The hot and dry Delhi summer this year had made me restless. When I was invited to Nandalaya, Nimi and Pawan Khanna’s abode in the Kumaon Hills, I jumped at the offer. Tucked away on a mountain side in the village of Shyam Khet, Uttarakhand, the place is a wonderland. You can take a train from Delhi to Kathgodam, from where Nandalaya is an hour’s drive. By road, it’s a 315 km drive .
Nandalaya is not visible from the main road, tucked away as it is in a pine and oak forest. The two modern cottages of the resort stand amid pear, plum, cherry and orange trees. The area is blooming with roses, azaleas, geraniums, poppies, daisies, foxgloves, nasturtiums, hydrangeas, daffodils and irises. A small pond with plump goldfish and lotuses hides inside. The fresh mountain breeze brings with it the lowing of cows, the ringing of temple bells and the warbling of birds.
At the entrance, I am welcomed by Tohfa, a friendly mountain dog; 501 Kumaoni temple bells; and Ganesha, a striking wooden log anointed with a saffron tilak.
I am in Plum Tree, the cottage opposite Anardana. Both are intimate suites, complete with wooden shutters, antique furniture, four-poster beds, and modern bathrooms with running hot and cold water. The rooms are named after the trees that grow alongside. In season, one can hear the gentle thud of ripened fruit falling on the velvety ground. Anardana is the main cottage, filled with gleaming crockery, pottery, and unique bric-a-brac.
We are served lunch on a rough-hewn table in the garden, guarded by scarecrows made of pine cone and twigs and dressed up like country maidens. Tea time is under the fruit trees, in a niche with brass kettles, cups and saucers hanging over an open wood fire. There's a nip in the air, which makes sipping the piping hot herbal tea doubly pleasurable. Dinner is in a conservatory-style kitchen. Fresh vegetables, old jars and kitchen tools surround a heavy and aged wooden dining table. An antique chandelier overhead is lit during dinner. Its light glances off large windows that look out into the garden. It's the perfect setting for an evening of story-telling.
Food is tailor-made to guests’ requirements and ranges from Indian and Chinese to Continental, with the stress on al fresco dining. On a cold or rainy day, you could roast chestnuts, potatoes, popcorns or simply simmer a soup over the stone fireplace.
“Nandalaya is our home. It celebrates our passion and nourishes our soul. We love sharing it with others,” say the Khannas, who also run Rainbow Travels in Delhi.
(The writer was at the resort on invitation)
Rainbow Travels, Asaf Ali Road. Phone: 91-11-29234219 or book online at www.nandalaya.in
On request. Inclusive of food, drinks, trekking and sight-seeing
Things to do
Yoga, culture and cookery classes available on request.
The ambience and the food
The black-outs at night