Sitting in a tiny plane complete with propellers, I grin to myself when the pilot announces we will be touching down at Jolly Grant Airport, Dehradun, in a bit. “Jolly good,” I tell myself as I get off the plane on the last leg of my journey to Ananda in the Himalayas, the delicious destination spa.
The smiling driver ushers me into a capacious car and drives off rapidly along the vertiginous (to my plateau eyes) road. All of a sudden, a gracious palace is revealed, and I fall into awestruck silence at my first glimpse of Ananda.
We sweep into the majestic driveway of the Viceregal palace. There is an aarti, rudraksh beads are put around my neck and I am served this absolutely refreshing ginger lemon tea.
A smiling Aleeza who greets me, gives me my schedule for my three-day stay. The office and the library are in the palace, loaned from the Maharaja of Tehri Garhwal. An electronic buggy transports us past the musical fountain and rolling grasslands, where a magnificent peacock looks on disdainfully, to my room — mind-blowing with wide windows and a sunny balcony. Even the bathroom with its picture windows ensures you could soak away your cares looking at the Rishikesh valley come alive.
As the smiling attendant indicated the pristine white kurta-pyjama, the all-important question of what to wear had been solved in a flash. And, best of all, the kurta pyjamas are laundered for free.
Burgers with a twist
I was feeling peckish and called room service for a bite. They suggested the Ananda special burger (hallelujah! There is junk food!). I decided to have it sitting at the balcony, listening to a bubbling brook. The burger had crisp apple slices instead of fries, and tasted perfect.
At five in the evening, I set out for the spa orientation and was suitably dazzled by the state-of-the-art Jacuzzis, the soothing manicure and pedicure stations and the calming massage rooms. The resting place with deckchairs and earphones and the self-reflexology foot bath — with naturally-rounded Ganga pebbles that you can walk on, begged to be tried out. An appointment with the Ayurvedic physician, C. Sreenarayanan revealed my dosha according to Ayurveda’s Tridosha principle. And, Ananda offers menus tailored to your dosha.
Then, it was time for the Vedanta class at the restaurant. Back to the room, I called housekeeping to draw me a petal bath — felt the stresses and strains of big city life melt away in a whiff of fragrant rose petals.
Before hitting the sack, I decided to order a neck support pillow from the pillow menu. Meditation at the palace the next day found me desperately trying to empty my mind and focus on nothingness, all the while wondering if I would be able to watch the latest episode of “Lipstick Jungle” that night.
Dinner at the show kitchen had the ever-smiling Chef Ali operate like an artist amidst sparkling utensils and colour-coordinated herbs and spices.
I had signed up for the 22-km trek to Kunjapuri temple, the shrine dedicated to Sati, Lord Shiva’s consort. I woke up at 5.30, gulped down the invigorating ginger lemon tea and dashed off, only to be told the trek was called off because the overnight rain had rendered the paths dangerous.
I decided to walk to the palace. The library, which doubles up as the business centre, is the Maharaja’s and has the most fascinating books. I curled up in a big, fat armchair to read 50 Thrilling Stories for Girls, till it was time for my Ananda touch massage.
As the therapist skilfully eased out the many knots in my shoulders and neck, I could see why the massage is such a big hit with urbanites.
After the massage, I attended a hawan, and then it was time for the Tibetan massage with warm stones and herb-spiced poultices. The trekking guide Ganesh told me we could go on the trek the next day if it were clear.
I tried a spot of yoga, and sorrowfully realised that the half cobra and every other asana was beyond my stiff city muscles. I woke up at 5.30 to pouring rain and knew the trek was off. After a solid breakfast, I headed back to the palace for the parting ritual, which included an aarti, a prayer for a safe journey and a gift of a dazzling white kurta pajama.
As the gracious portals of Ananda fell away and we headed back for Jolly Grant, I fervently promised myself I would be back for another bout of R&R.
How to get there
Ananda is 260 km from Delhi. The nearest airport is Dehradun, the rail-head Hardwar, and it is five-and-a-half-hours by road from Delhi.
For details, call 01378-227500, e-mail email@example.com or visit www.anandaspa.com
Things to do
Yoga, spa therapies, meditation, Vedanta classes and cooking classes at the show kitchen.
Outdoor activities include white water rafting, kayaking, angling, visits to Rajaji and Chilla National Park, trekking, swimming and golf.