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Silence of the Hills

Sharmila Chand stays at two antique bungalows in Ramgarh, Kumaon Hills as she connects with nature

Nothing quite prepares you for Ramgarh. I had heard about its orchards, about peaches the size of tennis balls, plums, apricots and pears, about the beauty of the Kumaon Hills amidst which Ramgarh is quaintly tucked, but nothing quite prepared me for the place.

Time stands still here and the silence is overpowering. No bright lights, not a vehicle in sight, no television, no phones (even the mobile phones don’t work here), not even a murmur. The only thing in abundance is tranquillity and, of course, nature in all its green finery.

It took me a day to get used to the silence. There are the withdrawal symptoms of being away from the fret and fury of the city but the fresh air takes care of it.

The Bird Suite

In the early morning, I walked through the conifers as a gentle breeze soothed me. Poetry is born in such surroundings. Is it then surprising that the poetess Mahadevi Varma lived here (her house is now a library museum) and Rabindranath Tagore wrote parts of his Nobel Prize-winning Geetanjali amidst these serene environs. Sri Aurobindo Ghosh set up a meditation retreat here.

Two 19th century inspection bungalows - Writer’s Bungalow and Old Bungalow, which have been given a new lease of life by Neemrana Hotels, serves as abode to those who want to relish the glorious mountain ranges, the green belt and the orchards of Ramgarh. As I moved around the property, I realised how much effort had gone in to restore them. Anchored in aesthetics, they reflect that old world charm of the countryside which the Neemrana duo, Francis and Aman Nath, set out to recreate.

Says Aman, “While restoring the structure, we took care to retain all the characteristics of the original.” No wonder ‘Bhoot Bungalow’, as Writer’s Bungalow was called by neighbouring villagers before being rechristened, still shows signs of the original wear and tear. The bay windows, the verandah, the antique furniture, have all been retained. No additional construction, no marble flooring and no frills and fancies. The bathrooms are also in tune — just good enough to be functional yet not lacking in the necessary amenities. No Internet or fax connection here.

Interiors of the bungalows are anchored in aesthetics

Each suite of the Old Bungalow - the Kumaon, the Kashmir and the English - also has its own character. The Kumaon is painted in a shade of rich orange and rust, the English is cool green and the Kashmir is cream and pink. The verandah has an old style wooden takhat with mattress and plenty of cushions plus a couple of deck chairs. The arrangement is so comfortable that you do not feel like budging out.

The mighty hills present an awesome panorama from these bungalows - the rising sun, the hills, the greens, the orchards, the flowers, the birds, the whispering wind and if you are lucky, an exquisite rainbow in the sky.

Writer’s Bungalow is at a little height, about five minutes walk from the Old Bungalow. Both the Bird and The Butterfly Suite of the former have little Flower Rooms in blue and yellow. Study tables and antique beds add to the rustic charm of the interiors. As I sat watching the sunset from the bay window of the Butterfly Suite, it struck me that often it’s necessary to keep the mind blank. I let my mind drift with the cool air of the hills.

Fact File

The Writer’s Bungalow has two suites: the Bird Suite with a Yellow Room and the Butterfly Suite with a Blue Room.

The Old Bungalow has three suites: the Kumaon, the Kashmir and the English Suite with the Green Room and Mustard Room. Rooms can be booked separately.

Reservations: Neemrana Hotels A58, Nizamuddin East, New Delhi, Tel: 4356145

The Butterfly Suite
Getting there: Ramgarh in Kumaon is 235 km from Delhi. You can go by road via Moradabad, Rampur, Haldwani, to Kathgodam and then to Bhimtal and Ramgarh. Or the train goes up to Kathgodam from where Ramgarh is about 50 km.