WORDS: Anjuman Deodhar
PHOTOPGRAPHS: Vaibhav Mehta
GO FROM: New Delhi
GO FOR: A quick getaway from the bustle and pollution of the city
It’s not the best time to be in Delhi. Between the pollution and the population, our capital city is weighed down with woes. Plus, the weekends seem too short to get away, get back, and still find time to unwind. Unless, of course, your destination is just a couple of hours away. Enter Peepal Kothi, which, quite literally, is just what the doctor ordered at a time like this.
Head southwest on the Jaipur Expressway, turn off a few kilometres short of Manesar, and very quickly, the PM2.5 (a measure of pollution, measured by the particulate matter in the air) nightmare is a thing of the past. You’ll leave the ghost-scrapers of Gurgaon behind, the roads turn narrow and dusty, and the houses, with their bare brick walls, exude a simple, rustic charm. This is bona fide Haryana hinterland. There are a few other fancier establishments that recognised the potential of this geography, but they can’t match Peepal Kothi in its laid-back, low-key ambience. Spread over just three acres, it is considerably smaller than others, but therein lies its allure.
This farmstay is a labour of love, almost single-handedly crafted by owner Vijay Chowdhry over 12 long years. And it’s evident – it’s completely devoid of the impersonal feeling that starred resorts are plagued with. Just settle down on your verandah, and, within minutes, you’ll be in vacay mode. The grounds abound with numerous indigenous trees and flowering shrubs, all painstakingly planted and raised, and, apart from the stray vehicle passing by, the only source of disturbance is the gaggle of resident geese that parades around the property every now and again, squawking at the top of its lungs. It’s a bit of a menagerie here: dogs, ducks, fowl, and, although not domesticated, a large flock of demented babblers that goes about pecking furiously at its own reflection.
Peepal Kothi is the kind of place that is best appreciated with a single point agenda: doing nothing. But, if you must, there’s no dearth of things to keep you occupied. At the property, you could take a pottery class with a potter who, owing to 40 years of experience, makes this dying craft look infuriatingly easy (` 500). Or, you could try typing out a letter on a real Remington dating back to the 1940s. If you do decide to venture out, the Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary, 20km away, is a good bet. Thanks to its 150-acre lake, it teems with migratory birds this time of the year. But, real birding enthusiasts will choose to explore the area outside the sanctuary, too. This is best done with Sube Singh, a local guide, who knows the area intimately, and identifies the various species with practised ease. He knows where the peregrine falcons are perched, where the short-eared owls roost, and will almost certainly track down the Indian coursers, along with many other exotics. But call in advance, because he is much in demand during the migratory season.
Another sojourn that could justify leaving Peepal Kothi is a visit to the Heritage Transport Museum, 12.5km away from the property. With a well-curated and eclectic collection of various means of transport that date back to the pre-mechanised era, your visit will be both entertaining and informative. The vintage and classic cars collection is particularly appealing.
So, although Peepal Kothi may not be able to help you with the Monday blues, your visit will at least ensure that you spent your weekend well.