There comes a moment in life when you drink in fascination through refreshed eyes: the decided plop of the last raindrop hanging on for dear life, like a gleaming diamond, from the roof as it slowly thickens, sighs and kisses the soil below; the lazy movement of the hazy moon behind the floating grey clouds when the shower ebbs, and slowly as the night thickens, the posse of fireflies that hold court, winking near the yawning well in the paddy field. The ears that stretch on and on for an acre. Staying at Shalom reminds me of my favourite Roald Dahl quote: ‘Those who don’t believe in magic, will never find it’. I believe in magic, and I did find it over the weekend in the beatific getaway at this 50-year-old house and its lush surroundings, tucked away in the heart of the forest skirting Lonavla.
Nodding trees, emerald green fronds, dew-lipped poinsettias and unending clusters of bushes and bamboo line the entry into this secret home in the woods, far from the annoying busyness of urban life. It is a lush, 11-acre property, carefully cupped by sunshine and birdsong, with the main house shielded by canna shoots, golden bamboo and ferns galore. The tiled roof blushes slowly in the distance as the car swings halfway along the generous drive-in, laced with thicket, and of course, the annoyed squawk of the rooster—rudely displaced by the vehicle.
Three bedrooms arrange themselves cleverly across split levels, with multiple entrances to the house, and generous windows bringing the outside inside. “I fell in love with the bungalow when I walked in for the first time,” says owner Ashish Nangia. He has created quaint sit-outs to maximise on the views of the undulating landscape and the hills beyond. There are elevations, with fairy lights coiled inside old glass bottles hanging from the boughs, setting the mood for a relaxed evening while the crickets tune in. Comfortable wicker seats on the front patio, recliners in the space at the back, a wrought iron swing by the tiny pond bring in unending views of the paddy beyond.
“There are hiking trails to discover as you delve deeper into the property. The lake is just a 15-minute walk away,” he shares. (I did practise making pebbles skate along the surface of the water). A water park stands close to the property, near the main road, but if you want to wander, herds of wanton butterflies flutter between the leafy trees. Pluck ripe guavas off the boughs, spot wild hoodies in fungi mushrooming along the aging barks, as tiny ladybirds crawl sleepily along the stems. Slowly, the trees slowly begin to hug each other as you walk on, forming yet another Insta-worthy frame.
The giant swirling dining table inside Shalom sets the mood for a game of cards. Unless you would rather enjoy a movie or a match on the wall using a projector, while you play pool with your friends in the airy
attic. Or get started on the barbecue while the cool wind sets in to mark the evening. Shalom’s stone façade makes way for cosy warmth within, with its mango walls, curious artefacts and fluid spaces dotted with amber pools at night. Of course, the twin chalets on the property, shielded effectively by giant bamboo, are Shalom’s best-kept secret. But then secrets are where magic thrives. Can’t wait to go back for another dose of my soul-balm, in seclusion, two hours away from Mumbai.
What & Where
Shalom, Mundhaware, Maharashtra;