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October - November 2008
INDIAN INSPIRATIONAL....A Week in India
by Aline Dobbie
In life sometimes there is a period of time in which it seems that magic has been applied. The end of August and the first week of September has been just that sort of time. As the month of August was coming to its end we in this family were anticipating the birth of our fourth grandchild and then suddenly our daughter in law was not that well and there was concern which led to hospitalisation and the baby was induced. Thankfully a little son was born to our younger son and his wife and all is well.
Just that very day in the evening it was suggested that I might like to take up the invitation to travel on the inaugural flight of Kingfisher Airlines from London to Bangalore. Had the grandson not arrived safely already I would not have dreamt of going but now it was a real possibility and then when the Consul General of India to Scotland kindly agreed to help expedite my Indian visa I knew I could accept the invitation. At the same time I had received a communication from someone I had met two years ago at the World Travel Market in London. Thus I was able to fly out to Bangalore and stay at Our Native Village Resort which is under an hour’s drive from the new lovely international airport that has only been recently opened.
For me of course the journey starts in Scotland and is a further complication with added fares down to London. The Kingfisher Airlines party at Gate 12 of Terminal 4 at London Heathrow was a very good affair with quite a few people attending who are known to me. It was beautifully catered and we had a really lovely time. Dr Vijay Mallya arrived at about 9.00 pm and joined the party and some of us met him briefly and he talked about his ambition to make Kingfisher Airlines one of the world’s most respected companies. I observed it all carefully; as a toddler I was on the inaugural flight of Air India sixty years ago and in between I have flown on many different airlines. Fifty years ago at this exact time of the year I started to fly alone, a child coming home to boarding school in the UK and that travelling to and from India continued for about five years. One way or another I have become reasonably authorative about good and bad airlines!
Flight IT0002 took off on punctually and it proved to be an enjoyable flight with nice touches in the presentation of the food, the cabin staff are lovely attentive girls from India, the comfort of the plane was evident and then in due course we made a superb landing at Bengaloru International Airport on time. Because I had only cabin luggage I was soon through immigration. What a joy compared to the ugliness and inertia and sheer awfulness of Indira Gandhi International airport in Delhi. Hopefully that too will change very soon as it is the gateway to India and deeply unimpressive.
‘Our Native Village’ Resort had sent the young manager Sushil and his wife Kapila to greet me and very soon we were on our way to a lovely rural destination that is less than an hour’s drive from the new airport. It is a most pleasant drive through Karnataka’s green countryside and I consider an excellent hotel location if one were to contemplate a visit or journey through southern India. To start a tour with two days here and then move on to other areas and historic sites would be convenient and enjoyable. Naturally the Kingfisher Airlines network would be available for any onward journeys throughout India.
C B Ramkumar is the founder and managing director of this unique resort. In 2006 a seed was sown with the belief that at the very core, we all have in us the simplicity of our forefathers who lived a native village way of life in the land from which they came. Life was often simple yet creative, basic yet rich in fundamental experience and for all of us humans there is a need from time to time to touch that pulse of life and its core values that bring us a sense of serenity and well being.
This search and yearning for a simple life is probably in all who think and reflect on their busy lives and the relentless wheel of struggle and aspiration whether it be in India or in the West. As CB would say ‘Human beings always need inspiration and connections as a way to shape their lives and get them excited, amazed, rejuvenated, and recharged for a return to their pressured existence.’
Our Native Village is a 100% eco resort. They are committed to all round sustainability – in every facet of their activity. Most of the electricity comes from sustainable sources only and very soon one becomes inured to the noise of the windmill which was working quite ferociously whilst I was out there last week. There is a zero waste policy and all organic matter is composted and other waste is carefully managed. Water is a most precious resource and the management are committed to conserving, reusing and reducing the use of water. They endeavour to use all water twice at least. Most of the water they use is rain water. It is harvested from all the roofs of the resort and there are also ducts in the ground to collect the rain water that flows through the property. This water flows through a network of pipes under the ground, and all the water is filtered and then stored in a large underground tank.
