Learnings of life at Gir Jungle Resort

दिल ढूंढता है, फिर वही फ़ुर्सत के रात दिन …
जाड़ों की नर्म धूप और
आँगन में लेटकर
आँखों पे खींचकर तेरे
दामन के साए को
औंधे पड़े रहें, कभी करवट लिए हुए |

An accommodation in the midst of vibrant shades of verdant green, a place that is inhabited yet retains its calmness, where silence is the music, days start with the avian choir, progresses under the shadow of mango trees and sleeps under millions of twinkling stars. This is how we remember Anil Farms (Or Gir Jungle Resort).

Anil Farm House, Sasan-Gir

Anil Farm House, Sasan-Gir

As mentioned in my previous post, during our trip to Sasan Gir we stayed at Ghanshyam Bhai’s Annapoorna hotel for the first night. The next two nights were spent at the Anil Farm House. Anil Farms is a mango orchard that is spread over forty beegha and has around six hundred and fifty mango trees. It is situated around five km from Sasan Gir, in Bhalchel village.

When we reached Anil Farm House with Ghanshyam Bhai, I was exultant. The place was shades better than my high expectations. I reported at the reception and asked for the directions to my room. I was told the directions and also that my ground floor room would soon be ready. Bon! I was back to my vehicle. Suddenly I remembered and wondered, did he say ground floor room! But, I had booked the first floor room. I rushed back and to my surprise I was told that the first floor room had been allotted to a regular customer. After some insistence and persuasion they agreed to allot me the room that I booked. At that time Ghanshyam Bhai proudly commented that Anil Farm House may be a better place to stay but it could never match the services he provides and I agreed with him.

Our room was located within a block of four – two on the ground floor and the two on the first floor. The biggest attraction of the first floor rooms was the big terrace, partly sunny and partly shadowed by mango tree canopy.

आम के पेड़ की छान्व

आम के पेड़ की छान्व

Rooms were neat, airy and well-lit. The sunny-bright room took away our initial disappointment and we felt fresh and rejuvenated. This was like the fulfillment of the dream, seen at the magical berry farm in Rajsamand.

We quickly got ready for the meals and walked towards the restaurant. The place was hypnotizing. It revealed its treasures at every step.

Leaves with embroidery on boundary

Leaves with embroidery on boundary

Beautiful Rose

Beautiful Rose

At the turn towards the reception we were greeted with a tree with beads all around it. It resembled someone, something so familiar…

A tree with beaded hairs

A tree with beaded hairs

I was able to figure it out. It reminded me of Johnny Depp in the movie the “Pirates of the Caribbean” and then I realized that the trees can also inspire fashion and can be style icon.

Japanese Folding Fan Tree

Japanese Folding Fan Tree

And then there was this Japanese folding fan. The restaurant was designed as an open hut and every side of it was decorated with hanging baskets having plants with colorful-decorative foliage.

Hanging Basket, Sasan Gir

Hanging Basket, Sasan Gir

Another Beautiful at other side, Gir Jungle Resort

Another Beautiful at other side, Gir Jungle Resort

The Gir Jungle Resort is situated on the bank of Hiran River. A small gate near the restaurant leads to the river.

View of Hiran River from the restaurant, Gir Jungle Resort, Sasan Gir

View of Hiran River from the restaurant, Gir Jungle Resort, Sasan Gir

At the restaurant, a little pond with pink water-lilies was the Hors d’œuvre. Main course with views of silvery water of Hiran River …. Yummy! And at the end of the menu – Desserts? No, No, No – It was always with one, two, three, four … glasses of hand blended/churned Chaach – the Indian buttermilk. After we finished our meals I was always reminded by my wife to wipe the secondary mustaches.

Water-lily, the appetizer

Water-lily, the appetizer

The meals were served in the buffet style. Food service was good and the staff ensured that the guests got fresh and hot chappatis. The vegetables were freshly plucked from the farm and the milk products were prepared from milk of the cattle of the farm.

In our total stay of two days we never felt that the food was getting repetitive or non-satiating. Meals were fresh, tasty and of course unlimited. The food was of the kind that helps you keep on traveling for days without missing the home-cooked food.

