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MY STAY AT "THE APPLE FARM STAY"

Blog written by Annada Rathore


The Apple Farm Stay

There often comes a time when the hustle-bustle and dizzying pace of city life starts to become overwhelming; when a need arises for tranquility, a place to catch your breath, a chance to truly appreciate life. In such a time, I found The Apple Farm Stay, an old heritage home revived and refurbished by the Jhina family .

Nestled in one of the many lush green mountains of Himachal Pradesh, the place seems to have come alive from fantasy novels. Pulling up in the driveway, even after watching the videos on their artsy site, the first look of the homestay was simply awe-inspiring. An aesthetic mix of stone and wood gives the 100-year-old structure a greatly inviting look, and entering the gates to the magical home did not disappoint. The lawn features a little fountain that is a charming little sight to behold. Just as much of the homestay, the fountainhead is a treasure unearthed and preserved from the old ruins of the home. A bench and table of aged wood sits in the grass too, almost beckoning to me to bring out a book, some paints or a board game. Upon entering, I’d just begun cursing myself for not thinking to pack any of the latter, when Mrs. Bashita revealed that they had their own collection of games at the homestay. Needless to say, Jenga and Monopoly provided hours of enjoyment when rain beat down fiercely outside.

The sound of rain and thunder too had its own charm up there, especially when we were huddled up cosily indoors. The polished-wood interior offers the beauty of a rustic lifestyle with the comforts of modern amenities, providing the perfect escape from city life without being too far out of my comfort zone.

All through the home, there is a personal touch of warmth laced with artistic flair; the little bar in a loft proudly displays rows of impressive trophies, certificates and other accolades collected by Parishrut Jhina during various car and motorcycle Races . These didn’t just create the most wonderful touch of individuality and pride, but they are also part of the reason The Apple Farm Stay is like a home away from home. I couldn’t help but feel a surge of pride for the young man who founded this place, whose grandfather and great-grandfather look down appreciatively from the walls where their pictures are mounted at the entrance.

Everything in the house, just like the old Murphy radio (that indeed works just fine on AM frequencies even now!), made me feel as though I’d stepped into a home whose people are not just in touch with, but also extremely proud of their heritage. Wooden chests safely store Parishrut’s grandfather’s old books and journals- poring through these priceless momentos that have been painstakingly plucked out and cared for, was a thoroughly riveting experience for a history-geek like myself. There’s so much to learn from these treasures. In the times when a rupee could buy you soul-touching words bound by paper, Mr. Parishrut’s grandfather seemed to be a widely read man. It’s just the way the old is displayed amongst the new that disconnected me from current times and pulled me into the home’s own sense of timelessness. The artistic decor, including antlers mounted on a headboard and Edison bulbs hung by thick rope (which are in fact, made by Parishrut and are a true testament to how close this venture is to his heart), were picturesque enough to present the question - to stay inside or to wander about outside?

And despite me being quite the indoor bookworm, I was thrilled to find out that The Apple Farm Stay isn’t just a recluse for relaxation. To feed the part of me that’s eager to explore and taste the rush adventure, the opportunities here are incredibly enticing. Based on the true-to-their-word website, the homestay offers trips to various local sites. I was fortunate to visit the breathtaking Chanshal Pass (quite literally; the height at 14,000 feet caused me a few moments of breathlessness), an untouched pasture tucked in between the silvery clouds, with the intimidatingly vast expanse of mountains behind, around and below. My excitement knew no bounds as the stunning drive took us through routes that truly seemed to have manifested from books. Gushing streams gurgling gaily took us by the hand through Rohru and Chanshal, where we saw all kinds of sights - right from spindly trees, big red mushrooms, bright green lands reaching out to brilliant blue skies, horses, sheep, dogs, cows to birds… the wonders were endless. Pictures did little justice to the magnificence our eyes beheld.

My stay in the lush lap of nature was made all the more memorable by the experience of lying under hundreds of glistening stars on a chilly evening near a chatty crackling bonfire, with the pleasant company of Mr. Digvijay Jhina. Furthermore, if you’re interested (why wouldn’t you be?) in fishing, there’s the Trout Farm to spend the day at, and return to have your catch cooked and served for a scrumptious dinner. It’s things like this that, in hindsight, set the home stay apart from any hotel or inn; the hands-on experiences gave me the chance to truly experience the culture, beauty and traditions of Himachal with trusted guides. No filters; just the raw, natural beauty.

The Apple Farm Stay wouldn’t be the haven of hospitality that it is without the lovely people behind it: Mr. Digvijay with his adventurous soul and knowledge of the area, Mrs. Bashita with her unparalleled warmth and eager spirit and Mr. Parishrut, whose far-sightedness and loving touch shine from behind every facet of the gem that is the home. The exceptional food has a familiar touch of home, sprinkled with dashes of talent and dollops of passion. Also the warmth and eagerness to serve nothing but the best were reflected not just in the meals we wolfed down, but even in the tea we cherished as the sun rose over the mountains.

During my days, I became very well acquainted with Shadow, the friendly watchdog who spends his days lounging about the lawn. While I had my nose in a good book, he lay at my feet, the two of us soaking up the buttery warm sunshine. I caught fleeting glimpses of a kitten or two, and considering myself lucky, was even bestowed with the gift of a mama kitty’s purrs and affection too.

All in all, my stay at The Apple Farm Stay could only have been better if I had prolonged it. Living in a granite jungle eventually leaves me thirsting for the green, rolling hills and more than anything, the smell of rain and earth. The Apple Farm Stay offered me a getaway that quenched my thirst wonderfully, leaving me richer with experiences, memories and so much to be grateful for. It’s a rare feat to be able to live like a local rather than a tourist, while being offered every comfort there is. But that’s the real charm of The Apple Farm Stay. The place becomes your home soon, and it’s jarring to realise you do eventually have to check out. And the most remarkable part is that a place that could have been left to fall into ruins, was instead restored bit by bit with such vision and passion, and now is a place where people come to taste adventure and solace all at once. For now, I mollify myself by promising to visit another season, as I’m sure that would be an entirely different -but just as delightful- experience altogether. Until next time!

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