To me, vacations meant travel. Summer break was a time away from home, friends, books and school. We travelled every year, usually to my grandparents’ homes in Madikeri, Coorg.
My maternal grandparents’ home was a picture of warmth. A small cosy home, but seeped in love. My grandfather would grind fresh dosa batter by hand in a big grinding stone kept in an alcove under the stairs. We kids would sit next him listening to stories – fascinated by the magic that turned dull soaked rice into a soft white cloud of batter. The rhythmatic churning was almost therapeutic.
Much like Malgudi days, my cousin and I would have many afternoons free to loiter around the backyard and around the neighbourhood. This was it. Stories, play and long summer days. The house had beautiful nooks and corners. Old letters and nick-knacks from my mother’s childhood forgotten in the attic.
Cool red oxide floor under my feet and warm sunshine coming in through the single glass tile in my grandfather’s attic – office. To this day, I miss that home.
Each year summer vacations were exactly the same. But instead of being a boring routine, it gave me grounding and support that has surely carried me through many good and not so good cycles of life.
To this day, I would trade a trip to a swanky city with a trip to a village. Many Indian villages are made of the same fabric – Simplicity and content. I hope you have all, at some point had the privilege of enjoying such times.
The seed community is now closed. In a brilliant show of faith in brand Beforest, 25 early adopters have come onboard the Mumbai Collective and taken their first steps towards sustainable living. In a kick-off meetup held in Mumbai, we met up with our members where we walked them through the next steps including structure creation, asset transfer, payment schedules, and more. The meeting was well attended and super exciting as we were meeting in person with our seed community for the first time. We will be activating our legal, on-ground and design partners for work on this collective.
The seed community now comprises of entrepreneurs, doctors, senior advocates, and businessmen. It gives us great pleasure when we realize that this has happened in spite of not really doing in-person meetings.
The big news of course is that the Blyton Bungalow is all set to open by the second week of May. Once we take the handover and have gone through the usual niggles, we will be opening it up for guests and curated experiences. To kickstart this, we will be conducting an Isha Yoga workshop from the 27th to the 29th for an exclusive audience where the participants will be housed at the Blyton Bungalow.
The Estate manager’s house too is almost done and is looking gorgeous against the backdrop of Block 1 of our estate. The partitioning and the designing of the private estates is underway and the first registrations are set for May. We expect that by June end, the collective structure would fully be in place and the asset transfer would have been done.
We are also interacting with a few members to help us create curated experiences centered around the diversity that is present at Poomaale. Watch this space for more.
One of my most romanticized memories as a kid was the adventurous summer travel back to our village in the Konkan.
Back in the early 80s, few owned cars or could afford to fly. The only options were to take a back breaking ST bus or one of the 2 ships or steamers from Bombay to Goa – Kokan Shakti or Kokan Sewak. Travelling on these was quite an experience and should have been immortalized in the film Bombay to Goa, instead of the bus journey.
The 24 hour journey included stops at Jaigad, MusaKazi, Vijaydurg and Devgad before reaching Goa. These weren’t like the cruise ships we now see, but more like a sea bus. Also, with the exception of Jaigad and Goa, the other stops did not have ports. So how does one disembark at sea? Well hold on to your mango!
Each ship had 2 cabins, which were almost impossible to book unless you had some influence. Below this was the deck, a large maidaan like open space, no seats and a bench strip along the periphery to enjoy the breeze or throw up after a bout of sea sickness. Below this was the boiler room, a basement space with the engines and where traveling was like being in a sauna.
There were no fixed seating. Once the ship docked, you had to run up and spread a bedsheet. The area it covered became your seating space, like a picnic in the park. Once settled, people brought out their food baskets, played games, fed sea-gulls, while the kids wandered around, making new friends or exploring the ship.
The evenings were spent on the bow, enjoying the sunset and recreating our own versions of pre Titanic “I’m the king of the world” scenarios. Its only when the sun set and it became pitch dark did the enormity of the sea and your inconsequential presence finally sink in.
The ship would finally reach Vijaydurg, a shallow port around 3 am. This meant that it had to anchor mid-sea and wooden boats would come to pick up passengers. Now picture the rough dark seas, a distant light house, a faintly visible fort, the daunting task of getting off a ship on wooden planked rope stairs onto boats being beaten by the sea with all your luggage and family members. It was a miracle that this had an accident free history!
The diversification plans are well underway and the saplings are all prepared and ready for transplantation. However, we can only transplant after the first few rains. The lake is almost dry and we are evaluating our plan of deepening it. The elaborate process of planting is preluded by the pit digging and pit preparation. After painstakingly making close to 8000 pits, the team has an elaborate process of creating alternate layers of bio matter and manure to make sure the survival rates are really high.
Work on the check dam is going on smoothly and the team seems to have now picked up the art of deciding what check dam goes where and we are hoping the three main channels that we have undertaken will have a significant impact on the soil moisture levels.
