It was in early 2013 that I first heard of Tathagata Farm, near Darjeeling. They invited me to visit their farm stay, but I had no plans then, of travelling east. It was an open offer, they assured me, and I could stay with them whenever I did make the trip. Time passed, and I received a lot more such invites. Some worked, others didn't, many didn't even bother to reply. When I planned my Kolkata and Sikkim trip in December 2014, I remembered them, and wrote, wondering if they would even remember me, or their offer. Plus, I was going with Samhith and Shankar, so, I offered to pay for them, and also for an extra day. Imagine my surprise therefore, when they replied at once, graciously inviting us for two days, asking me only to pay for our transport! It’s not often that we see such hospitality, and I already looked forward to our stay there!
The car met us at Ghum Railway station, and drove us through the busy main road of Darjeeling. As the car honked its way through the crowds, I felt rather relieved that we weren’t staying here, in this overcrowded hill station, but at a place where we could actually relax. Though I knew it was secluded, just how secluded was a surprise! Our car stopped on the road, and a long, winding bamboo staircase built into the hill led to our rooms, somewhere on the slopes below us.
|Darjeeling, with Kanchenjunga in the background. |
I was happy to see this sight from a distance, and enjoy a relaxed stay at Tathagata Farm!
The village of Mineral Springs was once a tea estate during the British Era. Now, it is a group of community farms, producing organic tea, as well as vegetables and fruits. The community also runs homestays, which give us the opportunity to experience life in a rustic environment, truly in sync with nature. As I gingerly walked down the bamboo steps, I realized this was just the place for me to sit, relax and write. However, what would Samhith think of it?
|Sitting on the porch, sipping a cup of black tea, basking in the early morning sun|
I needn’t have worried. He took one look at the room, and picked up a small Sarangi placed as a decoration, sat down on one of the easy chairs outside, and began twanging the strings. Not that he really managed to create some music, but this was the first time my son had picked up an instrument, and tried to play it! Do I need to say how thrilled I was?
That day, we did little more than sit around, watch Mount Kanchenjunga in the distance, listen to birds, and make friends with our host and the staff. While I photographed all the varieties of flowers, Samhith found, as usual, plenty of spiders to click!
|Giant Wood Spider! We seem to see them everywhere we go!|
In the evening, as the sun set, and the bitter cold set in (It was, after all, winter!), we sat in the kitchen, around a fire lit in a bucket, and listened to all the stories our host had to tell about life in the mountains, while Samhith made friends with his three dogs! I couldn’t have asked for a better welcome, or a more interesting conversation!
|Samhith with his best friends!|
The next morning, it was Christmas, and we joined the staff and the local villagers in celebrations at a small church nearby. That experience is worth a separate post, and I will write about it in due course.
|This is where I spent most my time, watching the ice clad mountains and trying to spot birds!|
Heading back home after a heavy lunch, I returned by the road, but Samhith chose to take a shortcut, with some of the staff, who were only too happy to have him along. When we finally met back at our room, he boasted “You wouldn’t have been able to walk the way we came. We had to climb over boulders and we even crossed a stream! But I did it easily!” Trekking options are, in fact, the best thing about staying here, and one that Samhith now wants to explore further, of course when he grows older!
|A flock of Himalayan Black Bulbuls|
That evening, Shankar joined us, and was blown away by the tranquility just as we had been. The evening by the fireside was just as memorable, and I realized just how much my son loved dogs. He has always been asking me for a dog, but for the first time, I saw just how well he bonded with them – how he played with Sindu, tried to encourage Kayla to approach him, and was careful with Dalli, who was pregnant! It made me wish we lived on such a farm, where he could keep all the pets he wanted!
|Memories like these will be treasured forever!|
The food was one of the most special things about our stay at Tathagata. And what did we eat? A simple meal of Chapati, rice, dal, soup and vegetables, with the least possible amount of spices, but it was among the tastiest we ever had! Most of the produce was picked off the farm, and it made all the difference! We found ourselves taking second and third helpings, even Samhith, which just goes to show how children enjoy a simple, organic meal even more than all the fast food they can have! The tea was especially good, and we drank innumerable pots of it over the two days we stayed there. It was, after all, made with tea leaves from the estate!
|Sharing a meal...|
Two days is a short time to spend anywhere, but the two days here made me want to never leave. Samhith’s goodbyes especially to the dogs, were never-ending, and he couldn’t be happier that they chose to see us off right to the car!
This was one of the few occasions when we have stayed somewhere without any plans, any itineraries, or even any sort of sightseeing, staying just half an hour away from Darjeeling, we didn’t even want to go and see the sights there! And yet, every moment spent there was a wonderful experience, filled with memories which will last longer than any of the sights we saw on the trip.
|This is just the way to relax!!!|
It’s been over 2 months since we returned, but the memories are just as fresh. As I was readying to publish this post, Samhith came up, and seeing the title, asked me “Amma, do you think Dalli has had her pups?”