In course of our stay, the restaurant became the cozy-warm meeting point with the fellow tourists where we discussed our successes and failures of ……………………………………… over cups of piping-hot beverages. Did you read “life” in the blank space? Let me remind you, we were on a vacation and we discussed our successes and failures in spotting wild life.

I remember one of the fellow tourists telling us about the sanctuary of Rann of Kutchh. Her description was so vivid that I could see the flocks of flamingos and could hear the sound of wild asses running all around.

So many places to visit and such a small life! Luckily, we have this concept of reincarnation!

The very first day, one of the staff members, Sadiq bhai, took us to a patch of the farm where vegetables were grown and then to a cattle shed and a coop. We decided to bring Rachit there at the time of milking.

The Coop

The Coop

Sadiq bhai was all appreciation for the owner of the farm house, Shamsuddin bhai. He told us that the owner is a simple man. Sadiq bhai then pointed towards the water-lily pond and explained that how much efforts Shamsuddin bhai had put to make it a success. His initial attempts to grow water-lilies repeatedly failed and then there were times when he dirtied himself into the muddy water to understand the cause of the failures.

After lunch that day, I went out on a photographing spree, looking for and capturing the intricate colorful vegetation blossoming abundantly all over the farm. Once more, below are the pictures of these scattered treasures …

A beautiful Leaf, Sasan Gir

A beautiful Leaf, Sasan Gir

The intricate Lacework, Sasan-Gir

The intricate Lacework, Sasan-Gir

The yellow fur collar for Ladies Coat, Sasan Gir

The yellow fur collar for Ladies Coat, Sasan Gir

Don't like Yellow Color Fur, there is more variety to chose, What about Red!

Don’t like Yellow Color Fur, there is more variety to chose, What about Red!

Everyone get its own place in the crowd and get the sun, no need to bother, Brother!

Everyone get its own place in the crowd and get the sun, no need to bother, Brother!

Loss of individuality brings appreciation for the team, Sasan Gir

Loss of individuality brings appreciation for the team, Sasan Gir

And I used to wonder from where jewellers take inspiration for so many beautiful designs of the pendants, Sasan Gir

And I used to wonder from where jewellers take inspiration for so many beautiful designs of the pendants

The endless creativity, Sasan Gir

The endless creativity, Sasan Gir

At four in the afternoon, we all went for the milking session. A lady was preparing the buffaloes to milk them. She smiled on Rachit’s innocent curiosity to see the milking process. She was looking beautiful with the smile dancing on her attractive face. I marveled how smile tremendously increases the face value.

She asked Rachit, “Will you be interested in drinking milk coming direct from the udder”?
Rachit promptly replied, “No”.
I remained wondering if buffaloes could give ‘milk with Horlicks’ or tea what could have been Rachit’s answer!

A gentleman asked Rachit, “Would you like to sit on a buffalo”?
Rachit vehemently declined saying, “No …No”.
He then lifted Tanmay and put him on the buffaloes back and teased Rachit, “look how much your little brother is enjoying the ride”.

Tanmay enjoying the buffalo ride, Sasan Gir

Tanmay enjoying the buffalo ride, Sasan Gir

Rachit then whispered in my ear, “Tanmay is not enjoying! He does not even understand”.

It reminded me that once I asked him, “Look Tanmay is not afraid of anything, not even the darkness. Why do you fear so much?” At that Rachit replied, ” Papa, Tanmay doesn’t fear because he does not understand anything“.

Nearby, there was a wheat farm and the wheat pods were swaying proudly, singing the songs of admiration for the farmers who had sweated hard.

Wheat Pods, Sasan Gir

Wheat Pods, Sasan Gir

It was mesmerizing to see the vast green expanse in the setting sun with a faraway hut getting ‘spot-sunlight’.

Sunset at Gir Jungle Resort, Sasan Gir

Sunset at Gir Jungle Resort, Sasan Gir

That evening Sadiq bhai introduced me to Shamsuddin bhai. While coming to Anil Farm house I saw his grand mansion. I was expecting that the owner of that mansion would be a Beau-Brummell.There he was – a simple down-to-earth man with an uncomplicated personality.