There is also a commitment to training school children and college students on water, energy and waste management on sustainable platforms on an ongoing basis through visits to the resort and in college lectures. The cooking is done on bio gas from the resort’s own plant as well as from bottled gas if they have insufficient bio gas; from the open kitchen one was able to observe when the bio gas was operational with a special light that shone when the chef was using it.
Anand is the new Chef at the resort and is respected in his field of both Indian and Continental cuisine which often results in fusion cooking. I recalled that he had been one of the organizers of Chor Bazaar when it opened in London over ten years ago. He owns a restaurant business called Cornucopia which has restaurants in Chennai, Cochin and Bangalore and is now the thinker behind the cuisine at Our Native Village. Because of the family’s organic farm alongside the resort most of the vegetables and some fruits come straight to the table from the farm and there are plans to plant much more and make themselves self sufficient. I can attest to the beautiful fresh pink guavas used in juices and desserts, plus the passion fruit from the vines in the entrance.
For me personally one of the attractive features is the developing garden with all the medicinal plants that have been established with a lot more in the planning stages. The swimming pool looks quite different from the normal hotel pool in that it is filtered completely organically by a reed filter bed and scrupulously cleaned daily with a gentle fountain movement to keep the water circulating. At night when going up to my room I would hear the sound of croaking frogs which took me back to my Indian childhood and particularly the time of the monsoon. The bedroom suites are large and spacious with good bathrooms and the soap and shampoo provided is completely organic without any chemicals and made by C B’s sister in Chennai. I liked using these complimentary items and they are made from gentle ingredients which are not harsh on the skin or hair. I had an Ayurvedic massage and there is a plan to have Atmayaan Wellness Yoga and Health Spa from Bangalore run the Spa.
Children and adults are well catered for with traditional rural activities such as bullock cart rides and games such as Spin the Bugri, Gilli Danda, marbles, hop scotch and kite flying. I also saw that young Amartya though initially apprehensive was quite proud of having milked a cow and has the photo to prove it. Pavan the Potter comes at week-ends to encourage one by his example in the gentle art of pottery – the children loved it naturally! As the trees mature so the birdlife which is already plentiful will increase and the resort will become a true haven for wildlife and a paradise for those who respect other life forms.
I felt privileged to visit the foundation for the Revitalisation of Local Health Traditions nearby. Darshan Shankar is the director and I enjoyed my meeting with him and his colleague Ganesh Babu who is one of the botanists who is passionate about the 900 plants they have planted at the institute to demonstrate India’s great treasure chest of plants and trees from which we humans can benefit. Ayurveda is well known to most Indians and increasingly in the West as an alternative to allopathic medicine. I have a deep respect for it and what can be achieved to maintain wellness from this ancient science.
On the week-end we were treated to a wonderful show from the singers and dancers of the Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled. This was the brainchild of Mahantesh Kivadasannavar. Mahantesh is blind and a highly educated young man of enormous determination and aspiration. Normally I would use the word ‘vision’, but cruelly that is exactly what he does not have – the use of his eyes, yet he has set his mind to helping others who are less fortunate than himself and now the foundation is in its twelfth year and burgeoning with many strings to its bow of helping different forms of disablement and disadvantage. I was enchanted watching the singers and dancers who once they are helped into the performance area then proceed with energy and pathos to show us how talented and artistic they all are. It was my privilege to have supper with Mahantesh and his colleague and helper Ganesh Prasad (who is not blind). They have achieved so much in so short a time and at this Diwali Festival now approaching it could be a wonderful thing if we all tried to help them. Gandhiji’s famous words are ‘If we all do a little then together we will all achieve a lot….’
As I settled back in my seat on the aircraft carrying me home to Britain I reflected that truly I had experienced an inspirational week in India – the only thing missing was The Peacock’s Call!
Happy Diwali to you all. (Aline Dobbie’s first book India: the Peacock’s Call is being republished in November 2008 by Melrose Books and is sold with an accompanying DVD set to Indian music)
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