Traveler and writer Shireen Bharucha is on a trip to the pretty little town of lakes and mountains – Nainital. In part 1 of this series of five posts, she describes her journey to Sterling Holidays – Bhawanipur Greens, a brand new resort that makes the experience at Nainital as comfortable as it is beautiful.
Mr. Khan greets us at Delhi Airport. He is going to chauffeur us in his Maruti Swift Dzire for the next five days. Our destination, a seven hour drive to Bhawanipur Greens, a Sterling Holiday Resort, in Haldwani District, Uttarakhand, five kilometers from Nainital, where my husband and I are being hosted by them.
In late March the dull grey Delhi skyline is offset with the flowering trees of spring – the deep red of bottle brush and the silk cotton, the orange-red of the flame of the forest and the deep pink of bougainvillea. The highways are well maintained. We halt for lunch at the town of Gajraula. A swank and spacious fast food vegetarian joint, Bikanervala, offers an extensive menu and good food at reasonable rates. We continue our journey, through the potholed internal roads of Rampur in Uttar Pradesh and Rudrapur, which borders Uttar Pradesh, but is in Uttarakhand, 72 km away from Nainital. Midway we stop at Lee’s Kitchen, a charming open air Chinese food restaurant, with a pleasant hill and river view, for tea. Our drive now takes us through forests till we finally reach Bhawanipur Greens, as a crescent moon rises in the inky sky over the Kumaon hills, which are lit up with the sparkling lights of villages nestling in them.
Bhawanipur Greens, overlooking a field and a valley, is so named because Bhawani Das Sah, a police inspector, aided the British army in capturing the most notorious dacoit of his time, Sultana Daku, who belonged to the nomadic bhantu clan of criminals and terrorized the United Provinces (as Uttar Pradesh of which Uttarkhand was then a part), was known, in 1920, thus ending Sultana’s audacious career. The dacoit was hung on 7 July 1924. However, the legend of the brigand lives on in movies based on his life, in ballads extolling his daring Robin Hood like exploits, as also in a historical novel titled ‘The Confessions of Sultana Daku’, by Sujit Saraf (2009). The British rewarded the brave Inspector with a tract of land, along with a village, which they named Bhawanipur in his honour.
The room we are allotted has a wood panelled sloping ceiling and dark wooden floors that go well with the semi-rural surroundings. It is tastefully furnished, with all modern amenities, which make for a comfortable stay. Moreover, we have our own little balcony for relaxation. We have had a long day so we make our way to the contemporary multi-cuisine restaurant. The dinner buffet offers a variety of palatable dishes. Well satiated, we retire for the night.
I rise early and watch the soft glow of the rising sun bathe the semi-barren hills. The mornings are bright and sunny with fluffy white clouds wafting across an azure sky. A flock of resident rock pigeons takes wing for a graceful flight. In the field below, the workers are busy with their chores.
Each evening presents a brilliant display of nature’s artistic skills over a forested ridge of hills. On the first day, dark, angry clouds form over the hills, as the sun plays a game of hide-and-seek, its pale salmon pink rays penetrate the clouds and light up the hills eerily. A ghastly light envelopes the hills as sun beams try to infiltrate the iron-grey clouds the next day. On the final evening, the scene is comparable to a volcanic eruption, spewing fiery flames skywards, a breathtaking sight. Each evening, as the sun sets, the heavy clouds dissipate, leaving a clear sky, which is soon studded with a million stars. A road snakes through the distant hills. The lights of passing vehicles remind me of lightning bugs flitting by. In the still of twilight, I hear a shepherd call out to his flock. My gaze wanders to a distant path and I see goats scampering after him.
In part 2 of the same series, Shireen Bharucha explores Nainital’s history. Click to read Sparkling Lakes – Nainital, Part II.
The views expressed by the author are in her personal capacity.