Date: 8-9 Oct 2018
Venue: Katha village, UP
Have you been to a vacation from where you came back even more tired than before starting? For example, tourist places tend to do this to people. Travellers end up trying to shove a lot in very little time and suffer from severe post-travel fatigue. They come back more exhausted than before. Given the hectic urban lives many of us lead trying to balance traffic, work, deadlines, and families and so on, when we travel all we want is to detox and recharge. No wonder staycations are gaining popularity day by day. In fact, we are not surprised that #staycation is way more popular hashtag on social media than #vacation these days.
We were also looking for a staycation which is not very far from Delhi and is not the usual just another homestay in the hills. Our prayers were answered in Shikwa Haveli which was anything but usual. Shikwa Haveli is a heritage homestay at Katha village in Uttar Pradesh. We visited Shikwa Heritage Homestay with a bunch of friends recently and posted a few pictures and videos over social media. Thereafter, at a recent wedding, all that we were asked was “Oh man what was that place where you got that Whatsapp DP clicked?“… “Where did you go recently… the place with that colorful door at the back of your selfie?” “What was that haveli you recently went to…?” In a nutshell, we are bombarded with questions about Shikwa Haveli by friends and extended family members who follow our social media posts. Consequently, we thought of putting all that we gathered about Shikwa Haveli in a blog and post it here for everyone’s benefit.
Shikwa Haveli is about 800 years old ancestral mansion. It is inhabited and revamped by a couple Dr Alka Raza and Mr Shariq Bin Raza, ex-diplomat. The Razas are so passionate about the property that they spent almost 13 years revamping this property. They are now opening this up for guests.
This heritage haveli, also called Mehraabon wali Haveli, is barely 2 hours drive from Delhi. We started in the afternoon and reached before evening. We were received by Dr Alka Raza and she ushered us in. After welcome drinks we were taken to our rooms. The rooms have an amazing old world charm about them that you expect from a heritage home stay but got to actually see to believe. You can’t not notice the doors of this mansion. All the doors, from the main gate our room, are so beautiful and well crafted that you want a few clicks even before plonking your luggage in the room. Antique looking wardrobe, beds, lamps on the bedside, sofas… everything transports you to an era that you have just seen recreated in films or heard in stories.
We had our tea and snacks in Burma Lounge (read on to know why its called Burma Lounge) This is their common area and is perfect for relaxing, dining, playing pool or just having a drink. The owners took us for a round of the haveli after some time. They showed us various rooms and antiques the Razas had collected during their years as a diplomat and a journalist. They explained Burma lounge displayed the stuff collected from their stay at Burma. Similarly the Africa Lounge is named so, because of the artifacts they collected from Africa. We also visited a separate tea room and a beautiful garden called Baag-e-Bahisht. This was endless. Shikwa Haveli is basically a live in museum and will take several hours or a few separate blog posts if we start describing all the beautiful stuff they have collected and curated over the years. A suggestion to Shikwa Haveli – please do something about the LED bulbs. These just don’t belong here.
Post the house tour we went to the roof top for a smoke and this was the moment when we actually fell in love with this place. The sunset looked surreal behind the hazy clouds. It’s a perfect place to let your hair down and we would have spent all night here if we were not called for dinner.
The dinner was served in the courtyard. A handful of delicious items like salads, vegetarian and non vegetarian pulao, mixed vegetable, daal, tawa chapati and some unique chutneys had been laid. We had apple strudel and Kesari Bhaat for desserts.
We couldn’t resist going out to have a look at the Haveli from the outside in the night. It looked even better – stunning is the word. They don’t have TV sets in the rooms and we can’t thank them enough for that. So, post dinner all of us sat down in the Burma Lounge, started chatting, sharing stories and somehow the conversation got to the health issues. One of our friends in the group was a trained Yoga instructor and all of us decided to try a Yoga session with her on the rooftop early morning next day. We were not done with the rooftop of the Haveli yet and any excuse to spend more time in this part of the Haveli was welcome even if it included waking up at crack of dawn next morning.
We set up an alarm for 6 a.m. but woke up a little early by the sound of divine azaan from the adjacent mosque. After tea, we went to the terrace and attended a yoga session under the guidance of Ritu Sharma, our yoga expert. The experience of doing yoga on a vacation was unique and rejuvenating. All of us wanted to do some yoga at Baag-e-Bahisht too (for selfies mostly :-)) so we headed to this area.
One look at the fancy hammocks and we knew that’s going to be our selfie zone. What fun!
We headed to the courtyard for our detox drinks after that, courtesy our gracious hosts. After half an hour of chit chat and just chilling at the courtyard, we went to the Burma Lounge again where breakfast was laid.
Shikwa Haveli folks are also involved in social work in the locality. We had a little glimpse of that after the breakfast. They work towards empowerment of women and children in the surrounding areas. One portion of the Haveli is dedicated to these women who make handmade bed spreads, cushion covers, table cloths etc.
More than this, what was heart-warming was their providing space for village kids to do their homework. Sometimes this is all these kids need – a proper environment to do their homework. Shikwa Heritage Homestay allows them to do that under guidance of some educated girls from the neighborhood. This bit of their activities was really touching.
For lunch we had salads, mustard macaroni, poori, rice and matar paneer. The home style food was not just delicious but was easy on stomach and not even once we felt bloated after any meal. The ingredients were familiar but the taste was absolutely unique. With our souls and bodies duly satiated, in that order, we started on our drive back. We were home in Delhi by early evening.
To summarise, Shikwa Haveli is a must-must-do for an arts or crafts enthusiast or a shutterbug. That said, the staycation was extremely relaxing and rejuvenating for us too. Since we spent all the time inside the Haveli we felt like we developed a bond with this place. No matter how much we marvel at the beauty of the place, it’s the warm hospitality of the owners that touched us. No wonder we are liberally recommending this place to almost everybody who talks to us about Shikwa Heritage Homestay.
Read more views on this delightful Stay-cation option Shikwa Haveli here.