Old Friends, New Memories

As project manager for SaffronStays, my job is to squeeze lofty concepts of hospitality into the constraints of time, quality and budgets. Do this long enough and it’s easy to develop tunnel vision which is why higher management insists we, employees get out ever so often and re-visit the magic of home-made hospitality… Here’s the story of my quick getaway to SaffronStays Avabodha, Panchgani.

The Plan

My plans to visit one of our newest homes materialized with the time frame and agility of a start-up founders dream team. Within hours, the WhatsApp group was formed, the travelling companions confirmed, mode of travel locked down and the home booked. After a few restless hours of sleep, we were off at first light for a long, rainy drive to the hill station. As we navigated the traffic of NH48 and the ETA on Google Maps kept increasing, we started questioning the wisdom of the journey to such a faraway destination for a weekend trip.

Beautiful view of the confluence of Krishna and Kalki rivers from the terrace of SaffronStays Avabodha in Panchgani
7 hours later and fortified with Kalpana Tai’s masala chai, we settled down to this view and decided it was worth it after all.

Anyway, 2 hours and 100 photos later, we settled in yet again to a humble yet deeply satisfying lunch.

The Food

For me ‘home-made hospitality’ always revolves around food…

It means the softest, ghee-smeared rice bhakris with the perfectly seasoned pithle It’s found in fried chillies set atop a mound of freshly made dry chutney… It’s in the comfort of having someone bring you hot seviya and in the joy of savouring such a meal without having to do the dishes or clean the kitchen.

There were many things about this home that drew and kept my attention:

  • The view that kept changing every 10 minutes
  • The calls of the peacock who refused to show itself
  • The quirky door handles
  • The bolt of blue in the archway,
  • The potential for interesting photographs
  • The thrill of discovering the bhel served with chai was actually jhal muri
  • Chatting with Anil bhau about the source of water
  • The local politics
  • The mongoose that keeps snakes away

The Takeaway

And yet none of those held a candle to the simple joys of just reconnecting with old friends… The reassurance of seeing my friends anew as different versions of themselves and yet finding the same comfort in their company; that’s the memory I will cherish the longest from my trip to SaffronStays Avabodha!