My mother in law planned a day-out for the family as part of my birthday celebrations. It was a complete surprise for me; no amount of cajoling in the days leading up to it worked in getting even the slightest of hints. I had absolutely no idea what was in store. All I knew before hand, was that it would take us over an hour to get there, because of which it was advisable for us to set off by 11:00 am or so, and that we should pack our swim wear.
We covered the distance between our home in South Delhi to Gurgaon in a little over 30 minutes, playing the guessing-game all through.
WHERE WERE WE GOING? Could it be Neemrana again? No, that’s at a greater distance and would not take less than two hours. Could it be Pataudi Palace, closer still? Nope, not that either. The husband and I have been there before and I was sure it would be some place we hadn’t experienced yet. Perhaps our destination was The WestinSohna Resort & Spa. I would have quite liked that, I’ve heard it’s a beautiful property perfect for a quick weekend getaway. But we soon turned off Sohna Road as well; where the roads became narrower and narrower, and the surroundings became greener and greener. The Westin was left far behind.
Some lettering on a forlorn school bus finally indicated to me where we were; and we soon drove up to Tikli Bottom: A little slice of England, garnished with Indian Aravali greens.
In the words of the Owner, this is a Lutyens-esque Indian Haveli. Lutyens-esque because it is modeled on the lines of the gorgeous colonial bungalows dotting New Delhi’s Lutyens Zone; and Haveli because the layout resembles that of a traditional Indian Haveli. A Haveli, derived from the Persian word hawli, means an “enclosed place”; and most of the havelis in India have a courtyard, often with a fountain in the center and the sky for a ceiling, with the rest of the structure built around this central courtyard. It is, thus, quite literally, the heart of the haveli.
Here’s a closer look at the Courtyard at Tikli Bottom. Notice the fountain in the center, similar to the fountains you can find lining the gardens around India Gate, in New Delhi.
The interiors are so beautifully decorated; you would never want to leave. Or you would want to soak it all up so that one day, when you decorate your own home, you would want it to look just like this. The drawing-room is an epitome of comfort, oozing warmth with its soft colours, rug-strewn floors, and a number of paintings and family photos adorning the walls and tables.
They also have beautiful lawns out back, complete with an out-house and a crescent-shaped swimming pool. The stone patio leading to the pool and lawns is a perfect spot to enjoy the view of the surrounding hills.
The property is owned + constructed + designed + run by a British couple: Annie and Martin Howard. Initially intended as their retirement home, it is now a small private guesthouse. There are only 4 rooms at Tikli Bottom, each wonderfully aesthetic, and supremely comfortable. So a stay here will ensure it is never too crowded for comfort. But booking ahead is a must! They remain closed during the excruciating summer months of April to June; reopening on the 1st of July. The Howards are almost always around, they join you for a drink, for your meals, the experience is almost like that of paying a house visit to friends, or even relatives.
Martin Howard has also adopted the neighboring village; he runs a school with the express purpose of providing free education to the children in the village who want to study but cannot afford to do so. When we visited, Martin proudly drove us to the school (a short 5-minute drive) for a quick tour.
BAAS educational Trust (betsinfo.org) is the charitable educational institution, run by Martin, that funds the school; guests are also welcome to donate towards this initiative. Details on how to go about this can be found on the website.
We made our way back to the house, just in time for lunch, served out in the open courtyard.
That’s the table, all set for lunch. Look how pretty the place mats are. I love the burst of colour, from the flowers right down to the glasses.
The meal was a typical English home-cooked meal; consisting of fresh ingredients mostly available on their very own Organic Farm. There was Avocado Salad, sliced Potatoes garnished with greens, Spinach and Mushroom Pie, crunchy pieces of toast topped with mushrooms and oodles of cheese, Chicken Balls served with a tangy sauce, as well as a dish of sautéed vegetables. These were served along with a portion of Vegetable Pulao (or Rice Pilaf), and a French Baguette.
Needless to say, I stuffed myself. This was just my first helping. I went back for seconds, and then even a third!
Post lunch, we lingered for a while; enjoying another drink, lounging in / beside the pool, and just sitting in a cozy nook simply soaking in the atmosphere. We were there just for the afternoon, but we are most definitely going back, perhaps to spend a weekend.
So whenever you’re next in the mood for a long and lazy afternoon cuddled up on a comfortable couch, a good book to read and a steaming cup of Coffee to drink; or a pleasant evening spent sipping on some chilled beer, an outdoor verandah to relax on with a view to-die-for; head to Tikli Bottom! Although just 50 kilometers away from Delhi, it feels like it is light years away.
So, where are you visiting today?