It was pitch dark in the hills, with the clouds holding our car in their grasp like a fist. A hand knocked on our window and the driver braked suddenly. The man asked, “Maggi kha lo.”
We all laughed to break the tension and crawled on.
Lonavala in the monsoons, after sunset, can make you a better driver – you are really careful about where you’re going and you can't even think about overtaking someone. Our driver, however, was skeptical about the way we were heading because the car seemed to be floating; the roads invisible.
It was a five-hour drive from Mumbai to the Airbnb in Lonavala. Our destination was Mawi Infinitty Villa by the lake that looked like a queen – sitting aloof on its throne, lost in thought, with a smirk on her face. I’m hard to reach, she said, but you’d never forget meeting me. Divided into two areas, the house featured five bedrooms, each with personal touches from the owner. A dining room, a living room and bar, a pool deck with sunbeds, a Jacuzzi and a kitchen completed the picture.
At night, when we reached the beautiful house by the Pawna lake, I ran to my room to zap the water out of my hair. With the rising sun, I would see the details of the house the next morning. High ceilings with wooden panelling, windows that were being brushed by tree branches, a small deck with its own dip pool, an ensuite bathroom and a loft with cantilevered staircase – my room was a small sanctuary.
The deck in the lower house had twinkling overhead lights and the pool was sipping the rainwater. The lake sat quietly in the dark, waiting for the sun to make its presence known once again. The upper villa, where I stayed, a balcony overlooked the hills and the greens – a picture that I clicked with the first rays of the sun.
It was by the poolside, with rain splashing still, that I had my morning cup of coffee, offered by the cook in the house. This was the Instagram moment I had been waiting for – the rain, the pool, the lake and the hills.
Almost a decade ago, Bollywood’s action director Allan Amin had seen the land from the other side of the lake and decided to build a vacation home for his wife Marry and two daughters, he told me later standing right here. There was nothing here then and he started from scratch. Now, he has the view that people can only dream of, a villa that’s the stuff of dreams and his own vegetation around. He will be building more villas here – the work has already started.
In a conversation, Marry said, “People ask what they can do around here when they make the booking and we tell them, enjoy the house, go on treks, have some good food. We have installed the TV only for families who insisted repeatedly that the kids need them. There is so much to do otherwise.”
A home in the wilderness appeals to a set of travellers who prefer the silence of the night to the flurry of people. Milind Soman, who has a home in Lonavala, is one of them. A fitness session with him was planned in the morning and the charismatic actor made a picture on the upper balcony as he started the session with push-ups, planks and burpees. It rained throughout as he talked about the importance of exercising, “even for a minute every day,” and his journey of becoming a runner. The 53-year-old actor, with white in his hair, got on the yoga mat for his turn, saying, “Never eat so much that you can’t do push-ups.”
Blink and we were heading back down, to catch a flight to Delhi. Again, the clouds closed in, the rain splattered on the roof of the car and we drove on. One night in Lonavala can’t be enough, I remember thinking. When you make it to that beautiful home, you’d best stay for five days, sipping on wine and enjoying the view. If I make it this far the next time, I won't leave for a while, I promised as the driver accelerated.
You can book this home here.
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