Shamsuddin Bhai, Owner Gir Jungle Resort, Sasan Gir

Shamsuddin Bhai, Owner Gir Jungle Resort, Sasan Gir

I congratulated him for his belief in eco-tourism and for investing in that dream-like-accommodation in the midst of nature. To which he replied, “It’s all God’s Grace”. Soon we were in an engaging conversation. He put in plain words how in 90s he was in a big financial crisis. His land was flooded and all the investments had gone haywire. The only saving grace was his business of preparing mango grafts. He and his father, Noor Baba, tilled hard, to get the grafts that could produce high quality mangoes in lesser time and in bumper quantity.

He gave details that how he invented a new method that significantly reduced the time for a Kesar Mango graft to be ready. He grafted it on another variety of a mango tree that grew fast but yielded poor quality. The trial was successful. I was surprised and asked him that didn’t it cause degradation in the quality of mango produced. He said not at all, and then explained that the only function of the base stem is to exchange water and nutrients with the grafted stem. The fruits on that stem would be of its own quality. He then told me about a mango tree in his farm that has grafts of many varieties of mango. Today, each branch yields its own variety of mango.

I was impressed. Till then, I have only read stories in newspapers of a tree growing many varieties of mangoes.

Predictably (what else you can expect from a technocrat), I asked him, had he ever considered filing patents on his inventions. He stumped me by telling that he was not at all interested in filing patents. He added that God has given him enough, even more than what he deserved and his desire was to share the knowledge with fellow farmers to help them grow better crop.

It was not for the first time I was hearing from someone who belittled patents. One of my colleagues once told me that the scientific community with whom he interacts is against patents as they believe that filing patents hampers proliferation of knowledge and further research in that field. Sometimes I do feel that good patents earn money for big organization but are of little help to the originators of those ideas.

Once I was watching the BBC News channel at the IG airport, New Delhi, while waiting for my flight. A piece of news started a conversation between me and an American lady sitting next to me. It was regarding the hypocrisy of the leaders of the developed nations. The essence of conversation was that all the concern that these leaders show towards loss of human life and prevailing diseases in poor countries is all BULLSHIT.

She strongly felt that the core of the problem lies in the patent system that disallows the drugs patented by one company to be produced by another one. I defended the companies. I told the lady that that these companies put enormous money in the research and it is but natural that once they find a cure they want to earn profits.

She smiled at me as if she was wondering, how many people have such misconceptions. She then explained that these companies become break-even in the initial years of launching the medicines and after that it’s all Greed – at the cost of human lives and health. A patent remains valid for 20 years even in the field of life saving drugs. Is it justifiable? Her question left me speechless.

Coming back, I praised Shamsuddin bhai for his simplicity. He told me that he has learnt lessons of simplicity from his father Noor baba, and then he narrated that even at this age if his father notices any littering in the farm, he doesn’t mind picking it up. His father’s message is simple, no work is menial.

The Bird Chart @ Gir Jungle Resort

The Bird Chart @ Gir Jungle Resort

At the reception there was a chart showing the species of the birds to be found in and around the farm. These birds can be easily spotted by taking an early morning walk along the river.

A walk along the Hiran River, Sasan Gir

A walk along the Hiran River, Sasan Gir

The next morning we walked along the river and spotted pied kingfishers, small kingfishers, black ibis, red-wattled lapwing, jungle babbler and oriental magpie robin.

Jungle Babbler

Jungle Babbler

Pied Kingfisher

Pied Kingfisher

After breakfast we reached back to our room and Rachit started to play around with the windows.

Rachit and Tanmay Playing around in Gir Jungle Resort, Sasan Gir

Rachit and Tanmay Playing around in Gir Jungle Resort, Sasan Gir

Suddenly he came running inside shocked, terrified and his eyes were filled with tears. An insect had stung him on the back of his neck. I thought that Rachit might have unknowingly disturbed some insect and I took it lightly. Later on while opening a window I realized that there was a home of it in the wall and several of them entered inside our room. I think the insect was yellow jacket wasp. Its local name is ‘Agya’.

