Founder and CEO of Soneva, Sonu Shivdasani reflects on his Indian roots and recounts the places and experiences that have made the biggest impact on his life. By Sumeet Keswani
T+L India: How are you connected to India?
Sonu Shivdasani: Both my mother and father were Indians. They were born in Hyderabad, Sindh, which is now a part of Pakistan. Their families moved to Bombay (now, Mumbai) during the Partition. India and its culture have been big parts of my life and upbringing, whether it was an annual trip back or just aspects of the country that remained in our home.
T+L India: What do you miss the most?
Sonu Shivdasani: I love the sheer variety throughout the country, the scale, the incredible nature, and the guiding spirituality that has such an important influence on so many people. I also love the resilience of the people and their innate happiness, gratitude, and love for life. I miss my trips to Rishikesh, as I usually try to spend a week or two in an ashram there.
T+L India: What experiences do you recommend to those travelling to India in the future?
Sonu Shivdasani: Lunch or dinner at Trishna and a meal at Masque; in Delhi, one should stay at The Imperial, and in Mumbai, at The Taj Mahal Palace; one should visit Ladakh; the Nilgiris and tea plantation areas are stunning; an experience in India would not be the same without some time in an ashram.
T+L India: Places that define your Indian experience, and places that you’d like to visit the next time you are here?
Sonu Shivdasani: I have had some great times with my family. We own a tea plantation in the Nilgiris. I remember travelling through Rajasthan in 1973 when I was eight. We then drove further north. My sister and brother-in-law used to spend Christmas and New Year in Goa in the late 1970s-early 80s. It was a charming place with lots of small villages, great bars, and great music. Eva (Shivdasani’s wife) and I had an incredible visit to Ladakh back in 1986. The capital, Leh, had a tiny population, and there was only one flight in every two or three days, so there were all of 50 to 100 tourists. We also spent a week on a houseboat in Kashmir, which was a fantastic experience. I particularly like the backwaters of Kerala. One can spend hours just sitting there, absorbing the tranquillity and beauty of the place.
T+L India: What are the most unique aspects of India for you?
Sonu Shivdasani: The food, the culture, and the approach to wellness are unique. At Soneva, we dedicate a lot to Ayurveda in terms of treatment and immunity building.