For someone who travels so much, it’s a little strange that I had not tried Home Stay options in India until very recently. I’ve stayed with families and a couple of home stays internationally, but never considered a home stay when travelling within India.
Whenever I think of home stays in India, first of all, the ‘How Safe Is It Anyway?’ question pops up. Security is a big concern in India, especially for a solo woman traveller. Then, there’s the question of how to go about it. But as a traveller who loves to explore now places and new options, I always hoped to experience living in a Home Stay in India.
My Home Stay in India finally happened with Stayzilla.
Last week, I was invited to speak at the Pune International Literature Festival, and to moderate a session on Roles, Identity and Stereotypes. For this short trip, I stayed at a stunning Home Stay with Stayzilla, and luckily, it was during the Ganesh Chaturthi time! Seriously, my timing couldn’t have been better even if I planned it months ago. Ganpati is undoubtedly the best time to be at a Home Stay in Maharashtra.
I was travelling with my best travel buddy – my four year old daughter. When our taxi stopped in front of the address provided by Stayzilla, I was already impressed. It was a beautiful bungalow called Jewelz 6 on a quaint street in Koregan Park – peaceful, yet close to all the action in Koregaon Park, which is one of the most happening areas in Pune.
This Home Stay is run by Mr.Suntosh Goel who welcomed us warmly and even made a cup of tea for me himself because the cook was out and he thought I looked tired. I was tired, I’ll confess, and the ginger tea he made was yummy. The house itself is huge and extremely well maintained. The Home Stay had about 15 rooms and he was getting some work done in a few of them. The interiors are state of art and very contemporary. The washrooms are big and clean (my biggest concern when travelling with the kid), and our room had a tub in the bathroom with ready supply of hot water – something I found very impressive in a Home Stay.
The room was spacious and an entire glass wall looking out on a huge green garden, made it very appealing. It had a balcony attached to it, which became my daughter’s favourite area. That night, both of us slept peacefully and woke up to the chirping of birds in the garden. Bliss!
For breakfast, the very friendly and chatty cook made Poha (beaten rice) with veggies for us on my request, and Goel uncle, as I had started to call him by now, sat with us. Chatting to him was so good! He told me how his family moved from Haryana to Pune years back, and a lot of fun stories about his little grandson. Listening to him talk about this Home Stay with so much passion, made me appreciate the effort he puts in, even more. He took care of us and strangely, in just one day, I felt like a part of the family. That’s the charm of a Home Stay!
All through our meals in the backyard, Gauri (my daughter) kept running in the garden and giggling when uncle joked with her about a funny monkey and a grumpy cat. Gauri had started calling him uncle too, like me, and clearly was feeling right at home.
All around us, Ganpati celebration preparations were going on, and it was impossible not to feel the excitement in the air! Bringing Ganpati in the homes is a a tradition here, and also – there are big Lord Ganesha idols in the streets for big celebrations by the entire society. It is a beautiful, BEAUTIFUL sight, let me tell you.
I Googled it and found out that Ganesh Chaturthi was celebrated for the first time in Pune during Shivaji’s reign, and since then the festival has gain popularity all across the country. Various families bring home beautiful Lord Ganesha idols. And even more popular is huge Ganeshas in Pandals all around the cities, also known as stalls. In fact, I am sure that a Ganesha idol can be found in every street and society during Ganesh Chaturthi.
Suntosh uncle told me that while I’m in Pune, I should definitely do some “Pandal hopping” to witness the dholtasha performances, the stunning arti, the festivities and faith. And I did just that!
This was not only my first time to experience the warmth of a Home Stay, but also to witness the love and the magic of faith with the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations everywhere. Hope the pictures do justice to my experience.
In the end, I want to say that travelling like a local is the real fun for me, and Home Stays take it a step ahead. Home Stay options let you live like a local at a destination, and let you experience the destination in its most natural way. And for my first Home Stay in India, this was a great experience. Stayzilla made sure that this stay was comfortable and unforgettable.
Happy Travelling and Ganpati Bappa Morya!