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By Arup Chanda, Copy Edited By Adam Rizvi, TIO: In Benaras which according to ancient Hindu scriptures is known as Varanasi and on the western side of the river Ganges and known to be the most sacred pilgrimage for Hindus, if you want to be out of the hustle and bustle of city life, Nawab ke Deohri is the perfect home stay for you!
It is a Boutique Heritage Homestay is a heritage villa more than 200 years old which fids mention in the books on local history of Varanasi.
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Only two kilometres from the “ghats” on the Ganges, the palatial house is at Lohatia, where blacksmiths manufacture utensils, and is run by Akbar Bakht, named by his father Bakar Raza Mehdi Bakht, after the great Moghul emperor Mohammad Jalaluddin Akbar the great! And he runs it in five star style pretty efficiently as the Emperor Akbar had run Moghul India in the most secular way.
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The heritage resort, I will describe it as such, is located in a tiny corner of a lane in Lohatia but is a massive white structure with a garden in the front. If you are an early riser just venture out of your room and go and sit on the grass in the garden. You will be surrounded with various kinds of birds chirping including sparrows which are otherwise extinct in India. Just close your eyes and enjoy perfect nature on the green grass and beneath the trees and with some birds even perching on you!
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Nawab Ki Deohri has one large bed room on the ground floor and five rooms on the first floor. All the linens are milk white, the rooms are tastefully decorated and has en suite washrooms. On the first floor is a huge living room with a sofa set and a dining table. There is also a kitchen with cooking utensils and a large refrigerator where guests if they want can cook their meals.
But the better option is to enjoy the Mughlai meals and refrain from cooking to relax during a vacation. The food is delicious and the fares are not expensive at all.
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There is also a large balcony with a cane sofa set and a swing where you can enjoy a chilled beer and have a smoke. Guests are advised not to smoke inside the bed rooms but there is no stringent rule.
We stayed in a room on the ground floor. We relaxed on the large balcony a few steps above the garden which has a cane sofa set and enjoyed our tea and coffee served by Shabnam who serves guests.
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If it is summer you should get out early in the morning and set out for the Dasaswamedh ghat, the most famous in Varanasi. If you need a guide Akbar will arrange it as my fiancee Kasturi and I obtained such a service for a very paltry sum.
We just hired a Toto, an electric rickshaw, and reached Dasaswamedh ghat within 15 minutes. Mintu the guide took us to a tea stall where we had excellent lemon tea with pakoras, deep fried vegetable dumplings, while Kasturi though a Bengali like me is a Canadian citizen was amazed at the crowd and the old buildings with marvellous architecture.
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Then we got into a boat fitted with an engine and went on a ride on the Ganges. Early morning it was fantastic as we sat huddled and enjoyed all the beautiful ghats and the various ancient structures built by the royalty of undivided India!
After a 45-minute ride cost only for Rs 700! But the boatman was superb and took us around to the extreme end of the Ganges showing all beautiful palaces and the ghats where Hindus took a dip for salvation.
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After the boat ride we walked through the narrow lanes in which cows and bulls wander around and reached an eatery famous for puri and sabji. The hot jalebis were delicious and it was an experience to sit on the open balconies of the nearby houses and have such a breakfast.
Though in March it was very hot even in the morning around 8 am and we took an electric rickshaw back to Nawab Ki Deohri.
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After glasses of cool sherbet we decided to retire to our room with the air condition on and a brief siesta.
We woke up around noon and after a cool bath entered the living room. While chatting with Mehdi and his wife Heena we had cups of lemon tea and watched one of the cooks, Ruksana kneading minced meat for shami kebabs!
We sat down for lunch a massive spread of various delicacies.
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We started with chapattis and vegetables. Then came the lentils and plain rice along with the hot kebabs fried by Ruksana which melted in our mouths. This was followed by chicken cooked in Mughlai style but with very less oil and spices.
Our lunch ended with thick sweet lassi. Since it was just before summer setting in, the temperature during the afternoon was usually high. We retired to our room and watched a movie on the giant size television.
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Around 5.30 pm we sat down in the balcony overlooking the garden where the birds were chirping and feeding on the grains spread for them in small containers on the lawn.
After sunset we ventured out on foot and through the lanes of Lohatia where pakoras were being sold from mobile food stalls reached the main road to go to Dasaswamedh ghat to watch the “sandhya arati”. It was a spectacular sight as the Hindu priests chanted and sang with lighted lamps on the banks of the Ganges.
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After the arati we entered one of the lanes of “Bangali tola” to taste the lassi and bought one kilogram of “rabri” for which Varanasi is famous.
Late evening we sat in the balcony with the lights on in the garden and enjoyed our cocktails with the Bakht family as we munched dry fruits and namkeens.
Dinner was mutton curry with chapattis, akhni pulao specially cooked with meat balls, thick chicken curry followed by the rabri which we had brought.
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We stayed at Nawab Ki Deori for three nights and it was a perfect short holiday.
The boutique resort provides services like airport pick up as the airport is around 18 kms from the city while the railway station is only a 15-minute ride from the Varanasi Junction railway station by auto rickshaw.
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If you want a quiet and short vacation and desire delicious Mughlai food cooked light but suits your taste bud, Nawab Ki Deohri is the perfect place!
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Curated and Compiled by Humra Kidwai
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