We informed the reception and a few staff members arrived with petrol and kerosene and destroyed its nest. It made matters worse. Some of them died but several of them entered inside the room. The precaution staff was taking while dealing with them made me realize that how menacing that insect was. Their nuisance was far from over, so we requested to allot us another room and the request was readily accepted.

After lunch, Shamsuddin bhai invited us to join him and a relative’s family for a trip of the farm. The family comprised of a couple and their two young daughters. First we went to the vegetable patch where we saw

Radish

Radish

Beet Root, Sasan Gir

Beet Root, Sasan Gir

Capsicum, Sasan Gir

Green Capsicums, Sasan Gir

Radishes were big, very big. The youngest girl in the group picked one of it and started to walk carrying it. After walking a while, she stopped, put it down and commented, “Oh, I forgot, I am here on vacations and not in a weight lifting session” 🙂

Shamsuddin bhai showed us varieties of mango trees. He told that he has around 650 mango trees in the farm. Apart from mango, sapodilla (cheeku) and coconut is also grown in the farm. He also has keen interest in Ayurved and showed us the various herbs he had grown in the farm. The shy leaves of Touch-me-not drew immediate attention of the young kids.

Fresh Coconut plucking in Sasan Gir

Fresh Coconut plucking in Sasan Gir

After the trip, charpais were put under a tree and coconut water was served. It was a privilege and we felt immense pleasure in exploring the farm with Shamsuddin bhai. It was time to heed back to the room for Tanmay’s nap.

In the evening I noticed a picture at the reception and thought it to be of Greg Chappel. I found it puzzling that someone appreciated Chappel so much to have his picture framed at the reception. I concluded that may be Chappel stayed there for some time. I am not a big Ganguly admirer but in Ganguly-Chappel spat I was definitely on Ganguly’s side. That spat was a realization that for the powerful cricket moguls (administrators, selection committee members), how easy it was to destroy any player’s career. Then someone told me that it was picture of Sir Aga Khan IV – the spiritual guru of Shamsuddin bhai. OOPs, it seems I am reading a lot about the politics in cricket.

Aga Khan is the hereditary title of the Imam of the Nizari faith, largest branch of Ismaili followers of the Shia faith. He became spiritual leader at the age of 20 succeeding his grandfather. Shamsuddin bhai was around to help me know more about Sir Aga Khan. He told me that he got several opportunities to listen him in person and he was enthralled by his charming-magnetic personality and his interest in charity. Sir Aga Khan’s message is to be loyal to the country one is born in and to help people around you.

Sir Aga Khan IV

Sir Aga Khan IV

Sir Aga Khan IV has emphasized the view of Islam as a thinking spiritual path one that teaches compassion, tolerance and that upholds the dignity of man, Allah’s noblest creation. He is the founder chairman of Aga Khan Development Network. He is particularly interested in the elimination of global poverty, advancement of the status of women, promotion of the Islamic culture, art and architecture and further pluralistic values in the society.

Aga Khan Award for architecture is an award recognizing excellence in architecture that encompasses contemporary design, social, historical and environmental consideration. It is biggest architectural award in the world and is granted triennially.

In 1969, he donated his palace in Pune – The Aga Khan Palace to the Indian government as a mark of respect to Gandhiji and his philosophy. This Palace holds a great significance as for two years this palace was prison for Mahatma Gandhi, Kasturba Gandhi and his secretary Mahadev bhai desai. The last two passed away in between their captivity at the Aga Khan Palace in Pune.

Sir Aga Khan Palace, Pune

Sir Aga Khan Palace, Pune

Next day morning we left for Junagarh with a heavy heart and a promise that we will visit Anil Farms again sometimes in summers. Rachit has already conveyed to us that in that visit he will eat all the mangoes of all the trees and will not share even one with any. I hope Shamsuddin bhai will allow the little kid to do so. It was a pleasure to meet him, I bow to this simple man.

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