Hareli Eco Resort at Mohda in Chattisgarh offers plenty of everything that’s unavailable in urban India

It was a long, long drive. Quite pleasant too, under a moonlit sky. I could feel the wind against my face. I could hear rustling leaves. On my right were age-old trees of sal, bamboo and banana. On my left too there was a similarly luxuriant greenbelt. Occasionally, there were signboards indicating sundry outposts of a government department. After about an hour and a half drive from Chhattisgarh’s Capital Raipur via Mahasamund district, I finally reached a checkpost at Mohda. The night was not quite young, nor was the guard manning it. He coughed, sneezed, huffed his way to the barricade, lifting it ever so gingerly. A few metres down the narrow road, there was another checkpost. This had some life. One could hear the officials’ talk, laughter, jokes — the kind you share with companions to keep boredom at bay. Once through the barricade, I thought we had arrived at the Hareli Eco Resort. Not quite. It was still 10 kilometres away!

The drive resumed on the Barnawapara road just sufficient to accommodate one SUV at a time. With no traffic for competition, we breezed across. A few minutes later, we were indeed at the six-cluster, 12-room cottage that looks so simple yet so serene from a distance. Overlooking a long pond on one side, a vast green belt on the other, Hareli Eco Resort is what good friends ordered for frayed nerves! Here all the expensive mobiles with connections that claim to reach where nobody does, fail to function. There is no connectivity whatsoever. It is such a good feeling! Just being away from the world with nobody to disturb you. There is no electricity on the road in front, not a soul to spoil your peace of mind. This may not be the place Thomas Hardy had in his mind when he wrote “Far from the Madding Crowd” but it lives up to the expression. Solitude, that rare commodity in modern-day India, is what this place offers in plenty.

Once inside the resort there are more surprises. The place runs on solar power. It is so eco-friendly that you are unlikely to find a plastic bag littered among the fallen leaves of amaltas and sal. Not an air-conditioner, no piped music. All the gadgets of modern living that we have become slaves to are absent. All around is just fresh air; the branches of tall trees hit each other, the leaves kiss each other. I am luckier; the balcony of my room faces the pond. The pond has a tree bereft of leaves. It is frequented by kingfishers, as I discover the next day.

The following morning is what one would call beautiful, soothing, memorable, all at once. I sit by the pond, my feet feeling the ripples of calm water. On the other side of the pond, the deer roam around, some stopping by to quench their thirst by its banks. For a few moments, I want life to slip into freeze frame as I hum Javed Akhtar’s words, “Samay ka yeh pal thham sa gaya hai.”

A leisurely walk into the wilds follows, spotting a few birds. The day slips by. Simple Indian food, some tea, cookies help it along. The next day comes with delights of another kind. It is time for action as I join other inmates of the property to go on a jungle safari in the Barnawapara forests! We are reasonably lucky. We manage to spot the bison. We see plenty of deer, the horned ones too. There are a few peacocks and some birds whom I fail to identify. The bear gives us a miss. So too the leopard. Maybe next time, I tell myself as I head back to the resort.

This time for comfort, I slip into an easy chair under a nice canopy and watch the ripples dissolves against the shore. Life goes by.