Besides this, there is a lot of action at the Hyderabad Collective. Pit digging, bund creation, collection of stones, nursery preparation, and more. So in spite of the summer, the collective itself is a scene of bustling activity. We have also prepared options for the housing clusters 4 and 5 which has only added to our anticipation of how well the collective is going to shape up.
At Beforest, we pride ourselves at bringing back long lost things. Swimming in lakes, huge stone wells, bulls resting under the shade at noon, a night under the stars. We find ourselves focussed on the simple luxuries of life and the W.H.Davies poem that goes
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
This has been a constant north star for us. So when we started thinking about the simple pleasures of peak summer, two things stood out prominently – the humble mango and train journeys!
As kids, summer vacations were synonymous with finishing off a ‘gampa’ of mangoes and competing with cousins gathered at our village with my ammamma (maternal grand-mother) diligently watching over and ensuring a fair share. That is when it struck me that equitable distribution and fair share was such an integral part of Indian households. Ammamma made sure the elder cousins (bigger in size, with larger appetites) got more without bullying or depriving the younger ones. What is even more interesting is the differentiation between equality and equitability. This was such an aha moment and I was blown away by how these subtle aspects were ingrained at a household level of granularity.
Back then, reaching my village Shankarpally was a 4 – 5 hour affair, which included a train journey, followed by a bus ride. The travel time now is around 45 minutes from home to farm. Today, not many take the train, but I will always cherish those memories. The shorter ones were chaotic but the longer ones – trips to Ooty or Tirupati, were so much a part of the holiday with its detailed planning. Food for multiple stops, pillows, blankets, snacks, Tinkle and Chacha Choudhary comics. For journeys, where meals could not be carried, we had to coordinate with folks that lived in towns on the way. It saddens me that my next generation may never have these experiences and even if they do, I doubt they’ll look forward to it. But they have their own stories and for those like me who hold these simple joys dear, I’m glad we are able to create at least a few of those at the collectives.
As we turn the pages of the calendar to May, sweet memories of summer vacations get hold of us. The remembrance of one’s childhood, when every kid waited for those 2 months of joy filled summer vacations with the family; are really special. We got to play and learn with our parents. As parents, we also look forward to a getaway with the kids, to a quiet destination with great lodging, away from the scorching summer sun.
Vacation time is time for rejuvenation. Apart from physical relaxation, our worn out mental and emotional being need quiet time away from the hustle-bustle of city life. A balanced life with sufficient time for relaxation is what makes life healthier and joyful. It helps us slow down, reflect and re-align ourselves which we often neglect in our daily life. Even nature creates day and night and four seasons where it expects us to work during favourable seasons and relax in unfavourable ones. And that’s why hospitality becomes a critical part of Beforest Lifestyle offering so that we can provide a place for everyone to unwind. At Beforest, we had envisioned providing a great homestay in the lap of nature. That dream is finally coming true, as we kick start operations at our Blyton Bungalow.
The Sanskrit word for mango is Amra, meaning ‘of the people’, hence the word Aam and the context to aam aadmi. If you thought that it was just Indians who loved mangoes, then you’re absolutely mistaken. With over 350 varieties of mangoes to choose from, we’re surely spoilt for choice.
While we may have our own biases towards our favourite mangoes, now would be a good time to also learn more about this much loved fruit from other regions in the world, many of which are now being cultivated across India too for exports.
Allen Susser’s The Great Mango Book features over 50 photographs, illustrating the many wonderful mangoes varieties. As one of America’s leading chefs and a pioneer of New World Cuisine, Allen’s book is a treasure trove of juice history and mouthwatering recipes ranging from cocktails and chutneys to the Mango Martini.
Try it out to give a new twist to your mango cravings this summer.
Remember the first time you tried growing a plant? Did it survive? Likely not. Did that send you on a guilt trip and put you off trying to grow another one? Likely, yes!
We’ve all killed a house plant at some point in life. After overcoming the guilt, we’ve likely gotten into some sort of an introspection mode to analyze the reason why it died. Was it too much water or too little, too much sunlight or too little? Did I feed it the right nutrients or none at all? The answers to many such questions could set you on the path to grow plants that can thrive for years.
With ‘Every Creature Has a Story’, Janaki Lenin draws us towards the wonders of the natural world with her thought provoking and witty words. We promise that you’ll never look at nature in the same way again after reading this book.
When it’s mango time, it’s MANGO time! Pickles, sweet treats, sour candy, desserts, meals all revolve around this one singular theme.
This season, we were blessed with a big bag of raw mangoes from a friend’s farm that lend beautifully to a traditional pickle recipe. I wish words could describe the burst of flavours and fragrance from produce grown chemical – free in rich soil naturally. You have to experience the difference to know it
If you do manage to source such produce, here’s a recipe that will do it complete justice. A finger – licking – good pickle recipe that comes straight from a grand old lady of our family, lovingly curated by my Mother.
As the days go by, the pickle just gets better. But we wouldn’t know, a pickle so delicious never lasts that long in our household!