East India House, a resort situated in Uttan village at Dharavi island, the northern Konkan coast, offers a melange of quaint life and a peek into the lives of the East Indian community, the original inhabitants of Mumbai.
Call it the fast-pacing urbanization in Mumbai and the exigent urge of the residents to chase sereneness during weekends or the after-effects of the COVID-19 pandemic that have aroused a traveller in many, there is an end number of properties being developed in the outskirts of Mumbai, paving the way for staycations — an old term gaining popularity which means a vacation at a proper,rty and that does not involve much travelling. East India House, located in Uttan village on the Dharavi island, upholds the true connotation of this term as our recent visit to the resort just involved staying in a peaceful environment amid the chirping of birds, swaying of trees, views of the green hillock and watching the clock ticking!
Opting for a local-train journey till the Bhayandar station seemed a reasonable way to visit the resort on time from central Mumbai in view of the Mumbai traffic on weekdays, and within half an hour from the city, we were at the station. But even before the resort, the journey from the station to the resort fascinated us. Within a few minutes of boarding a cab, we were welcomed by the tranquil abode, ceaseless fields, and the dark rays of sun falling on the trees, making them all withered. On the way to the resort, we crossed many abandoned houses, a view of a distant sea, and fish beds on both sides to reach Uttan, one of six villages in the Dharavi island other than Dongri, Gorai, Chowk, Pali and Manori that falls within Mira-Bhayander Municipal Corporation.
In the next half an hour, we reached the resort, East India House, whose name has been kept on the name of one of the local communities at Uttan - East Indian community. This boutique resort, which commenced operations last year, welcomes the patrons through a giant gate. Upon entering, the entire double-storey building on the right and the infinity pool on its left overlooking a hillock come to the sight, along with a restaurant. Built on the land owned by Jitesh Parekh, the resort takes pride in the architecture executed by the architect and Parekh's friend, Rohan Salian, who also greeted us on our arrival. "This is our first attempt in the hospitality sector, and we are still experimenting and growing," he said.
Even with the first attempt, the owners surely know how to capture the nerves of the modern tourists by attaching the property with value and, in this case, to the marginalized East Indian community. All 10 rooms — 5 on the ground and 5 on a level up — are named after people from the community. While the names are real, the images attached to the names, right outside each room, are fictional, as the staff told us. The flooring of the corridors and the rooms has been designed well and with a few natural stones like Tandur, Jaisalmer, Kota, Kadapa and Green Marble.
Talking about the rooms, the architect has tried to mix the common hues found in Portuguese-Goan homes and East Indian houses but with that a tint of luxury. The ceilings are colourful, with the walls and the interior representing luxurious modernity through grey and black hues. A few ceiling lamps adorn the bed from both sides, and above the headboard of the beds are designated places for photo frames representing the people from the East Indian community. "We worked with a photographer to capture the daily lives of the community that we can represent through these portraits to our guests," Salian said. Similar photos have also been placed in and around T.V. in front of the beds. Amazingly, many locals are making their livelihood owing to the property.
The rooms on the first floor are attached with a small balcony space with a seating area for two that overlooks the pool, but before that, the highlight is the round lattice with colourful flowering creepers around it. The first and the last thing you enter or leave the room is the washroom, another small luxury space decked up in black and grey tones. On coming out and glancing from the corridor, the sight of wrinkled and leafless trees is common, but as we looked at the opposite of the resort, the experience of it being a steep plot caught our attention. On asking, we figured out how such plots that are considered redundant from the perspective of construction have been used as an advantage by the architect Salian who constructed the property keeping the same alive as the resort is one level down the main road and the kitchen of it, another level down!
The load-bearing structure had five rooms at the ground that opened up to a tiny artificial pond for fish, frogs, and dragonflies. The pond has a stone base, and the infinity pool in front of it gives boundless views of a small hillock owned by the resort owners. On the left of the pool is a seating area with tall wooden chairs and a long table for people to sit, talk and enjoy the greenery at the front. Along with the ethereal beauty of nature visible from the pool, a floating breakfast served in the pool is another charm here. Since we stepped down in the evening, we were served Indian evening snacks like samosas, sandwiches, bhajiyas, and cold coffee!
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Just beside the load-bearing structure also lies an open-air seating area where a few black bean bags have been put on the green grass. This area lits up during festivities, as per the staff.
Relishing food at East India House
The peaceful life at East India House ensures that the guests need not scratch their minds and phones to order food also because there are no food options around the resort, but we would not like to call it a disadvantage. The big and spacious restaurant at the property is well enough to serve their guests. The restaurant is decked up with iron tables, cane chairs and beautiful cane lamps attached to the ceiling. But what we loved the most here were the glass doors at both sides of the restaurant giving the views of the resort and the hillock.
While there is no fixed menu at the restaurant, and it changes every day, serving Indian, Asian, and Continental, the food might turn out to be lip-smacking for the guests, as it were for us. We had our best time with both veg and non-veg delicacies, including Chicken, Mutton, Fish, and Mushrooms. Another impressive thing is that the team will soon start organic farming on a small land beside the kitchen. Currently, alcohol is not served at the place, but the crew informed us that the process for obtaining the license is already underway. In fact, according to Rohan Salian, the property also organizes lunch tours at the houses of the people of the East Indian Community, the monetary share for which goes directly to them.
Before calling it a day at the resort, we glanced at a villa, an amphitheatre, and a salon - all in the nascent stage of construction but visioned making it a recreational hub under one roof in the coming time. The team hosts various walking and cycling tours around Uttan and takes people to Our Lady of Bethlehem Church in Dongri, a museum, and other places. Along with this, EIH also takes their guests to the hillock in front of the resort during sunsets and offers evening refreshments.
Even though we could not take part in most of the activities, the time spent at the resort was more than enough for us to tempt us to stay there even longer. After all, the fun lies in doing nothing at East India House while giving yourself a pampered and luxurious "me time."