Once you leave the claw-hold of the city limits, Bangalore stretches and opens into a vastness that is rich in character and scenic sights, slowing time down and freeing the mind. The landscape needles through fields and ponds, cattle tracks and villages, its roots evidently firm in a time before tarmac and automobiles came into being. Every now and then, city slickers like us try to get out and explore this landscape, to get close to nature, outside our manicured gardens and dusty walking trails.
At Baevu, The Village, we had such a rejuvenating experience that the city life has gotten too much with us, since our return. Located in Ramanagara, about a two-hour drive from the city, the “village” is home to a thousand-odd neem trees (hence the name Baevu, which translates as neem in Kannada).
Ten beautiful cottages done up with no-fuss, earthy decor, one big dining area, a swimming pool with natural water, patches of vegetables and crops, a cowshed-in-the-making, a granary equipped with Vade (a mud pot lined with cow dung, to store ragi or paddy grains, with an airtight lid – this method of storage is very effective in keeping pests away) storage containers, solar panels, a play area for children, wild mushrooms and mountain flowers blooming alongside herb and borage plants, birds snuggled up in cozy nests, geckos and chameleons scurrying into bushes..are some of the highlights at Baevu.
You can choose to take a dip in the pool, walk around the campus as you stop to smell the flowers, read to be alone (and not alone) seated across lush, green hills in the back porch of a cottage, or play a board game or two as you take refuge in the cool confines of your room. Whatever your pick, you can place a special request for a cup of coffee or tea to keep you going.
The food is simple and cooked fresh with local ingredients, most of it grown at Baevu. Apart from the traditional Karnataka staples: dosa/ idli/ upma/ kesaribhath for breakfast, and rice/ rasam/ sambhar/ palya/ gojju for lunch, we also had a chance to relish ragi mudde and millet rotti. Dinner was mostly North Indian style, with rotis and sides. (Which isn’t bad, but we wish they’d stuck to local delicacies). Endless coffees and teas (they even obliged and made us lemon-mint black tea!) served in brass cups kept us going when we needed some fuel for thought.
Beyond its gates, the hills rise and beckon: a trek is a great option, especially early in the morning and before dusk falls, and it is a transforming one, whether the sun is in your face or waning off your shoulders.
The details of nature become clearer and more absorbing – the ruggedness of the terrain, the thunderous acoustics of a neighboring quarry, the lilting sounds of insects whirring and birds tweeting in its wake, the scents of aromatic herbs and seasonal fruits, two little lotus and lily ponds thriving in the freshly fallen rain water, the clouds overhead rumbling up a stir, and a tryst with ancient history secured in the remnants of a Parsi tower of silence: all of two benches where bodies would be left for the birds..are some of the things we encountered, narrated animatedly by our friendly Baevu guide, even as the unhurried rhythm of our steps brought forth an elevated sense of intimacy with nature and ourselves.
We highly recommend the Baevu experience, where a deep attachment to the earth and the air is still the norm for its inhabitants. Like John Muir said, “Keep close to nature’s heart, and break away once in a while..wash your spirit clean.”
You can take back a bunch of neem leaves, with the permission of the kindly staff at Baevu, to use in warm baths or to rid floors and clothes of germs, or even in your food. You can also ask for a bag of fresh, organically grown vegetables and fruits. We got a bag of mixed produce weighing a kilo in all, for about Rs. 50: ridge gourd, papaya, cluster beans, lemongrass, and bhindi.