Thank God for Google search, I thought to myself the night (just three and a half days before we actually left for the trip) I found Adiem home stay online after Shri suggested we go to Nasik last week, to visit Sula vineyards and a few others in the region.
We’d started to plan the Christmas break very late in the day, and it was looking quite impossible to get reservations at homestays – always our prefered form of stay wherever we travel – in Ganpatiphule /Ratnagiri, where we’d initially wanted to go. So when Shri suggested Nasik, and a quick google-search for Nasik homestays pulled up Adiem and pictures of it’s lovely-looking interiors, I could hardly believe our luck at having found something so promising.
Fortune continued to smile at us, because a quick call to the number on Adiem’s FB page confirmed that they indeed had room to house us during the days we wanted to spend in Nasik.
And that is how we found ourselves last Thursday evening- after a drive from Pune that included an exhilarating, enjoying stop for a climb up Shivneri fort (the birthplace of Maratha King Shivaji) – at the lovely home of Madhu Chougaonkar and Arvind Chittewale, who turned out to be possibly the most interesting and inspiring individuals I’ve met this year.
The homestay this couple run served not only as our base for a very relaxed two-day sojourn through wine-producing countryside, it also provided so much more. Right from the welcoming cup of excellent chai; the beautiful ambience created by the tasteful decor that reflects well the character of the hosts and offers a genuine retreat; and a completely unexpected, but delightful opportunity to engage with two quite original, intelligent minds on subjects such as gender issues, parenting, and the fascinating possibilities with flea market bargains (Adiem’s furniture has been hand-crafted from such pieces). Madhu – a gender activist/researcher and Arvind are people who appear to live by their convictions, and I loved to see this example of honesty and courage in practice.
Some of their personal choices resonated with me strongly, and that was especially what made me feel that I’d discovered kindred spirits. The manner in which their children’s family name is composed, for example,by a joining of the parents’ first names. This, I’ve often thought, is the most logical way to give a child a family name especially in this day and age, since the way of life s/he experiences is often not the way of either of the parent’s first family’s, but a new/third way that evolves when the child’s parents bring their own unique approach to their life together. To find that there is a family out there that has actually lived what has sometimes seemed to me one of my crazier notions, was quite surreal.
Madhu and Arvind are people with a lot of heart in more ways than one. Shri and I were quite blown away by the largesse of the breakfast they laid out for us every day. There was this truly magnificent variety of delicious and traditional dishes each morning, and I was grateful both for the healthy start to our days, and to see the girls discover as well as enjoy traditional recipes like the Maharashtrian lapsi,the Tamil paniaram, baajra and daal khichdi, different types of sprouts, and Madhu’s delicious take on idlis (steamed with vegetables like bottle gourd and fenugreek leaves added in for flavor, and then sliced and shallow-fried).
As we were leaving yesterday, Madhu generously packed a few wheat and jaggery laddoos – they saw how much the girls enjoyed them at breakfast that last morning !! – for us to carry back, and shared as well organically produced turmeric (which I’m looking forward to using in face packs for the girls!) from their farm.
All in all, this has been an experience that will stay with me for a long time. I feel we got so much more than we’d expected – a good time and a great stay yes, but also an elevating experience of a more important kind-an opportunity to meet individuals who inspire, who push our thinking, and remind us that there are many different but equally rich ways to live a life.