They say there is a time during the daily sunset ritual when the world is silent. The birds stop chirping, the wind seems to slow down, even the chatter of tourists waiting at “sunset” has died down. If you’re really careful – and if you’re lucky you don’t turn your phone off or have a shower next to you talking on your own – in those few seconds, right before the sun completely disappears behind the lights. hills, there is a small possibility so that you can find that moment that we seek so often but rarely find. A moment of absolute peace.
The hills have a look that has always escaped me, and his simple, but often difficult, life held little interest. And yet, some 7,460 feet above the sea, at the highest point of a hamlet called Landour, I found myself transfixed at the sight of the sun setting behind the hills of Uttarakhand. And indeed, for those few moments only, the birds stopped their chirping, the wind slowed down, and the chatter around me died down. I may never be quite sure I found this elusive moment, but the descent – past the idyllic cottages of Landour, through the bustling bazaars of Mussoorie – was in solitude.
“How was it?” Sachin Mylavarapu asked me the next morning as we were settling down for breakfast at the sprawling JW Café overlooking the Mussoorie Valley. From another world, I replied almost instinctively.
Mylavarapu is the General Manager of the JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort & Spa, the quaint property that sits under the watchful eye of the Himalayas. It’s easy to never leave the sprawling six-acre campus during your stay, as there’s plenty to do – from yoga and jogging the premises to the well-equipped gym or the temperature-controlled swimming pool. The recently opened Den which has arcade games and an activity center run by trained managers means you can easily leave your kids there while you try your hand at bowling, billiards, or the pool. Still, the folks at the hotel would likely urge you to step out of the property and enjoy the outside world a bit.
This is how I woke up one morning and made my way to a hidden creek, nestled in the forest where Kempty Falls originated. The breakfast table is set in the middle of the gushing creek and I am encouraged to take off my shoes, walk in the ice water, and dive into the sumptuous traditional Indian breakfast or a selection of continental preparations. Granted, that’s not the most welcoming of ideas – walking barefoot, in a stream, on a cold February morning – and yet less than five minutes, I’m hooked! Hot parathas come out of a makeshift kitchen as Gharwali tea simmers in a kettle on a bonfire next to the stream. The cattle stop to drink water, a herdsman follows them, and the sun rises behind us as endless cups of tea continue to flow from the kettle to the table.
This breakfast experience is part of JW’s new Himalayan Poise package that attempts to place the resort in the general wellness segment. Make no mistake, the package doesn’t suggest you eat sattwic meals, do intensive yoga sessions, or ditch the meat and alcohol, as JW Mussoorie likes to see wellness in a different light than most of the rest. Mylavarapu says there is no intention of becoming another Ananda, but stresses the importance of defining wellness more broadly than yoga and vegetarian food. This is why the hotel’s wide selection of single malts, wines and gins is yours, because “ having a good drink is also a feeling of well-being ”. There’s, of course, Wisteria, the rustic open-air trattoria that serves homemade pasta and wood. pizzas baked with fresh herbs from the greenhouse over ground and organic millets and grains from the region and the Botanical Café which offers freshly squeezed juices but, really, the goal of Himalayan Poise is to whisk you away in an experience unique.
Marriott’s evolution from providing hotel accommodations to providing boutique experiences has been gradual. After its takeover of Starwood hotels in 2016, Marriott has 1.1 million rooms in its various brands. With the launch of Homes & Villas by Marriott last year – an exclusive set of 2,000 high-end homes in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean and Latin America – the hospitality giant has taken a firm position. at the forefront of the battle against home rental platforms. like Airbnb. When he sat down for an interview with GQ after taking over the management of Marriott, Arne Sorenson had indicated that local experiences would indeed become an important part of the business. Experiences such as JW Mussoorie’s Himalayan Poise which ends with a hike through the hills to a local temple.
On the way, the guide shows me local trees and shrubs, rare species of herbs and tells me the story of the temple which allegedly took the wrath of God on itself during an earthquake, which completely destroyed it before the locals rebuilt it to its present glory. . I stifle a small laugh but I am moved by the seriousness of my storyteller. Something in this man’s faith causes me to follow him silently to the top of the hill and into the temple. If there’s a spark of divinity in there, it escapes me. But as I turn to see the view – majestic mountains hugging this tiny human creation with its gods and goddesses inside – I can’t help but feel a dwarf.
I can’t say I came back wiser or enlightened, but there is a new respect for the hills and its people. The idea that half a dozen men would walk to an almost icy creek at 5 a.m. to cook breakfast for you or a team of botanists and chefs would spend months growing herbs. in their garden and stocking up on local millets for your lunch is humiliating. For it is here – in the quiet human effort that makes it all possible – that the spark of divinity exists.