot. Meena Bagh’s adorable mascot Biswa, a two-year-old bitch welcomed us along with one of the staff members. A short walk later through the apple orchard, we were standing on the premises surrounded by a blanket of misty clouds. Experiencing monsoon in the hills is literally the most romantic feeling ever.
The first sight of the room filled my heart with gratitude. I jumped on the bed and refused to get up.
The wooden flooring, indoor planters, eccentric cushions on luxe white bedding, and a study table in the corner (where I took a workshop later that day) — if ‘bliss’ had a face, it would look like this.
Meena Bagh Homes is ideal for large groups as you can rent out the entire cottage, which has four rooms each with attached washrooms. There is ample space to hang out in the common area, which is right next to the kitchen. The best part about this living area is that it has huge windows that open up to the views of the valley on a clear day.
The property has won several awards for being eco-friendly. The owner, who is also a journalist, has filled the space with decor items that are not only sustainable but also promote local culture from different regions. They also organise regular plastic collection drives in nearby villages, educate the locals and participate in building zero-waste policies.
This homestay is no less than a farmstay as it houses two cats, a couple of hens, few ducks and a handful of sheep.
Also, the wholesome meals we had at Meena Bagh straight from their farm left us content and satisfied. Zucchini, shallots and carrots that I would otherwise pass brutally were eaten by the kilo.
The caretaker and cook Vikram Ji was all smiles at all times, telling us tales from his village while whipping up delectable meals. We also had a lovely barbecue dinner on my birthday eve with a glass of one of the finest whiskies from Sanjay’s personal collection, which he chose to pair with a scary dose of horror stories from the valley, that was enough to keep me up all night, but the comfortable bed came to my rescue.
That’s how I turned 25 with the best company one could ask for and a homestay made of love.
Oh, and we decided to extend our stay as we weren’t ready to let go just yet!
Stay: INR 7,500 for a room with a discount for the third person